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Lauren KirbyA birthday party was the beginning of an equestrian career.

Fluvanna High School junior Lauren Kirby wanted to have her 10th birthday party at Susan White’s horse farm on Central Plains Road. After that day, she was hooked.

“She literally started riding and never stopped,” White said. “That’s how she’s so good.”

Good enough to best more than 13,500 youth equestrians to place third in the nation at a recent competition.

The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) National Finals were held in Lexington, Va., on April 21-23.
To get into the finals, riders first competed throughout the 2016-2017 school year to accumulate points. Only the top three could advance from Regionals to Zones, then to Nationals.

Lauren was one of only 22 riders in her class to even get into the finals.

According to the IEA website: “The IEA format requires that the riders compete in unfamiliar tack on unfamiliar mounts, competing on horses they’ve never ridden before – they draw the horses on the day of the competition and enter the arena with no warm-up.”

While Lauren does jump, she didn’t in the most recent competition. She competed in the hunt seat class equitation flat, White said.

Mounted on a horse she just met, using someone else’s equipment, Lauren entered the arena and performed tasks at the judges’ behest. Those tasks could include a sitting trot, a figure eight at a canter, trotting without stirrups or even changing horses.
She was judged on how she and her horse looked and performed.

Lauren admits after all these years, she’s nervous before a competition. “I still can’t eat before a show,” she said.

“And you can’t talk to her,” White said.

But once she’s in the ring that all melts away, Lauren said.

Lauren is involved in 4H and competes in the state horse show, where she’s been the champion the last two years.

She wants to go to a college with an equestrian program. She’d like to be a veterinarian. She wants horses to always be a part of her life and to be a trainer.

White is clearly proud of Lauren, who practices up to 10 hours per week. If Lauren has a bad day, White said, she comes back the next day and is at it again.

“Anybody can get on a horse, but there’s so much more to it,” she said. “If you want to make it look brilliant you have to learn to be one with the horse. Then, the horse will do anything you want.”

Scrimmage Play: Fluvanna County Headlines