Former Bega rider Katie Umback is hopeful of gaining a spot in Australia’s Paralympic team for the Rio de Janiero after strong success at an international ride in Victoria last week.
Umback has been impressing selectors with continued strong performances in spite of her Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
She finished second in her division at the Boneo International event in Victoria, riding Gondskovlunds Marquis.
“I was really happy with him today. He had a bit of time off over Christmas and he has come back into work feeling fresh and ready to go for the year ahead,” Umback said.
Umback said she took up riding at just four years of age in local agriculture shows, but it wasn’t until she turned seven she discovered the graceful sport of dressage.
However, her developing career in the sport was cut short with the devastating news of her diagnosis.
Early days with the disease were hard as the medications proved ineffective and Umback was held back from her sport for seven years.
Even on returning to the saddle, it’s been a difficult road to walk, she is partially numb in 70 per cent of her body and has diminished arm and leg strength.
It can be hard to “read” the horse under her aswell as leading through the course, but she is making headway
However, she is now forging ahead in the sport and has developed her own unique style in the saddle.
“Now I ride a little bit differently to an abled bodied rider, I had to build on that and it took me a couple of years to be at the point where I am now.”
Following her success in Victoria, the talented rider is preparing for a trip to Europe to compete for one of just four spots on the Australian team.
“I’m looking forward to getting over to Europe, stepping-up to the next level and competing against the Europeans. I love a challenge – the bigger the better,” she said.
Umback said it was an exciting time for Australian para-equestrian as a number of home-grown riders competed strongly at the event and will be in contention overseas.
“We’ve got some really good quality horses coming through, good riders as well as up and coming riders, so it’s looking really promising going into Rio.
“Hopefully we can take a competitive team there and do Australia proud,” she said.