Feb 16, 2022

2021 USEA Adult Amateur of the Year Katie Lichten Juggles School and Riding to Top Leaderboard

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Katie Licthen and Yarrow. Erin Gilmore photo.

The life of an adult amateur is never easy. Between balancing school or work with riding, and factoring in all of life’s other responsibilities, it can be quite a challenge. This year’s USEA Adult Amateur of the Year Award winner Katie Lichten of Hamilton, Massachusetts is no stranger to the dedication required to make all of those scales balance equally. As an active student in the business school at the University of Virginia and a four-star eventer, Lichten often finds herself juggling a handful of roles and responsibilities as she pursues her degree in IT and Business Analytics as well as an upcoming transition to professional rider.

While Lichten now competes at the upper-levels of eventing, she happened upon riding by chance as a young child. “Neither of my parents rode,” Lichten shared. “My family lived in this non-horsey town and when my sister [Maddie] and I were two and a half, we had a nanny who rode horses and had her own farm. She would bring us out to her farm when she would watch us. Apparently, I was absolutely terrified of the horses and didn’t want to touch them at first, but she made us ride and would put the both of us on this big horse and lead us around the farm. She really introduced us to the horses.”

Later, Lichen’s family would move to their home in Hamilton, Massachusetts, and purchase a farm of their own which came with an unexpected surprise. “The farm had a barn and we didn’t know it, but the farm owner left two of their horses there so they became our first ponies,” laughed Lichten. One thing would lead to another and Lichten found herself competing at her first recognized event when she was around 8 years old and she hasn’t looked back since.

Erin Gilmore photo.
Erin Gilmore photo.

Transitioning from Young Rider to Adult Amateur isn’t always easy. While some riders opt out of pursuing secondary education, Lichten decided to obtain her degree while trying to maintain her dedication to riding at the same time. She admits that it can be difficult, but she finds the sacrifice worth it.

“I rode and competed all through high school which was challenging in itself. Then going to college, I feel like that is where a lot of people either stop riding, just do it kind of casually, or make it balance kind of like I have,” she said. “It has definitely been a sacrifice. For example, it was easier last year because of COVID because all of my classes were online. Now the school has us back in a regular in-person class, so for the season I fly out of Charlottesville every Thursday and am in Aiken, South Carolina all weekend before I fly back Sunday night. There have definitely been times when I have questioned if I should focus on school or having a social life, but at the end of the day I really love the horses and that is what I want to do when I graduate this spring.”

With big goals for after graduation, Lichten is trying to get the most out of her in-the-saddle time while still in school. While she normally rides with Allison Springer, during the Aiken season Lichten is riding with Caitlin Silliman and taking supplemental lessons from Boyd Martin as well. In addition to getting experience working with other professionals, Lichten has the opportunity to ride many of the horses in Silliman’s program during her weekends in South Carolina so that she can maximize her horse time while away from school.

Having just sold one of her Advanced horses, the 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Sapphire Blue B (Heritage Fortunus x Lucy Blue), Lichten is looking to add a new horse to her string for the 2022 season. She currently competes two horses owned by her twin sister Maddie, Yarrow (Yavari x Amelia), a 15-year-old Canadian Sport Horse Gelding and a 7-year-old Thoroughbred gelding AF Albertous. When it came to being awarded the honor of USEA Adult Amateur of the Year, it was a total shock for Lichten.

“That was a complete surprise to me,” she shared. “I wasn’t even thinking about that at all. One of my horses had been hurt for the first part of 2021, so I wasn’t really assuming that I would win anything. I hadn’t even looked at the leaderboard, to be honest!”

Brant Gamma photo.

Lichten had a great competition year in 2021, ultimately leading to her topping the Adult Amateur leaderboards. In March of 2021, Lichten brought home the win in the Open Intermediate at Chattahoochee Hills with Sapphire Blue B, followed by a top-five finish for the pair in April at The Fork at TIEC. The pair ticked off a handful of three-star longs from their checklist and later in the year Lichten and Yarrow had their FEI debut for the season in the CCI3*-S at Great Meadow.

In September, Lichten and Yarrow finished 11th out of 59 pairs in the CCI3*-S at Plantation Field before bringing home the win on their dressage score out of over 30 pairs in the CCI3*-S at Morven Park just a month later. Finishing out the year strong, the pair had a sixth-place finish in the CCI3*-L at the Tryon International 3-Day Event in November.

Looking forward to 2022, Lichten’s goal is to find another horse to compete, as well as to move Yarrow up to the four-star level together and to gain more experience all-around at the Advanced level before taking the plunge into professional life upon graduation this coming spring.

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