At the young age of two, Ella K. ’23 picked up a hobby that most two year olds don’t normally gravitate toward: horseback riding. By the age of three, she competed in and won her first equestrian competition. Today, at 15 years old, Ella has participated in more than 200 competitions in twenty states, has shown over thirty horses, and owns five, with a long term goal of joining the Olympic team.
Ella grew up in Ocala, Florida, and spent the majority of her childhood on a farm where her mother worked as a trainer for horses and students. At the age of 12, Ella and her family made the move to central New Jersey. Little did Ella know, this move would be the thing that would take her riding career to the next level.
Ella enrolled at George School and continued to train and compete throughout the tri-state area until the age of 14, when she connected with Emil Spadone, a top trainer in Florida and began her stint as a working student at Redfield Farm. As a working student, Ella was required to switch to online school so that she could travel to Florida to live and work on the farm from January through March.
“At 14 years old, I lived in a house with nine girls who were around 20 years old and every morning we would wake up at 5:00 a.m. to head to the farm to feed, train, and ride seventy horses for the chance to be able to show one of Emil’s horses in a competition on the weekend,” Ella said. “Any break I could get I spent doing my online school work or taking tests and quizzes and working with a tutor to make sure I didn’t fall behind in my classes.”
Throughout the one year that Ella spent working for Emil Spadone, she was able to show fourteen different horses and travel all around the country to compete on behalf of Redfield Farm.
Currently, Ella trains with Olympic gold and silver medalist, Chris Kappler in show jumping and equitation competitions.
“I feel so extremely lucky and honored to train with Chris Kappler,” Ella said. “Not only because he is an Olympic gold and silver medalist but because his training style is very technical and individualized.”
Just a few weeks ago, Ella and her horse Limoncello Z placed first for the east coast division of the 2020 Maclay Finals.
As Ella continues to compete around the country, her short term goal is to receive a scholarship to one of the NCAA riding schools with a long term goal of making the Olympic team.
“There are ten NCAA riding team schools, each of which gives out only two scholarships a year,” she said. “I have my eye on the University of Georgia, but I would be happy just to be one of the lucky ones who gets a scholarship to any of the ten schools. Aside from getting a scholarship, I hope to win a Grand Prix eventually and then make the Olympic team, which in this sport doesn’t usually happen until you are in your 30’s.”
Ella explains that the hardest part of her career as an equestrian is juggling her robust training and competition schedule with her school work, noting that most people who compete are homeschooled, but she is determined to make it work and find time for all of the things she enjoys in life.