She’s only 14 years old, but Miki Yang is already making her mark on High Performance Equestrian Sport.
Miki Yang is just fourteen years old. But don’t let her age fool you.
She’s already traveled the world — from Austria to the Netherlands — representing your Team as an integral (not to mention the youngest) member of the U.S. Vaulting Team. And now she’s taking the dressage scene by storm.
Miki grew up around horses with her mom, Akiko Yamazaki, a longtime horsewoman and amateur dressage rider. “I spent most of my life in the barn,” says Miki. “It was my second home.”
When Miki was six years old and begging her mom for riding lessons, Akiko thought a foundation in vaulting would provide a safe entry into the horse world.
If you’ve ever witnessed the complicated gymnastics these athletes perform on horseback, “safe” might seem like the wrong term. But, Miki explains, her mom “thought that having a longer control the horse would be safer for me.” (The longer is a person standing in the center of the ring, controlling a horse cantering on a long line while the athletes perform their moves.)
It was a decision that would lead to probably the biggest surprise of Miki’s life so far. Little did she or her mom know that very soon Miki would go on to represent our U.S. Equestrian Team at the pinnacle of the sport.
Miki was the youngest member of the U.S. Team at the 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy, turning 10 years old on the first day of competition.
“Our team was training to qualify for the 2015 Junior World Championships,” says Miki, “but we managed to qualify for WEG as well which was just a huge surprise to all of us! We trained hard every day and it all paid off. I was so proud of our team, and also really nervous!” That day, Miki’s team placed third — taking home an FEI Bronze medal!
Then came another surprise … After her incredible entrance into the High Performance equestrian world, another discipline caught this talented young rider’s eye.
“I loved vaulting,” says Miki. “But this year, I decided to focus on dressage.”
With her two horses, Garden’s Sam, aka ‘Sammy,’ and Rapsodie Espagnol, aka ‘Doodles,’ Miki has dedicated herself to learning a new discipline. And so far, the transition is going very, very well. With the help of Sammy, her New Forest pony, the pair recently took home top honors at the USEF Children Dressage National Championship.
Although they make success look seamless, it hasn’t always been an easy journey for Miki and Sammy. “He is not the easiest pony,” explains Miki. “He was relatively green when we got him, and we were both really young.” But with Miki’s hard work and commitment to Sammy, they’ve been able to work through their most challenging moments and achieve incredible success in the dressage ring.
And at the end of the day, Miki sees their trials and tribulations as a learning opportunity for her to develop her own capabilities as a rider. “He was a very spooky pony,” says Miki. “But I had to learn how to handle those situations, and I think that it really benefited me.”
So what’s next for the spunky duo? Miki is hoping to qualify with Sammy in the FEI Pony division. She’s also getting to know her new horse, a 7-year-old Oldenburg named Doodles. “Doodles is incredibly adorable,” says Miki. “He’s a sucker for food and all sorts of cuddles.”
When Miki isn’t in school — she’s currently a high school freshman — she loves spending the weekends riding with her mom. “We always try to give each other tips,” Miki says. “I’ve learned a lot from my mom because she’s been riding for so long. I’m really grateful for that.”
Although she doesn’t have much time outside of school and riding, Miki also enjoys hanging out with her friends whenever she can and photography. “I like taking portraits of people and objects and landscape photos,” she says. And she recently went on a scuba diving trip, receiving certifications in open water scuba diving and coral reef restoration.
Young riders like Miki are the future of High Performance equestrian sport in America …
And, with your help, that future is looking very bright!