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#9 Andrew Welles: Passion for Showjumping

Andrew Welles is an international showjumping rider and started very early on to pursue his riding career. Not only has he represented the US several times at high-class competitions, he also competes regularly and produces clear rounds in FEI World Cup™ Jumping qualifiers around the country.

In this episode, Andrew tells us how he got where he is right now and also talks about what he learned from some of the best coaches in the world.

Podcast Transcript

This transcript was created by an AI and has not been proofread.

This transcript was created by AI and has not been proofread

[SPEAKER 1]Hi everyone, this is the Equestrian Connection from, the online riding academy. My name is Christian Kroeber and welcome to the show. In this episode, I am interviewing Andrew Welles. He is an international show jumping rider and started very early on to pursue his career and represented the United States already several times in nation cups. how he got where he is right now and what he learned from the best riders in the world. This is what we’re going to talk about now. So let’s go. Welcome to the show, Andrew Wells.

[SPEAKER 2]Thanks for having me on.

[SPEAKER 1]Andrew, you are a show jumper. You represented the United States, I think in 2009 for the very first time in a Nations Cup. What is for you the beauty of the sport? Why do you love show jumping?

[SPEAKER 2]There’s a lot of aspects, but I say sometimes to when I talk with people, I said, it sounds a little bit corny, but it’s the it’s the beauty. It’s the beauty of the harmony you’re trying to create with an animal. And you’re trying to accomplish, you know, sometimes a difficult task or, you know, work. You know, you’re tackling a difficult course there and you’re doing it in partnership with an animal.

[SPEAKER 1]And you can’t you can’t speak

[SPEAKER 2]to the animal of your words, but you can do it in so many other ways. And, you know, for me, I think you look at some of the best riders in the history of our sport. You look at Ian Miller, you look at Nick Skelton, you look at your beer bomb and how successful they’ve been late in their career. And I think the one thing I truly believe is that every time you get on a horse, you learn something new. It could be the smallest little feeling. It could be a new approach there. And so every day, you know, aside from just the sport, you’re working with that animal and you’re, you’re looking, you’re, you’re learning new ways of how you can communicate better and then put that, uh, put that to use in your craft and your sport and what you’re doing in the arena.

[SPEAKER 1]So having this connection doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s only in a course or at a show. It is also those small things in the daily routine. Oh, it’s everything.

[SPEAKER 2]I mean, I say, you know, it’s and it’s not just the trot or the canter. You know, everything that we’re doing is trying to, you know, I’d say that everything that we’re doing is trying to create the best canter possible, because at the end of the day, you know, that that’s your platform for a great that’s your platform for jumping a course successfully and you know the jumps are really just they’re they’re placed on a they’re placed on a pattern uh that you’re cantering around the ring on but that starts you know having a good canter starts at the trot starts at the walk starts in your groundwork starts and uh you know even before that when you you know your your training program how you plan for the fitness the soundness of the horse there’s so many there’s so many details that get you from point A to point B. And that’s where, you know, that for me, that’s the kind of work that I love doing. You, you’re, and you develop a bond with the horse. They’re understanding what they need and how you can help them so that they can help you the best way possible.

[SPEAKER 1]So eventually having a sound plan for everything from the warm-up, trot, until eventually also making jumps, so it’s this entire scope of things.

[SPEAKER 2]Yes, exactly. you’re not looking at just the plan of what you’re going to do that day or that week. You’re looking at a year plan, a two-year plan, how you’re developing young horses, you’re bringing them up. I think that you see most of the best riders, they’ve had horses since they were young and they’ve molded them into their program, their way of riding. I think you look at You look at McLean Ward to Ludger to Nick Skelton to, I mean, so many great riders, they all have different programs. They have different styles there. Um, and for me, there’s, there’s, uh, so many different ways to ride and train horses actually. Uh, and there’s a lot of ways to do them. Well, we have to pick your, you have to pick your, um, your program, your style, eventually. And, you know, more and develop the horses to mold to that there so you’re looking at it, you’re looking at a plan that that spans, you know, years of development there, and then you’re taking that you’re breaking that down to the small steps of. you’re building their fitness up, you’re towards a certain goal, you’re maintaining it there. It’s even what surface are you going to work the horse on that day? How are you going to change it up so that they get exposure to grass, to sand, that you’re preparing them to handle the rigors of what we’re going to ask of them? Because as beautiful as our sport is, I would say it’s a little bit unnatural. The horses love what they do. They’re incredible athletes there. But at the end of the day, we’re asking them to jump these massive horses there, not getting too into, I guess, the intelligent design. But I don’t think that horses were originally that the idea was made that they would become show jumpers there. They’re incredible at it, but we need to also be conscious of the fact that we need to look after them, make sure that they have good balance in their life so that they stay healthy, sound, and their bodies are prepared for what we’re going to ask of them in the sport there. And so I think that trying to be conscious of that in your daily routines and your planning, that is something that’s very important to the end goal, which is high quality performance in the competition arena.

[SPEAKER 1]How do you manage that? I think what you said is completely right that horses historically are not necessarily for show jumping. We have a breeding history of over 500 years or even longer starting in Germany and in Europe and at the royal houses and all those things and now we are in the year 2021-22 And we have these high athlete horses. How do you manage them on a daily basis that they don’t get bored, that they are willing to jump fences, jump courses in a positive manner and positive posture?

[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, I mean I think it comes down to every horse is a little bit different what they need. I was actually just explaining this to somebody yesterday. English is not his first language, and so I was trying to connect the dots of how to explain this there. But I said, there’s a term that we have, Paul, or the saying that is, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. They’re saying, you know, like for these horses there, you can’t, uh, you can’t just expect them to go around the same arena day in and day out and expect to, uh, you know, keep a, you know, not necessarily a positive outlook, but to not become bored. You want to keep them. It’s the fine line between overstimulating, but also keeping them mentally fresh, whether it’s, you know, I think it’s good to work in the arena. It’s good to work them out on the trails, you know, change the places up that you’re riding them there. Um, you know, we need to be. I think it’s important that you always are trying to put the horses on surfaces that are going to promote health and soundness, but they also need to work on different surfaces because if they only work in one type of sand arena, and then you go and ask them to go on a grass field or even a sand arena, that’s a different material and do something that, uh, that’s going to be the most, the physically exerting tasks that they’re going to do, which is jump a, a big bomb free. I think that that’s the time that you’re asking for an injury to occur. So I think it’s important that you ride that you know you ride the horses on different surfaces you’re cognizant of, you know, it’s still being good service on the work on but it’s also it’s good for their mind they go and work in different places and. work in different ways as well. You’re not just on the horses every day grinding on them. You know, you maybe pick one or two days a week. You work on more of the dressage details. You pick one or two days that you’re working, you know, more forward, simple work on the trails so that they, that the days that you have to really, that you, not that you have to, the days that you want to put more work into the communication there on the dressage basics, the horses aren’t sour to them. So I think that’s always a fine balance that you’re looking for there.

[SPEAKER 1]Earlier you mentioned a couple of legends of the sport, Ian Miller, McLean Ward, Ludger Bergbaum and some others. How important is it for you to basically create your own blend, to create your own style? Do you even do that or is it just naturally created when you develop horses?

[SPEAKER 2]I think it’s important. I think that there’s the There’s two, there’s maybe two types of a person you want to find yourself somewhere in the middle you have the bullheaded person that doesn’t want to that only believes in their way, and they’re not going to take any advice they’re not going to think with an open mind or learn there. And they can, you know, they might be successful to some extent there but they could be a lot more successful if they, you know, if they took some advice or they, they watched and learn how to do things better than you have your other type of person which is, you know, a sponge, and they, they’re, they, they bounce too much in every direction because they’re just trying to take every bit of information that they can. And they almost get they confuse themselves along the way there. So I think it’s kind of it’s finding it’s it’s finding the middle ground there that you you try to keep learning, keep developing, keep progressing there. But at the same time, you have to believe in yourself and you have to figure out what works for you. And, you know, I say that when we have, you know, for our team, our staff, you know, this is not just from the rider. I mean, there’s such a, there’s a massive support system that really, you know, they’re, they’re the bird’s nest that hold us up there. And, but I say to them when we hire them, when they, or when we sit down and everything, there’s a lot of different ways to do horses and there’s a lot of ways to do them well, but at the end of the day, we have to pick one direction and we have to follow that there. That doesn’t mean that we never can change that. I love to hire people that have different backgrounds, different experiences, and to be able to listen to them there. But it’s a little bit like you’re a president or a CEO, you gather everybody around and you listen to ideas or thoughts on how we can do things. But at the end of the day, then your job as the buyer- It’s you making the decision.

[SPEAKER 1]Yeah.

[SPEAKER 2]You have to pick it and you’re going to learn, you know, sometimes you’re going to make the wrong one and you’re going to learn from that there. And then you’ll be, you know, hopefully even if you make the wrong decision, you’re going to learn from it down the road and how you can correct that in a future situation.

[SPEAKER 1]You’re over 10 years already in the international show jumping scene. How did you get into the sport? What paved your way into the international sport?

[SPEAKER 2]Well, going back to when I was younger, um, so I’m from a city called Minneapolis, um, which is up in that it’s close to the Canadian border and then in Minnesota, um, for, I guess, people outside the States, um, listen to the podcast here and in, uh, the region there, there’s hardly any, We call it hunter jumper over here, but there’s not more sport. And, you know, when I I’m not that old, I’m 34 now. But, you know, when I was younger, we didn’t have access to social media, you would get your magazines in the mail, you know, once a week or pre iPhone era.

[SPEAKER 1]Yeah, exactly. So, you know, I didn’t

[SPEAKER 2]I didn’t know a lot about it. And so it took me a little bit longer to kind of really get going. It was more until I was like 16 or so. Then I did a clinic with somebody, a top trainer, and they said, you know, I think you actually have some talent at this. You know, it’d be great for you to come down to Wellington and see what this is all about. And so I made that move and kind of it’s been, you know, I was all in from that point on. But ironically, what I started was My parents both rode growing up and they were involved with horses but they had kind of more or less stopped and you know raised the family but when I was seven or seven or eight my a friend of mine on a soccer team was taking riding lessons and it was the, you know, family friend as well. So we would oftentimes get rides to and from soccer. But I had to wait out for his riding lessons to finish on the way home. We go to soccer and then he would go for a riding lesson. And I sat there and watched a few times and finally I said, OK, well, I might as well take the riding lesson at the same time if I’m going to be here. And he stopped riding six months later. And I guess here I am today.

[SPEAKER 1]Thankfully, you didn’t pick up soccer. Yes. And you started your own equestrian operation when you were 23, right? Also very early. Yeah, right.

[SPEAKER 2]I was very fortunate to work with top trainers, uh, and with Missy Clark and then Chris Kappler. Um, but I was, you know, from that age of 16 to 23 there and, uh, progressed very quickly. And I had a moment when I was 23, um, my main horse at the time had had an injury and I. Needed to get some more horses underneath myself there and I said, you know, this is a you know, it’s it’s a ambitious move to me, but I felt like the long run I needed to That that was going to be the best step to put more horses underneath me at the rider and start to expand the scope of what I can do and That doesn’t mean I, I never get help from other people as well, but, uh, I think that you should always have, you know, you know, the best riders in the world still have somebody on the ground to help them there. But that was, uh, at the time. Um, something that it, I felt like was the next move that I needed to make in my career. And, uh, the other side of it too, is that a lot of riders, they, uh, I feel like they teach so they can ride. I actually truly. enjoy teaching. And so for me, that was tied into it as well, is that it was an opportunity for me to open up a little bit more of a training aspect to our business as well. And that’s something that it’s a piece of this that I really enjoy.

[SPEAKER 1]What do you enjoy about training other people and getting your students better?

[SPEAKER 2]Uh, I love to communicate, you know, for me, I love to communicate the, um, the, the details of the sport, watch the progression. Um, I also, I think it helps me as a rider, you know, the more I can be out there teaching, I’m reinforcing the little things that are, make a difference, uh, to me there. And, you know, you’re. If you’re out there and you’re trying to pass a message along, teach somebody how to do things, teach somebody how to do something. There’s been so many times where I’ve said, it makes something click for me as a rider or something for me with the horse there. Not saying that I hadn’t thought of it, but something that I had maybe gotten a little bit complacent about there. So I think it’s very healthy. It keeps me very sharp and engaged with my own routing of the students. But I think to see their progression, to work with them and help them reach their goals, it’s fun.

[SPEAKER 1]And I mean, now you’re already over 10 years running your own business in the equestrian world. What are your biggest learnings so far? I mean, 10 years is quite some time. What would you recommend people that are just starting the sport or starting a business? What are your learnings, your personal learnings so far?

[SPEAKER 2]This is actually like a little bit out of left field, but I think that I think to Actually, it’s you need to be bold in a sense, but I actually think that this is a small thing, but I’d say it was what kind of helped me turn the corner is to not beat around the bush. And I, you know, I remember in the beginning, I was just, you know, I felt very tentative to have a strong opinion or, you know, say what really needed to be done for clients, for owners, for everybody on the team there.

[SPEAKER 1]And as I,

[SPEAKER 2]I realized that sticking to my convictions and really being honest about what I felt when somebody would say what it’s going to take to reach a goal, how can we get there, is say what you truly believe. And you’re going to be working towards an outcome that’s very honest. with, you know, what horses need, with what students need there. I felt like in the beginning, I was always, you know, I would, you know, yeah, we could do this or, you know, we need to, you know, I was a little bit soft spoken about things there. And then as I, you know, I said, you know, no, this is what needs, you know, if we want to do this, this is what needs to happen. And we’re going to, you know, take the bull by the horns and get there.

[SPEAKER 1]Yeah. And probably this is a learning you can have in any business. Yes. Take the bull by the horns and get there is probably something you need in any business regardless if you’re running a barber shop on the corner or in an equestrian business like yours.

[SPEAKER 2]Yes, 100%. I found that at the end of the day you do a better service for everybody around you when you can be very blunt and honest. If somebody has a horse there that truly it’s not the best partnership or it doesn’t work and instead of saying oh well we’ll do everything we can to make this work there you know say say what you know you’re you’re not doing the best service to the client then as well or your student or you you need you need you need to find the best situation and the um that you can for everybody around you.

[SPEAKER 1]Did COVID actually affect your business or affect also the number of horse shows you visit due to lockdowns? Is that a factor for you or an aspect or is that something that is just completely off?

[SPEAKER 2]It for sure has changed. We did a lot more of the Traverse City horse shows the last two years. I think around the world you saw year one or two week or shows I mean we had well we couldn’t travel to Canada, like we normally like to and Europe was difficult so we ended up staying home. And yeah, we just finally got into Canada at the end of August this last year. So that, you know, we ended up doing, I would say we did the same amount of horse shows, probably. Obviously there was a break of a couple of months there where we didn’t, but then it was just, we probably stayed in, you know, we stayed between a smaller group of horse shows and did more of those places. Cause I think you saw that the one or two week horse shows really struggled to, to put on the competitions because there’s so much setup cost, there’s the risk about if they don’t get to run the spectators, but the longer series that they could spread the cost out over 12 weeks, they were able to put something on. Selfishly, and this is so that COVID has affected so many people and people I know and very negative ways, you know, from not just the financial standpoint, but obviously it’s the health standpoint, mentally also mental aspects of it. and that I really took from it there that was actually amazing for us from it is we hit the pause button and we could just train. And for me, I love that. And I it’s it was a little bit of a lesson to try to incorporate more again, because I think it’s so easy to get on a hamster wheel that there’s another show, there’s something to be doing. You have to kind of keep going there and to just be able to train at home and spend all that time to work with the horses to work with the students and like really, you know, really put our time to that aspect of it was something that I did not take for granted and something that I really felt like it was a reminder for us about how important that aspect of it is.

[SPEAKER 1]Cool. Andrew, at the end of every podcast, I have the four ultimate WeHorse questions. Okay. I hope you’re ready. I hope so too. Question number one. Do you have a motto?

[SPEAKER 2]If I do, it would probably, yeah, I guess it’s, I say ride to ride great, not to not make a mistake.

[SPEAKER 1]Cool. Yeah. Right. Great. Not to make a mistake. Yeah. Yeah.

[SPEAKER 2]Not to not make a mistake. It’s so easy to go and think about it’s it’s actually it’s from a it’s from a golfing book and I tweaked it a little bit there but it’s it’s you know instead of thinking about you know I don’t want to you know I don’t want to hit it in the water so I’m trying not to hit the ball in the water you’re thinking about how you want to hit it straight down the middle and the It’s that you’re not thinking about, I don’t want to knock the rail down. I don’t want to knock the rail down. I want to jump a great jump. There’s a difference in the mindset there. It’s the same angle, but the approach to it is different there.

[SPEAKER 1]Different energy. Yes, exactly. Question number two. Who has been the most influential person in your equestrian life?

[SPEAKER 2]Uh, you know, I’ve been so lucky to have been surrounded by a lot of, um, really fantastic horse men. Um, but I spend a lot of time with Chris Kapler, uh, growing up and he’s still a, um, very good friend, somebody that I can go to for advice at any time with my horses, my riding there. Um, and he was, you know, he’s been a big, a big portion of the US team for so long now. So I really appreciate my relationship with him. And I think that it’s been something I’ve learned so much from.

[SPEAKER 1]Cool. Yeah. And Chris Keppler, a real legend of the US scene.

[SPEAKER 2]Yeah, for sure.

[SPEAKER 1]Question number three, if you could give equestrians one piece of advice, just one, what is it?

[SPEAKER 2]say one piece of advice take it in order to do your job well take a step back and remember that we’re you know we’re trying to get we’re trying to get animals to jump over sticks really is at the end of the day we’re trying and i think when you have that perspective you know there’s some days you go home and you’re you’re uh You can be so upset that you knocked a rail down for the day. And then if you can put that to perspective there, you’re going to be able to ride better, train better, become a better horseman because you’re going to understand the bigger picture of what you’re trying to do.

[SPEAKER 1]And taking it easy, basically. Yeah. Well, yeah.

[SPEAKER 2]I think it comes down you know it’s you know you need to it’s you need to listen to the horses and you need to be it’s all it’s it’s it’s take it easy take it easy on yourself but it at the end of the day it’s actually I think it kind of comes down to the horsemanship aspect of it that you’re the best riders are the best horsemen that are cognizant of the animals and they’re appreciative of what they do for them there but if you If you can remember the, the true base of this there, which is what we’re trying to do, which is literally we’re trying to, you know, train animals to jump over, you know, sticks and they you know or, you know, polls there. I think that when you can remember that perspective you’re going to every it’s going to filter down into. your mindset of what you’re trying to, how you’re trying to teach them how to do that. I think it’s so easy to become, to want to become frustrated, to want to push a little bit harder there. And at the end of the day, you’re working, you know, these aren’t dirt bikes we’re working with. These are living, breathing animals that have their own mind, their own soul, their own, you know, their own desires there. And so if you can keep that very simple, If you can remember the very simple base that we’re trying to do, I feel you’re gonna be able to do your job much better.

[SPEAKER 1]Cool. And then please complete this sentence.

[SPEAKER 2]For me, horses are… They’re incredible, incredible creatures.

[SPEAKER 1]Right. Wonderful. Andrew, it was a pleasure having you on the podcast.

[SPEAKER 2]Thank you for having me. It was really great to connect and anytime we get to talk about the passion part we love, it’s a great day.

[SPEAKER 1]Great. Thanks so much. Thanks, Andrew. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the Equestrian Connection podcast. For more information, follow us on Instagram or visit us on Make sure you subscribe to us on Apple podcast. If you’re an Android user, check us out on Spotify or frankly, wherever you listen to good podcasts. If you liked our show, please leave a review on Apple and also now available on Spotify. See you soon and thanks for listening from, the online riding academy.

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