September 24, 2023

Horse Sense

UMW sophomore Katherine Lambert strides through the barn, tall black boots clicking across cold concrete. She stops near the end at a stall on the left.

“Mikey,” the espresso-colored thoroughbred she’s owned since last summer, is happy to see her. He shuffles in his stall, swooshes his tail. And one other thing.

Katherine Lambert


Lambert just shrugs at the pile and fetches a pitchfork. It’s all in a day’s work for a girl who loved horses before she could walk. “I think it’s in my DNA,” she said.

An accomplished equestrian with her eyes on the North American Young Rider Championships, Lambert has spent much of her life on horseback. Along the way, she’s suffered broken bones, concussions and, after serious injuries to two of her horses, her share of heartache. Still, riding has colored her life, paving the way to new experiences, volunteer opportunities, even a prospective career as an orthodontist. Now a biology major on the pre-dental track, she’s taking it one test at a time … and in the barn is where she thinks best.

“No matter how bad my day was, when I go there I’m like a new person,” she said. “Ideas come flooding into my head.”

Infatuated with horses from the start, Lambert was 5 when she began taking lessons at Apple Tree Farm near her home in Nashua, New Hampshire. By 11, she’d coaxed her parents into buying a horse. She’d spend the next decade claiming titles across the East Coast on Dodger, Salty, Sammy, Iggy, McFly and now Mikey. Her sport, eventing, blends show jumping, cross-country and dressage, which Lambert likens to “figure skating on a horse.”

To feed her passion and its price tag – lessons, boarding, coaches, vets, equipment – her parents encouraged her to try new things. “I was becoming a well-rounded person,” she said. “The more I did, the more they let me do with horses.”

So she loaded up on sports in high school and immediately excelled at one, catching the eye of UMW Women’s Lacrosse Coach Caitlin Moore, who recruited her to play attack. Lambert’s love of the sport, with Mary Washington’s size and proximity to Virginia’s “horse country,” reined her in, as did its pre-dental program. As a teen with a mouthful of metal, a routine appointment had set her straight. A career as an orthodontist, she’d realized, would let her help others and, with its salary and flexibility, stay focused on horses.

First, though, she’d have to get into dental school, a hefty commitment that calls for clinical hours, community service and leadership experience.

“To add to that lacrosse and horses, she has a schedule I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” said Professor of Biology Stephen Gallik, UMW’s pre-medical and pre-dental advisor. “Medical schools look for well-rounded individuals, and that’s certainly what I see in Katherine.”

One of New England’s top young riders, she fights childhood poverty as a junior ambassador for Just World International, writes for Heels Down Magazine and often makes the hours-long trip to work with a Middleburg riding coach. To decompress, she heads to Hazelwild Horse Farm … and Mikey.

“I hate admitting I don’t have time for something,” said Lambert. “I just make it work. I honestly don’t know how I do it, but I somehow do.”