Lang earns berth in international eventPublished 5:35pm Saturday, July 13, 2013
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy rising senior Katie Lang recently earned the right to represent the United States in her first international event as an equestrian.
The North American Junior Young Rider Championships begin next week in Lexington, Ky., and she earned one of only four spots available for the local region, which encompasses six states along with the District of Columbia.
Though she has been training in the discipline known as dressage for about six years, she has only been aiming for international competition for the last year or so, making this accomplishment all the more impressive.
“It’s indescribable,” Lang said of competing against equestrians from Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. “It’s really cool, because you always hear people say, ‘I want to represent my country and I want to make my country proud.’”
Knowing that she would be introduced at her next event as “Katie Lang from the United Stated of America,” she said, “It’s just going to be a moment I won’t be able to forget.”
The event will follow the rules of the international governing body for equestrian sport, the Federation Equestre Internationale, and is the only FEI championship held annually on the continent.
Katie’s instructor, Kathy Rowse, said, “This is really a stepping stone for kids that want to move up into the international competition once they become adults.”
Dressage is the art of training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility and balance.
“The main purpose is just to get your horse better connected to you, stronger, more aerobically fit,” Lang said.
Lang competes with a 14-year-old horse named FA Patriot, but she calls him Blue; he is an experienced competitor and she has had him for nearly two years.
“He’s my best friend,” she said.
Lang is under close scrutiny from judges to ensure that she maintains impeccable form, while executing difficult moves that influence Blue’s movements.
“It’s definitely trying to weed out who can ride well and control the horse,” Lang said.
A performance lasts about five minutes and can involve around 40 moves. including half passes, in which the horse moves forward and to the side in a diagonal line, and flying changes, in which it switches which leg it leads with in mid-air. A trot extension involves the horse widening its stride to move faster, but not change the tempo of its steps, while a trot collection involves short strides with no tempo change, creating a bouncy step.
“The quintessential chase for perfection” drew Lang to dressage, she said.
Rowse noted that Lang has a lot of strengths that have helped her excel.
“Because she has been a competitive ice skater for many years, she learned from a very early age about being calm and focused in competition, and I think it absolutely transfers to her riding, as well, which has been a very big strength for her,” Rowse said.
Katie’s mother, Cynthia Lang, said she is proud of her daughter, particularly in light of her busy schedule.
“There’s not many kids who could walk a week in her shoes with all she has going on,” Cynthia Lang said.
In addition to riding, Katie gets up at 3:45 a.m. for ice skating lessons in Yorktown. Then she has school at NSA, where she is an honor student, followed by training at Silverleaf Farm in Suffolk. She gets to her home in Chesapeake around 7 p.m. with a full complement of homework still to go.
The international event will run July 16-22.