Katherine Lang’s Bio and Interview
My name is Katie Lang, and I’m a 19 year-old sophomore in college, at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. I’m a Geology and Anthropology double major.
I’ve been riding horses since I was about 8 years old and have been riding and competing in Dressage since I was 10 years old, with my purebred Arabian pony named Despekka. She’d had a little training in the Western discipline, but no other serious training. I became interested in Dressage by looking at some of the patterns from the test book, and walking through and experimenting with how to do them. It was then that I realized I had a knack for it, and since then I’ve been working my way up through the levels, from Intro to GP.
I’ve been fortunate enough to make the North American Junior and Young Rider Championship (NAJYRC) team for Region 1 in 2013 and 2014, both times with FA Patriot, a Fresian-Arab cross affectionately named Blueberry. In 2014, the Junior team I was apart of even claimed the Team Gold Medal! It was an incredible experience to compete against equestrian athletes from different countries and get the chance to stand on the podium. Recently, I’ve been competing at PSG and Intermediare levels, ultimately working towards my gold medal. I also competed at the Arabian US Sport Horse Nationals where Blue and I won the Intermediare I Open championship and PSG Amateur Championship. I’ve had incredible opportunities and I’m looking forward to what the future holds with Dressage!
1. When did you first start riding Dressage?
I first started riding dressage back in 2007 with my first horse, Despekka, a purebred Arabian.
2. Do you ride without stirrups when schooling your horse?
Yes, sometimes. I find it really helps develop your seat, especially if you’re having trouble with the sitting trot.
3. What is your training regime on a daily basis with your horse or horses?
My training regime goes something like this: Over the summer I’m able to ride almost every day, for about an hour, and sometimes I’ll hack him around after we’ve introduced new skills. But during the school year, I’m attended college, and I can ride him twice a week.
4. How important is the warm up and cool down of your horse ?
The warm up is the most important thing for Blueberry and I! Since I’ve now been riding Blue for four years, I know exactly how he likes to be warmed up and when and where to push him in the warm up. We do at least 15 minutes of walking around the ring before I pick him up to warm up. I firmly believe this is what helps both Blueberry and I get relaxed and into competition mode. It’s kind of a ritual, but you have to approach your warm up like any other day at home for schooling. Practice makes perfect!
5. What is the importance of transitions in your schooling?
Transitions are the foundation for ALL riding! So if you don’t have a solid foundation, how can you build up other skills? In the warm up, we do lots of transitions, which increases the suppleness of you and your horse. Transitions are like a test to see if your horse is listening!
6. Do you follow the Scales of Training on a daily basis?
Yes! My coach, Kathy Rowse, actually has a large laminated pyramid of the training scales up in our indoor ring. It’s nice to see it on a daily basis. She also likes to point it out when I’m having a tough day, or need to remember the basics
7. What is the most essential quality in the early stages of training a horse?
Building a relationship with your equine partner! I firmly believe that horses and people need to become friends to achieve success, but if you don’t take the time to hang out with your horse or regularly put forth an effort to get to know their personality, your partnership isn’t going to be as strong. I consider Blue one of my best friends, and that makes me more attune to his moods
8. Have you ever owned a Schoolmaster or have you done the training yourself with your horse?
Blueberry is a schoolmaster and has taught me a lot about my own riding. However, my other two horses I had previously were ones I trained through some of the lower levels. Both are very rewarding!
9. How often do you show?
I show mostly in the spring and summer. The spring is my qualifying season, especially if I’m going for NAJYRCs or the National Championship show, so probably three to four shows for that. In the summer it’s probably the same, but if I get lucky enough to qualify, most of the shows are championships, so they’re more spread out.
10. Do you braid your own horse’s mane?
I do, actually. Blue is A Friesian-Arab cross, so he has a long mane, and I just do a running braid. It’s much easier than button braids, and Blue loves to toss his hair around when he’s running around in his paddock
11. Who grooms for you at your shows?
My father normally is my “groom.” However, I have a great support system from my friends, barn mates, and family, so I feel like Blue and I have multiple people always willing to help me! My dad and Blue have a really close relationship too, and oftentimes when we have downtime at shows they’ll nap together. It really is a team affair!
12. Do you trail ride and how often?
We don’t have trails at Silverleaf Farm, but we do have some fields that I love to hack blue around in so he can become rejuvenated. It’s also really fun and is a great way to help build a relationship with your horse outside of the ring.
13. What are your goals for you and your horse?
My goals are just to keep training and doing what I’ve been doing: Working hard and trying my best. But as for goals, next year I’ll be competing at the Grand Prix level and while that’s daunting, I’m also looking forward to the challenge of improving and competing. I’d dreamed of being able to compete at that level, and now that I’m almost there, it’s a surreal feeling.
14. Do you have a musical freestyle for you and your horse, and if so what type of music do you like?
I do! Right now my Young Rider/PSG freestyle has a slight Spanishy vibe, but it’s really upbeat and happy, which I think represents Blue and I’s demeanors well. Before, when we competed as Juniors, we did an instrumental version of a few of Pink’s hits like “Raise your glass” and “Just give me a reason.” It was a really cool freestyle to ride to, because everyone sang along, even though there were no words!
15. Name your favorite horse and rider
Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro, as well as Laura Graves and Debbie McDonald. But I do love Edward Gal and Anky Van Grunsven, too!
16. What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
Practice, practice, practice! Going up through the levels or starting something new can seem really tough at first, but if you have a lot of support behind you and are willing to work hard, you’ll get there. Another important thing to understand, too, is that you will have some times where you end up last or have some not-so-great rides. Also, make sure you’re realistic in your goals. Dressage takes time!
17. What is your horse’s personality like and what is the funniest thing he/she does?
Blueberry is quite the character. He enjoys being lazy but also will always try his hardest for me when it comes to competition and training. His favorite thing is to get ear scratches! He’ll lower his head for you to scratch him behind his ears like a dog, and if you stop he’ll nudge you to keep going. He’s such a social and happy horse. He also loves hanging his head outside of his stall, hitting everyone that passes for treats.
18. Please tell us who you would like to Thank for being your best supporters:
I’d like to thank my parents for all of their tireless support in all things. I’d also like to thank Kathy Rowse, my trainer for always believing in my ability even when I didn’t and everyone from my barn, Silverleaf Farms. It does take a lot of support to get where I am today, and I’m indebted to them!
19. What is your favorite quote that you love and want to share with others?
“The gates to brilliance are surrounded by a cloud of sweat and tears.” Colonel Bengt Ljungquist
“Short reins win gold medals.” Charlotte Dujardin