Alice Keller ’20 started horseback riding at four years old, following in the footsteps of her older sister, who also practiced the sport as a child. Keller used to tag along for fun but ended up sticking with it and developed a life-long passion for the sport.
At Andover, Keller does not have an outlet to practice horseback riding. However, she tries her best to make time and spend long weekends and school breaks travelling and competing. Keller described the difficulty of pursuing the sport while at Andover and how she has found ways to ensure that horses remain a part of her life.
“It’s kind of tough to do it here, just because there’s not a ton of show barns near Andover. So I keep my horse on Long Island and then every break and long weekend, I’ll go back and ride. Throughout most of the summer, I travel to competitions and different horse shows on the East Coast. I want to take advantage of my free time as much as possible. But, in terms of in the Massachusetts area, my friend Coco [Rawles ’20] and I volunteered at a therapeutic riding facility last year, just to be around horses. We would clean up around the barn and help out in other ways, but I don’t get to ride when I am up here,” said Keller.
To Keller, horseback riding is a lifelong sport. Keller intentionally got her current horse, Jack, while he was still at a relatively young age. Pursuing horseback riding in the future is important to her, so being able to have her own horse as she moves through college will be helpful in continuing to ride. Keller does not currently plan to go professional, but hopes to join an equestrian team in college.
“I have my own horse. His name is Jack, and I have had him for four or five years now. I got him when I was super young. He is from Holland, and I got him intentionally as a young horse, so I can ride him throughout high school, throughout college and later in life… I plan on doing what I am doing now, joining a team in college but not necessarily going professional or anything, just competing throughout the year as much as I can but I don’t plan on stopping any time soon,” Keller said.
The competitive and collaborative aspect of horseback riding has been a crucial part of Keller’s experience, particularly in regards to the many ways in which she has learned from the sport.
“I have learned how to be a good competitor. I feel like it is a very individual sport, but you’re not on your own because you have a horse that you are working with. I also learned how to be a participant in a sport very much affected by politics and money. I learned how to work within my place and focus on communication, as opposed to getting wrapped up in the whole politics of it all. I have just learned a lot about human-animal relationships,” said Keller
Because of Keller, classmates and friends have had the opportunity to learn more about horseback riding and understand the sport on a deeper level. Will Yun ’20, a friend of Keller’s, remarked how he learned more about the demands of horseback riding and the significance of the rider’s relationship with the horse.
“I’ve learned that some stereotypes are true, such as horseback riding events, [and] according to Alice, being very attentive to details. For example, when you get on your horse, you have to be very proper, your horse has to make all the right movements. It seems like a pretty strict sport. One thing I didn’t really know about is that a lot of horseback riding has to do with the love for the animal, the love that you have for your horse. I didn’t really understand that connection until I got to know Alice,” said Yun.
Violet Enes ’21, another friend of Keller’s, noted Keller’s determination to pursue her hobby, despite the inaccessibility of the sport on campus.
“Whenever I go home, I sleep a lot, or I don’t really do much, but she always tries to see her horse as much as she can. To see so much dedication and connection to an animal and a sport is just really cool, and it’s not something you see a lot. I don’t think there are any other sports like horseback riding. I think we see a lot of volleyball team stuff, or lacrosse team stuff, or football team stuff, and to see something that most students aren’t really exposed to, but still make up a large part of a student’s life, it’s really refreshing. She’s just a very determined person in general, and shows through in her commitment to her horseback riding hobby,” said Enes.