By Britney Grover
Portraits by Kristin Lee
As the daughter of Hall of Fame rock star John Mellencamp and now a star of her own on Bravo’s reality TV series “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” one might expect Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave to be a model of glamourous entitlement with an idealistic life and a flare for the dramatic. While she can certainly pull off glamour and knows how to deal with drama, anything idealistic about her life is only because she’s worked hard to make it so and the only attention-seeking she’s doing is to spread awareness and empowerment with those lessons.
Her father’s fame didn’t make Teddi’s parents’ divorce any easier on her, but horses helped her get through it. They taught her about dedication and commitment, lessons she implemented later in life when she struggled with her weight. She’s proud to call herself a mother and is a devoted wife, sentiments that seem to be dwindling in today’s society. Teddi balances her family life with her accountability coaching business, where she openly uses her fitness journey experience to help others become the best versions of themselves.
“For me,” Teddi said, “everything that I’m doing and the reason that I joined the “Real Housewives,” other than to learn from all these different women on the TV show, is because there’s a big piece of what I do for a living as an accountability coach that I want other people to see: I want to empower women to make positive changes in their lives.”
Growing Up Horse Crazy
Teddi was “born with the bug” — her parents had never been into horses, but she was crazy about them from a young age. “I was 4 years old when I started riding, and it was back when I lived in Indiana,” she said. “My next-door neighbor taught little up-down lessons on Shetland ponies, and from the second I started doing that, I was hooked. As I got older and we moved to South Carolina, my parents put me in different sports, in addition to riding. I was like, Can’t I just ride on more days? Why do I have to do anything else? It was always in me; it was what I wanted to do.”
Through her parents’ divorce, riding kept Teddi centered. “There are some kids that when that happens, they get a little lost, but riding gave me so much to focus on and so much positivity in my life I was unable to ever feel those moments,” she said. “My parents were very supportive and understanding. They let me travel on the road — I grew up riding with Don Stewart and Jack Towell. I’d go on the road with them, their wives would take care of me, their daughters were my best friends, I was just like one of their kids. My parents understood that that’s what I wanted to do, and I was lucky to have trainers that kept me safe and organized and helped me reach my goals.”
With such adept trainers Teddi’s passion, dedication and talent turned into results. By her last junior year, Teddi was competing and winning at the largest shows on the East Coast including Devon, Madison Square Garden and The Harrisburg Classic. On one of Don’s horses named What Goes Around, Teddi won all of her classes at Capital Challenge was Champion at the Washington International Horse Show, being named Best Junior Rider at both.
After traveling so much as a junior, Teddi felt she needed “some life experience that isn’t just living in the bubble of being in the horse world.” She moved to Los Angeles, where she got a job and supported herself for about eight years before the pull to horses became too strong. “I called Don and I said, I don’t really remember a ton of people from California, is there someone who would let me just come ride one day? And he said, ‘Call Archie Cox, he’ll remember you.’ I sent him a text and just said, Hey, do you remember me? I haven’t ridden in a while; can I come out and ride? He said yes and within two months I quit my corporate job and was working for Archie on the road riding and showing horses for him.”
Within four years, Teddi was back on top of the hunter world, this time as a professional. In 2009, she claimed either Champion or Reserve Champion at every World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) show on the West Coast, including at Thermal, Del Mar and the Menlo Charity Horse Show, resulting in being named the WCHR Emerging Pro Regional Champion for the Southwest. But by 2012, she was ready to make another change, trading in her life as a professional rider for an arguably more demanding profession: motherhood.
When Teddi decides to do something, she does it all-in, which is why it wasn’t the right time for her to get back into horses after having her daughter, Slate. “I tried to get right back into the horse show world and travel with a babysitter, and it wasn’t sitting well with me. I felt like I had one foot in, one foot out — I couldn’t 100-percent commit to her and I couldn’t 100-percent commit to riding. It wasn’t feeling great. I stopped and at that point, I was just focusing on my family. After I had my son, Cruz, Slate had gotten old enough and had started expressing interest and wanting to ride.”
It was Slate’s interest that ultimately got her back in the saddle. “There’s a place here in L.A., in Griffith Park, where there’s a million kids and they ride these ponies Western and they just run around like chaos, and every time my daughter did it she was like, ‘Mommy, I just really want to ride, I want to ride!’” Teddi said. “Balmoral Farm, which is Traci and Carleton Brooks’ business, has a great kids’ program where they start and work with little kids from a young age. Traci and I were friends, so I called her and said, Would you start my daughter riding? She said of course, so I took Slate out a couple of times and I was getting the itch again. Traci said, ‘Do you want to ride?’ And I said, ‘Can I?’”
Riding Balmoral’s horses, Teddi once again began excelling, culminating in the 2016 National Champion Hunter Rider Reserve Championship. Meanwhile, she was using lessons learned through life and riding in a new endeavor: helping others change their own lives as an accountability coach.
Making a Difference
“I had fluctuated with my weight throughout my life,” Teddi shared. “When I first moved to Los Angeles and got a regular job, I gained a bunch of weight, and then by the time I started riding again, it fell off naturally, but I was in my early 20s — It’s a whole different ball game. When I got pregnant with my kids, I was doing IVF and all this stuff and so I gained a lot of weight even before I got pregnant. What kind of changed my mindset was something that I learned from horses: It’s one thing to be motivated, it’s another to be committed. You can be motivated, and that can get you so far, but once you commit to something, then everything shifts.
“Riding taught me that,” Teddi continued. “If I say, ‘I’m motivated to win this class,’ but I’m not practicing, I’m not going to win that class. If I say, ‘I’m committed and I’m going to practice and work hard, I’m going to follow these steps,’ then I’m ultimately going to accomplish my goal. It’s a mindset that I had learned from a very young age: If I didn’t practice and I showed up at a horse show, I was going to chip. It’s the same in regard to health and fitness and finding that balance in myself: I would work out really hard and then I’d eat like crap, and then I’d be like, ‘Why am I not losing weight?’ It was because I was motivated, where I needed to be committed to changing my life, to changing my pattern. Riding teaches you discipline and gives you a good balance for your life.”
Teddi began her business to review fitness classes in Los Angeles as she went through her own transformation, but it soon became more. Now, Teddi works as an accountability coach, helping others reach their health and fitness goals by having someone to be accountable to. It’s developed into a strong business with other women, who graduated from her program and became coaches as well, working with her to change lives. In 2017, she took it to the next level, hoping to spread empowerment and accountability through her example on reality TV.
In the Spotlight
Being a cast member on “Real Housewives” has brought its own set of challenges, but Teddi hopes it will be worth it if she expands her influence for good. One adjustment has been the limelight: She’s experiencing publicity like she never has before, even with a famous father. “The East Coast is different,” she said. “I lived with my mom, but growing up with my dad and going to horse shows with him, nobody really made a big deal about it. So the press is all new to me.”
Though she hasn’t been able to ride as often since joining the cast, Teddi still takes Slate to ride every Saturday morning. Teddi rides when she can, and horses are still a big part of her life. In fact, one episode of “Real Housewives” has already featured Teddi showing one of Balmoral’s horses. “It’s funny because you’re surrounded by people you know from the barn, and they’re all your friends but they see the cameras and all of a sudden they’re like ‘I’m not talking to her; I don’t want to be on camera,’” Teddi shared with a laugh. “It’s definitely a funny thing to go into a place where you’re used to being around all the people that you chitchat with but there’s this blight around you at that moment. Of course, my competitive nature has me thinking, ‘I’d better not mess this up; this is going to be on national television!’”
It was a nerve-racking experience for the out-of-practice Teddi, but was one she was good-naturedly willing to endure to share the sport with the masses. “I was giving it to God with that one, and I said, let’s just stay steady, stay the same pace, you’re not going to make any big errors and you can probably pull this off. It was fun and I love being able to show that side to the girls on the show, plus I think it’s such an important sport for the rest of the world to see and how great it can be for families, how great it can be for kids, especially in my case when my parents were divorced.”
Between being a wife, mother, rider, accountability coach and reality TV star, Teddi’s schedule is jam-packed, but she’s figured out how to manage it — and how to focus on what’s most important. “I’m a list person: Every night before I go to bed, I organize my to-do list. I plan out my week; I’m not a last-minute person. I like to be able to take my kids to activities, I like to be able to work and be there for my clients, but I’m not going to spread myself so thin that I’m not able to take care of my kids, or my husband, or my horses, or my clients or whatever it is. A lot of that is just time management. As long as I am making time for myself to manage how to prioritize everything, I can do it.”
The Bottom Line
With her down-to-earth attitude, one might wonder how Teddi deals with all the drama brought on by “Real Housewives.” “As it plays out and you’ll see throughout the season, even if the drama is surrounding me, I’m just being honest,” she said. “That can rub people the wrong way — sometimes when you’re honest, people have to see something about themselves that they don’t really want to see. That’s gonna cause drama. The only way I can look at it is that if I’m true to who I am, I’m not pretending to be something I’m not, there’s nothing I can regret. Yeah, there are going to be days that feel bad — when I watch TV and see someone say something bad about me, I don’t love it; it’s not like I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside. But I can go, Okay, you know what, I’m still being me, and I can live with that.”
Teddi sticks it out because she has an important message she wants to share: “That we’re worth it; we are all worth it. We’re all worth all the things that we want to be able to do. I want to empower people that whatever it is that you put your mind to, whether it’s in your riding or in your career or in being a mom, you’re worth it. You can fight for your worth. As soon as you believe in yourself, everything shifts in your life. It’s the same for riding, it’s the same for business, it’s the same for being a mother: As long as you’re fighting for you, everything else falls into place.”
And, of course, she keeps turning to horses. “For me, being able to ride and being able to go to Balmoral or to a horse show, living in Beverly Hills, in Los Angeles with all this chaos, that’s where there’s a little bit of light; that’s where everything lifts,” Teddi concluded. “Being on a horse, you get to have that connection and kind of forget where you are. It’s amazing to be able to have that. You hope that your kids find something they love that much so they have that escape as well.”
Photos by Kristin Lee Photography, unless otherwise noted