Annabelle O’Keefe is our featured junior rider for the month of July! Annabelle is now 17 and has been riding at Lancers for eight years. She had her start in the Lancer summer camps and then enrolled in the junior beginner course. This September she will be in ride 3! Like many others who started in the beginner course, Annabelle’s favourite horse was once our famous little pony Jake. She said “Jake was my ‘go-to’ and I always rode him because I was so small”. In recent years, Rockette and Jacob were favourites but once “cutie” Bella arrived as Lancers, Annabelle found a new favourite.
Over the years, Annabelle has been a dedicated volunteer and always comes to help with shavings and hay deliveries. When she was about 15, she started stable handing which she enjoys even if it is, as she says, hard work. Annabelle has been an incredible asset during our quarantine. She stepped in to be one of two people who help care for the horses who were either infected or exposed to the strangles bacteria. One of the conditions of this role is that she is not allowed to handle any other horses, and has to be available 7 days a week. Her ability to step into this role has made it possible for us to maintain best practices throughout our quarantine, and we are grateful to her.
For Annabelle, the best thing about Lancers is that it is a community. She explained, “everybody seems really close and there is a good group of people that you belong to when you’re a Lancer”. She added, “any time I have a good course in a lesson, it puts me in a good mood and I feel that I have really accomplished something”. It is always very evident that Annabelle enjoys being around the horses but we also asked her what she enjoys about riding. She responded: “I think it boosts my confidence in general, especially by trying new things in riding. For me, riding can be scary, especially jumping and I feel like I have overcome a lot of my fears in riding and that transfers into other parts of my life.”
Being ready to take a leap of faith helped Annabelle make the step to go to Costa Rica for three months this year to study Spanish. She felt it was a really good experience and she feels that she has a new skill. Riding helped with the experience, she explained, as she has learned to breathe and get through stressful situations so she took those riding lessons down with her. The experience also gave Annabelle the travel bug and she definitely wants to do more traveling, particularly to Asia, Greece, Turkey, and Italy. She is particularly interested in Asia and says “our culture is so different from theirs and it is interesting to see other people’s norms”.
When not at the barn, Annabelle spends lots of her free time exercising and working out. She started fitness training when she was 12 or 13 with yoga and spin classes. When she moved away from a local studio, she started to go to the gym to do weights and cardio. She has become progressively more educated on it by reading articles and watching videos and now she goes to the gym five to six times a week. She particularly loves HIIT and never gets bored because she is always changing her routine and doing a different body part! Some also may not know that Annabelle is vegan and has been for about two years and she stays away from refined sugar too. Annabelle is a great example of the benefits and results that riders can get in the saddle when they do exercise and strength training out of the saddle.
Thank you, Annabelle, for working hard, being a great Lancer, and for showing us that we should all start doing sit-ups….