By Andrew Welles
From your experience as a trainer, what are ways young riders can grow in their training if they don’t have the means to have a string of horses of their own?
Take advantage of every opportunity the sport offers you. If that’s a riding opportunity, make sure it’s with good horses that are going to be productive to your learning. It’s also important to look outside of just sitting on a horse, whether that’s walking a Grand Prix course or studying how top riders approach different questions on that course with different types of horses. Also, watch how they warm their horses up in the practice ring. If you’re watching the practice ring for the Grand Prix, go online afterwards and watch the rounds that those riders had. Take advantage of opportunities to watch top riders flat or school their horses. Soak up every bit of knowledge that you can throughout the day when you’re at the horse show or when it’s an off week training so you aren’t just relying on your one horse to get the experience that you desire.
How do you think the sport has evolved to support opportunities for young riders?
I think the U25 series is amazing and I wish they had it when I was under 25. Starting in Florida, you get the opportunity to compete under the lights, in a team event, compete on the grass field and in the main stadium. As you go throughout the summer, the U25 series at different horse shows are spaced out enough that you don’t have to have multiple horses just to do the series. I think that’s an amazing way to help young riders who want to become professionals really grow in the sport. The U.S. team has done a great job with trying to expand the base of younger riders, giving them opportunities to jump on Children’s and Juniors Nation Cup teams, and I think all of those things are springboards for future success in the sport.
How do you begin getting people to invest in you?
It doesn’t happen overnight. You first need to develop relationships and a lot of the time, those relationships come from putting yourself out there as a professional and in meeting potential investors through teaching, helping them with their horses and developing relationships. If you look at the most successful riders out there, you see that just because you ride great doesn’t mean that you’re going to get an owner. There are a lot of fantastic riders who struggle to put horses underneath themselves. Likewise, a lot of riders that you would have said weren’t the most talented growing up always have horses to ride. You need to focus on yourself and your career, especially when people invest in you. But there are a lot of riders who become so focused on their own riding that they lose sight of the bigger picture of being involved in the business and in training, expanding their relationships with people. At the end of the day, that’s the way that you build relationships that become investments in your career. The second thing is that you need to have the guts to go up and ask somebody if they would be willing to support your career. It’s always a really difficult question to ask, so be creative but courageous. If you’re too shy about it, you’ll never know what opportunity might have passed you by.
What advice would you give to a young rider who is looking to make a name for themselves — whether to get catch rides or to gain traction in the community?
If you have a professional who is really looking out for you and your development, believe in that professional. Have honest discussions about your goals in the sport and in the business. Utilize them to help you network and expand your opportunities. I see so many riders who bounce around from one opportunity to the next, going from professional to professional, and at the end of the day they haven’t built a solid base for themselves. Sometimes, working consistently with a professional who has your back and who has your best interest in mind really pays its dividends.
Andrew Welles and the Itasca Group’s 8-year-old Idol H&H.
Photo by Four Oaks Creative
Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Andrew Welles developed his passion for horses at a young age. Andrew grew up in the sport, training under renowned equestrians Missy Clark and Chris Kappler. As a junior, he produced top results in the equitation ring before entering the international show jumping scene in 2008. Andrew has produced top three results in many of the top Grand Prix on the tour including the Grand Prix of Devon, the ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth ll Cup, the Hampton Classic Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Miami Beach, the Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix in Lexington, the 5* Governors Cup in Tryon and throughout multiple weeks of the Winter Equestrian Festival. He now owns and operates Team Welles, a training and sales operation out of Wellington, Florida, with his wife, Alexandra.