From Coast To Coast Abi Kelley Is One To Watch!
A blonde beauty is winning blues from Florida to Colorado to Indoors – learn more about local superstar Abi Kelley and her two noble steeds Cayman and Joey!
By HH Contributor Kristina McCombie
HH: Who is Abi? Tell us a little about yourself …
AK: I am 17 years old from Lone Tree, Colorado. I am currently a junior at Kent Denver School. I usually ride and lesson five days a week, but it fluctuates a little depending on where my horses are. When I am not riding I am usually either hanging out with friends or working out. I really like OrangeTheory and Corepower to strengthen myself for riding. I enjoy going to school and my favorite subjects are math and history. I have to miss quite a bit of school traveling for shows, but I have never had an issue keeping up with the work and maintaining good grades. I didn’t start riding until I was 9 because before then, I lived overseas in Hong Kong and Tokyo. I spent three years in each place and it was such a cool experience. It really opened my eyes to different cultures and lifestyles. I have recently begun the college process, and even though it is a little overwhelming, I am really excited. I am not sure what I want to do yet, but I am interested in psychology at the moment.
HH: What horse(s) do you have right now and what are you working on?
AK: Right now I have two horses down in Florida. Cayman A.L. (Cayman) is my equitation horse, and Joyeux (Joey) is my jumper. They are both 9 years old and still a little green, but they have the biggest hearts of any horses I’ve ridden. I got Cayman last year at the end of WEF, so he has only been doing the equitation for a year. He is really a special horse and always rises to the occasion. He really takes care of me when I get nervous, and I feel like I take care of him when he gets nervous. We definitely have a very special bond. Right now we are working on his arch over the jumps and getting a really round jump out of him. I got Joey at the start of the WEF circuit this year and he has really turned out to be a remarkable partner. I’ve never felt so confident jumping the bigger jumps, and I attribute that to him. I recently moved up to the Medium Junior Jumpers (1.30-1.35m) so I am working on learning to ride the more challenging tracks over the larger jumps while maintaining the style of the equitation ring.
HH: What were some of your accomplishments this past year and what are your future goals?
AK: This past year I think my biggest accomplishment was earning 3rd place in the Hunterdon Equitation Cup Classic West Coast on Cayman. I was 5th overall in the Large Junior Hunters 16-17 at West Coast Junior Hunter Finals also on Cayman. We competed in the USEF Medal and ASPCA Maclay Finals as well. In addition, I ended up CHJA Champion in both the Jnior Hunters and Low Junior Jumpers. So far this year my biggest accomplishment has been qualifying for the George Morris Excellence in Equitation class at WEF which I did when I won the USEF Medal during pre-WEF on my previous equitation horse, All Inclusive. My future goals are to compete on the junior team at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships as well as the Prix De States at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show on Joey. On Cayman my goals are to compete in the equitation finals and hopefully make the top 25 in some of them. Past this year, I would really like to move into the U25 classes and continue to jump in the high jumper classes.
HH: Who do you idolize in the sport?
AK: My biggest role model is Kelli Cruciotti. She is one of the most talented riders I have ever seen and also the most humble. I am so lucky to get to work with her and watch her ride because I feel like I learn something every time I watch her. She’s one of my best friends and it has been a privilege to be by her side through her successes. She is such a horsewoman and always puts the horses first. I admire everything about her. I also admire McLain Ward. I get to watch him ride a lot, which is an opportunity I do not take for granted. He rides so well it’s like watching an equitation course. I learn something every time I watch him go in the ring.
HH: Who have you ridden with and what have you taken from each trainer?
AK: For the past 5 years I have been riding with the Cruciottis’ at Serenity Farm. In my 5 years of training with Cindy and Kelli Cruciotti, as well as Kelli Clevenger, I have learned how to be an independent rider. I have also gained “feel.” This has really strengthened my connection with the horses I ride and has allowed me to react very quickly in the show ring. Cindy has taught me so much about persistence as well as providing me with most of the knowledge I have. She pushes me to always give 110%. I usually have very challenging lessons at home that push me to strengthen myself mentally and physically. Kelli Cruciotti has taught me about what it means to be a horsewoman. She cares so much about all her horses and always puts them first. She is so humble about her accomplishments, it inspires me to be a better person. From Kelli Clevenger, I have learned bravery because she has so much heart. Lessons with her can be very challenging because she makes me get out of my comfort zone. Whether it be height, technicality, or type of jump, these lessons have taught me to ride confidently no matter what.
HH: If your horse(s) was/were a person who do you think he/she would be like?
AK: If Cayman was a person I think he would be a food critic because he likes to eat and he’s also pretty sassy. He refuses to eat peppermints and every time I give him a treat he has to inspect it first. I think if Joey was a person he would be a rockstar because he has a rather large ego, fantastic hair, and is really cool.
HH: What is always in your tack trunk?
AK: I have a bag full of almost every size of spur imaginable in my trunk at all times. I even have a pair of spurs that are just the bar and are smooth all the way across. It definitely helps me feel prepared for anything.
HH: What’s your favorite show and why?
AK: My favorite show is Capital Challenge. I think it is a really nice warm up for the rest of indoors, and I especially like that half the rounds are outside and half the rounds are inside. The show is run so smoothly and I love the feel of the rings. It’s a really fun show for the riders and the horses.
HH: Do you have any good luck charms or are you superstitious about anything?
AK: I used to be a lot more superstitious than I am now, but I still have a lucky show shirt and necklace. My shirt is just a long sleeve Essex shirt with a blue collar, but I have had good luck every time I’ve ridden in it. My necklace is just a small silver chain with two small hearts, and I am not sure that it is even lucky, but I have shown in it every time since I got it.
HH: If you weren’t riding and showing what do you think you’d be doing?
AK: I would definitely be playing a sport of some kind. I have always thought I’d be good at soccer, so I think I would be playing soccer. I can’t imagine doing anything except riding, but I think my motivation and ambition would help me be my best in whatever I decided to do. I also think I would be more involved with school clubs, since I would have more free time. I have always thought Mock Trial and Model United Nations looked like fun clubs.