Split Rock Farm feels like home to Alexandra Welles and her husband, Andrew, who split their time between Wellington, Florida in the winter and Split Rock’s gorgeous Kentucky-based farm for the remainder of the year. That home field advantage paid off this past weekend as Alexandra delivered a lightning fast jump-off to seal the deal in the $5,000 Equithirive Medium JR/AO Final. JN sat down with Alexandra to talk about life, love and her pursuit of consistency in the show ring.
Love and Marriage
Alexandra shares her love between two things: horses and her husband, Andrew Welles. Without one, she would not have met the other. Born into a family who loved riding, her riding career began as soon as she was able to walk and she naturally carried a competitive spirit about her in the ring.
“I showed locally until I was about 13 years old,” Alexandra shared. “Then I was fortunate to have the opportunity to start competing at WEF and some of the other A shows in the Northeast where I grew up. Then I caught the bug, and it has always been something I have loved to do and feel very lucky that I am able to do.”
That horse bug would later bring Alexandra to ride with Jeffrey Welles around eight years ago and Andrew, who had just started his professional operation, would come into her life. The duo has now been married for a year and a half and thoroughly enjoy getting to spend their time together doing what they both love.
“I find that we do a good job of separating our relationship and the sports side of things,” said Alexandra of their partnership in and out of the ring. “He truly is my coach when he is helping me, and he gives me a ton of confidence. I actually think he gets more nervous than I do when I am competing because he wants me to do so well. It’s a lot of fun!”
The Split Rock Experience
Seeing the farm at Split Rock gussy up for the Split Rock series is an exciting experience for Alexandra and Andrew, and they are proud to support farm owner, Derek Braun, in his efforts to bring a five star feel to his events.
“Derek and his staff do an exceptional job putting on a world-class event. That style of show is not really something we have much of here in the States. There are some very nice shows, but the Split Rock shows are very unique. It is so neat to see them transform the farm for something so special and to be able to compete there as well.”
Going into the weekend, Alexandra’s original plan was to stick to the Low Amateur classes with her mount, XM, however, her husband encouraged her to step it up for the classic round in anticipation for bumping up the fences at Calgary later this summer. After taking home fifth on Thursday in the Low Junior/Amateur Speed class, she opted to compete in the Medium Junior/Amateur Classic on Saturday.
Thankfully, XM has no issue with bumping up the fences. The 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Heartbreaker spent quite a few years in the Grand Prix ring with Andrew prior to Alexandra taking over the reins.
“He is super special,” Alexandra shared with JN. “Super spunky, we call him an old curmudgeon because on the ground he is kind of sassy and it is all about him. He is very talented. He actually won the seven-year-old finals at the Hamptons with McLain Ward before Andrew purchased him. He is amazing and tries so hard every time. I am so lucky to have him!”
Luck was on Alexandra’s side Saturday morning as she got a late draw in the order-of-go, so she was able to watch many of the other riders go before her. She knew that there were many competitive horses entered in the class and that she would have to be fast and efficient to come out on top.
“There were a couple of leave-outs both at the double verticals and the last line, and I knew I was going to have to get those done and leave the fences up, as well as make the right turn coming into the double. Even though my horse is wildly talented and careful, he doesn’t always turn as well to the right, so I knew if I was able to do that and get to those jumps while being fast everywhere else that I had a chance to be top three at least,” said Alexandra.
Their plan played out even better than she had fared, however, and the pair executed a blazing fast jump-off round with a time of 32.796 seconds, a whole three seconds faster than their competition, to steal the blue ribbon. For Alexandra, the win was a very sentimental moment.
“It felt great. It felt really great. I have been second a few times this year, and I went into this thinking, ‘all right, I would really like to win this class.’ I really did everything I could, I felt, and the horse couldn’t have been better.”
The Big Picture for 2018 and Beyond
The Welleses are heading off to Upperville next week, with Calgary following afterward. While Alexandra aims to be competitive and place as best as possible at both of those venues, her primary goal is simpler.
“I hope to continue to be as consistent as I can,” Alexandra remarked. “When we stepped XM down we agreed we wouldn’t ever jump him higher than the mediums and I do the best I can to be as competitive and consistent as possible.”
While Alexandra has had the opportunity to jump in a handful of National Grand Prix classes and rounded out her last year in the U25 classes in 2017, she is comfortable sticking around the lower heights with her partner, XM.
“For me, honestly, as long as I am riding every day and I have a horse to show and I can be competitive I am happy. Even at the low and medium range.”
With the rest of 2018 ahead of them, the Welleses will spend plenty of time on the road traveling to various shows and they aim to return to the Ohio stop of the Split Rock tour this fall. Maintaining such a busy schedule can pose some challenges, but with the support of her family, her father-in-law and XM’s owner, Peter Welles, her husband and her superstar groom, Elvin Calix, Alexandra gets to spend her time doing what she loves with the love of her life, and we can’t imagine any better way to pass the time.