By Jan Westmark
Kat Fuqua was destined to be a rider. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, with grand prix dressage parents and a barn filled with talented horses, Kat started her riding career when she was only 1 year old. “My mom and dad got me miniature ponies and after that I just kept on riding,” she said. Now 12 years old, Kat has reached a level of accomplishment in her riding that keeps her in the winner’s circle, all while traversing the world of middle school. At the 2019 Pony Finals, Kat and Prestige, her 8-year-old Belgian Riding Pony, captured the Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Finals. Not only is she a pony wonder-kid, Kat has also moved into the equitation and junior hunter rings with trainer Jimmy Torano. Sidelines had a chance to catch up with Kat at her Collecting Gaits Farm outside of Atlanta to find out more about her ponies, her horses and her life.
Do your parents still ride?
My mom sometimes warms up my horses for me, but my dad doesn’t ride anymore. He used to ride after work, but when I was born, he’d rather come home to spend time with me.
What do you like about training with Jimmy Torano?
I really like training with him because he’s a really good equitation trainer and ultimately it helps me with the hunters, too.
What are some of your favorite shows?
My favorite show is either the Washington International Horse Show because I love being in the city, or Lake Placid. I get to spend time with my friends I compete with outside the show. I rarely get to do that, so it’s special to be in New York.
What’s your favorite thing about being part of the horse world?
Being in a sport with live animals and having that connection with the animal is my favorite part.
Have you had a funny horse moment that still makes you laugh?
My pony Ladybug, Finesse RF, she’s my medium pony. When I go in her stall, she threatens to bite me, but she never really does. She just chomps at me, and pins her ears back and she gets really mad. She just threatens and clacks her teeth; it’s really funny. JJ Torano has taken over the ride of her. He was third overall at Pony Finals. She loves him and never pins her ears back with him.
What are your life goals (at the moment!)?
One of them is to get good grades at school. And for the horses, I want to make it to the Olympics.
What’s your favorite thing about school? Do you do online school or go to a school?
I go to a regular school, Holy Innocents Episcopal School. I really like French. It’s my favorite subject at school.
Do any favorite horse show wins stand out in your mind (other than Pony Finals)?
This year’s Junior Hunter Finals is my favorite, when I won the small junior round over fences with Calvaro. That was my first junior hunter win at a really big champion show.
What are your feelings about Pony Finals this year?
My pony Prestige ended up Champion, which was huge and I was really, really excited. Then we won the pony medal at Pony Finals on the last day. It was my first time winning an equitation championship.
Who inspires you?
Definitely my trainer Jimmy Torano because he is an amazing jumper, equitation and hunter rider. Taylor St. Jacques has always been one of my idols because she’s really competitive in the jumpers right now. She’s won a lot of pony and junior championships.
What talents do you feel you have?
Riding is one of them, but ice skating is something I feel I could be OK at, and jumping (on foot, like hurdling). I like that a lot.
What’s your favorite item of clothing to wear?
I really only wear my school uniform and my riding clothes. I like purses. I usually like just some cute jeans and shirts, and a pair of my tennis shoes. Or if I go out fancy, I like high heels.
Most embarrassing thing you’ve ever worn?
Probably at Halloween, when I wore my zebra costume. I didn’t really look like a zebra. I just looked like I had a bunch of stripes everywhere. It was kind of embarrassing on Halloween just trick-or-treating. No one knew what I was!
What’s your favorite meal?
Dinner. I like pasta and steak.
Favorite type of pizza?
I like barbecue chicken pizza. I had that in Kentucky with one of my best friends.
Something people don’t know about you?
I like to ice skate and I have two birds. They are both parakeets, Taco and Pegasus. I got them at the beginning of WEF this year, and they kept me company at the horse show. They came home with us.
What would be the best gift in the world?
Personally, to receive a hundred packs of Snaks Fifth Avenchew treats. They are my favorite to give to my horses.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Flying, definitely! I would love to fly everywhere.
What’s something everyone should try at least once?
Riding a horse. It’s a great experience!