By Andrew Welles
Coming from an area where the sport isn’t very concentrated, how did you get started?
I started riding very locally in Minnesota and it was actually through a friend of mine on my soccer team. I would get rides home from soccer practice with him and while he took riding lessons, I would wait 45 minutes in the car. One day I decided to try it myself alongside him instead of waiting in the car! About six months later, he stopped riding; I kept with it and here I am today.
What did your riding career look like when you were younger?
For me, it was really on a local level throughout the Midwest, which at that time felt even more closed off than I think the industry is today. Even though I’m not that old, we didn’t have quick access to the internet, so I didn’t really know what else was out there, such as WEF or anything on the international level at all. Until about my sophomore year of high school, I tried to be fairly well-rounded between hockey, football and sports of any kind with the riding along the way. I always really liked it, but throughout high school, my understanding of the sport and where it could take me really started to change, which is where I found it was 100% my passion.
What point did you decide you were going to make a living out of this?
When I was a sophomore, I did a clinic with Frank and Stacia Madden and saw for the first time more of the teaching standpoint and their involvement in the sport nationally. That clinic really sparked something for me, and Frank and Stacia really pushed me to come down to Wellington to get a taste of it. I came down my sophomore year in 2004 and really fell in love with it. When I came home to Minnesota from Wellington that year, I made the decision to go all in. I was fortunate enough to work with Missy Clark soon after, and straightaway that summer went with her to Europe to compete at Valkenswaard for a couple of weeks. For my last two years of high school, I based my schedule around her East Coast shows. We were all very fortunate to have a great group of juniors that we grew up with. In my age group at Missy’s, there was a mix of riders that did grow up in the sport, but there were also kids that didn’t at all and worked really hard and also came out as successful professionals in the sport today. Around 18 or 19, I decided that I really wanted this to be a part of my life. I had the opportunity to work with Chris Kappler and be involved in a little more of the working aspect of the barn, and that was really meaningful. Between Missy and Chris, two people who are very passionate about teaching, that got transferred to me. I love the teaching as much as I love the riding. I credit the two of them for that part of where I am today.
What advice would you give to someone who loves the sport, but doesn’t have the means to break into it very easily?
With the internet nowadays, I think there are more means to see the broader sport out there, even if it’s not local to you. If you go down the rabbit hole on YouTube, websites or social media, you’re going to find your way, to follow along with things like WEF or the Global Champions Tour and the Nations Cup Tour — any of the shows at the pinnacle of the sport. The one thing I think is very important to remember is that this is a lifelong sport and it’s never too late to start. Just because you feel like you didn’t get this huge head start like other kids did who were pony champions and have a family deep in the sport, you’re not behind. There is always time, because it’s a lifelong sport, and every time you get on a horse you’re learning something new. I would really tell everyone to not be shy to explore, ask questions and try to use the resources around you, even if it’s a computer to watch the live streams of the big shows. Do your research and see if there are any big shows around you, and if you can make it even just to watch, don’t be shy to introduce yourself and start making those connections.
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.
Andrew Welles and the Itasca Group’s Brindis Bogibo competing in Traverse City.
Photo by Four Oaks Creative