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“Bold and the Beautiful”'s Katherine Kelly Lang Returns to Endurance Horse Racing After Her Ankle 'Was Totally Dislocated' (Exclusive)

The actress talks to PEOPLE about her return to endurance horse racing after breaking her ankle in three places

<p>Courtesy Katherine Kelly Lang</p> Katherine Kelly Lang

Courtesy Katherine Kelly Lang

Katherine Kelly Lang

Katherine Kelly Lang was just three years old when she discovered her love of horses.

“I sat on a horse with my mom, and I fell in love and that was it,” the Bold and the Beautiful actress tells PEOPLE exclusively about her first exposure to horses — riding the kiddie pony rides in Los Angeles’s famed Griffith Park.

“They strap you in and they make the ponies trot around in a circle, with fences on each side, so you're very safe. All I remember back then was, ‘Oh, boy, these ponies are really bouncy.’ But I still loved it,” she continues.

Growing up, Lang, 63, says, “horses were my thing,” and she harbored dreams of being an Olympic-level equestrian. 

<p>Courtesy Katherine Kelly Lang</p> Katherine Kelly Lang

Courtesy Katherine Kelly Lang

Katherine Kelly Lang

Related: Kimberlin Brown Reflects on Her Shocking Bold and the Beautiful Exit: 'I’ve Had a Good Run'

But when Lang was 22, during a solo ride she stumbled upon a campsite. “There was lots of trailers, lots of horses, lots of people. And I'm like, ‘What is going on here?’ And somebody said, ‘Oh, you don't know about endurance riding?’ ” she recalls.

And once she knew about it, she was hooked.

Unlike the type of racing popularized by the Kentucky Derby, endurance racing isn’t about going fast — it’s about putting in the miles. But it’s not as easy as just sitting on a horse and letting them do all the work.

“You have to be in as much shape as your horse is in,” Lang, an Ironman triathlon competitor, tells PEOPLE. “You have to keep your back up, your shoulders down, and you don't realize it, but you're really using a lot of core when you're riding horses. So you do have to make sure your core is strong because that, of course, keeps your back in place.”

Poor form can actually hurt your horse, she says. “If you start leaning forward too much, maybe you're leaning on one hip more, it starts throwing off the balance and then it'll actually affect the gait of the horse. So, because of how you ride, you could make your horse a little bit lame.”

<p>Courtesy Katherine Kelly Lang</p> Katherine Kelly Lang

Courtesy Katherine Kelly Lang

Katherine Kelly Lang

And it’s not just sitting. “It’s through the mountains, through the streams, you're trotting a lot. You're going up and down. Sometimes you get off and you run alongside your horse or you hike up a mountain to give your horse a break,” she explains.

But it all came crashing down — literally — in 2022, when Lang suffered a serious injury while training for a 50-mile race.

“I got off around the 16-mile mark to walk and eat a protein bar. I just kind of spaced out on a very rocky trail. It was really sharp rocks, almost like volcanic. I wasn't looking down, I wasn't paying attention. I was eating and looking up and around and I stepped on a very big rock,” she tells PEOPLE.

“My ankle immediately went out to the side and I was down on the ground in seconds,” she recalls. “It was totally dislocated, almost apart from my body. I was in shock immediately. I'm thinking if it's better to push it back in or just leave it. So within seconds, I decided, ‘No, this is not going to be good to leave it.’ So I pushed it back into position. I heard it crack, but at least it wasn't all the way out to the side, like perpendicular to my leg.”

Lang’s friends were able to call for an ambulance — and upon arriving at the hospital, the verdict was dire.

<p>Courtesy Katherine Kelly Lang</p> Katherine Kelley Lang

Courtesy Katherine Kelly Lang

Katherine Kelley Lang

Related: High School Football Player, 15, Paralyzed After Snowboarding Accident

“The ankle was broken in three places and the ligaments were torn because it was such a bad dislocation,” Lang says now. “They immediately put me in surgery and they put a big rod on that runs up my leg.”

She adds, “They put in six screws. I still feel the screws, I feel the rod.”

But Lang didn’t rest for long. ““Immediately I started doing as much as I could with the rehabilitation,” she says. “I always wanted to run again. I wanted to ride again. I wanted to do all the things that I've been doing and there was no way I was not gonna do that.”

Her goal? To get back on the proverbial horse (whose name is Tiffany). Lang admits, ”I was probably getting on too soon. My physical therapist kept telling me not to, because I'm like, ’I'm gonna get on [my horse].' And he's like, ‘No, you're not ready yet, because if for any reason you have to jump off suddenly and you land on your ankle, it's not ready.' ”

“So we would do exercises to get ready for jumping or hopping,” she says, explaining that it was so she could “take that much stress again on my ankle.”

<p>Courtesy Katherine Kelly Lang</p> Katherine Kelly Lang

Courtesy Katherine Kelly Lang

Katherine Kelly Lang

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And now Lang's back in the full swing of endurance racing, participating in the Western Mojave Pioneer 50 on March 16.

“Once all the excitement kind of wears down, you start kind of relaxing into the whole thing,” she says, sharing that the horses make frequent visits to vets along the route to ensure their well-being. “The horses are calm. You're kind of just moving along at a good pace and then you can really enjoy the scenery, enjoy where you are, enjoy what you're doing. And you get into a zone.”

Lang explains, “It's the same kind of zone runners talk about — you know, the runner's high. It's kind of that kind of zone and I just then can just let myself relax and enjoy the process.”

As she tells PEOPLE, “Sometimes I'm out there alone. Sometimes I ride alone for so many miles. I'm like, ‘Wow, I'm the only one out here’ and I actually like that better. I like being out there alone just following these trails that are marked with ribbons or chalk on the ground.”

“Sometimes you might miss a turn and then you'll go ten miles extra and realize, ‘Oh, shoot, I'm going the wrong way.’ That's happened to me and that is not fun,” she continues.

But once she’s in the zone, Lang tells PEOPLE, “It's fun to just be out there in nature alone with you and your horse.”

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