PARA-EQUESTRIAN Dressage rider Katie Umback, formerly of Bega, has been selected to represent Australia at one of the world’s biggest Para-Equestrian Dressage events in England during July 6-10.
Ms Umback’s passion for riding began at an early age when she started in Pony Club at the age of four and by the time she was five she was competing in pony club and agricultural shows.
“I was heavily involved in eventing until I was 18 when I had a serious fall on a cross country course and broke my neck which ended my jumping and eventing career,” Ms Umback said.
From then on she focused on dressage and ag shows.
She began breaking-in, re-educating, training green horses and teaching people to ride as well as professionally showing horses at a national level.
At the age of 32 Ms Umback was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and was forced to stop riding for seven years.
Two years ago a new medication became available and along with some extensive chemotherapy she was able to get back in the saddle and ride again.
“Riding as I knew it was all very different though,” Ms Umback said.
“Because I have 70 per cent of my body in numbness, partial numbness and a significant loss of strength in my limbs, my body didn’t work like it used to.
Ms Umback basically had to teach herself how to ride all over again with the capabilities she was left with.
“It was a frustrating struggle for the first 12 months, but since I have learned how to improvise with my disabilities, I haven’t looked back,” she said.
Ms Umback imported a Danish warmblood gelding, Gronskovlunds Marquis, from Holland a little over a year ago for dressage.
Since having him, she has been highly successful in able bodied, para-dressage and the show ring.
“I recently just competed at the prestigious Sydney CDI (Concours de Dressage International), its Australia’s largest and most competitive dressage event.
“I won both my grade tests and was the highest scoring Para Dressage rider across all four grades," she said.
The win along with Ms Umback’s consistent success in Para Dressage over the last 12 months has put her at the top of her grade in Australia and she has been selected as the grade 3 rider to represent Australia at the CPEDI 3* in Hartpury, England.
Last week Ms Umback travelled to Europe to try a few horses that a friend in Holland had lined up for her to ride in Hartpury and Ms Umback met Arwen.
“She was perfect and I clicked with her straight away,” she said.
“I didn’t even bother trying the other horses."
Ms Umback had five rides on Arwen before she came home and she is leaving next weekend for 10 days training before she heads to Hartpury.
During the week that Ms Umback is in Hartputy she will compete in three dressage tests.
“The European riders are the best in the world and are the current world champions,” she said.
“So I will not only be riding a horse that I’m not used to, I am also riding against some of the best riders in the world.
“I will definitely have my work cut out for me.”
If Ms Umback can place in the top 10 placing’s, it will rank her in the top 10 riders in the world for her grade.
“I have a lot of work to do when I go back to Europe with Arwen and my trainer Tristan Tucker (who is an Aussie) so here’s hoping I can pull it all together in time to be competitive on the international stage,” she said.
At this stage Ms Umback is on the long list for the Australian team at the Rio Paralympics in Brazil next year.