14-Year-Old Equestrian Rises to the Top during WEF
I had the opportunity to spend a little time with 14-year-old equestrian Elliena (Ellie) Apollo and her mother Delia. Ellie is an old soul, calm, cool and easy to talk with. Delia has a bright smile and is always thinking of new ways to make Ellie’s equestrian life possible, from training horses to making equestrian body products to selling other products online. What struck me the most about them was how hard-working they both are and how much they care for their horses.
AW: At what age did you become interested in horses? At what age did you know you wanted to be an equestrian?
EA: My Mom has always ridden horses. She had me riding at 2 years old.
AW: Tell us about your most cherished wins/ proudest moments.
EA: 2021 in August we went to Pony Finals in Lexington, Kentucky. I was there with my pony Sparkle. We placed 6th overall and 4th over-the-fences out of 62 riders. I worked really hard to get the pony to that point.
This year my horse Royal Mint Julip got Champion in the first week of this season. We actually broke her ourselves; we’ve really worked with her and done a lot with her.
AW: What does it mean to start with a pony from scratch and take that pony/horse to winning first place? How much work is involved?
Delia: This is what we do. We pick the best prospects. Then we make them up from scratch. It’s a lot of work, not only teaching them things – it’s also bonding with them and understanding their comfort level.
EA: I’ve had a magical relationship with Sparkle. She’s a really special pony. She was my first project pony that I knew was going to take me places. I was about 10 when we got her, and we taught each other. Jumping is kind of just an instinct. She was a natural.
AW: Ellie, you’re also very good at interviewing people. What do you want to do when you grow up?
EA: It’s complicated. I see myself being a musician, I play a ton of instruments. I’m definitely college bound. Haven’t decided on a career yet.
AW: Where did the phrase “Ellie’s Bows” come from – that you use for social media? What are all your social media handles? Website?
EA: My Mom came up with the bows when I was young. At the time, there were no show bows on the market. We made a whole bunch of them.
Delia: We were the largest wholesale manufacturer of show bows. We still make them and now they sell online. We also sell shirts and shampoo, and several other equestrian products now. We’re making our own soaps and an aromatherapy, gentle shampoo. All of our products are made in the U.S. See our websites ElliesBows.com or Ellienaequestrian.myshopify.com or EllienaApollo.com. You can find ElliesBows on FB. EllienaEQ on Instagram.
AW: Tell us about your academic studies so far. Is it part home schooling, part in school?
EA: I’m in my Freshman year in high school. I started going to school in Pennsylvania. Now I’m doing an online program here in Wellington. When the winter equestrian season is over and when we go back, I’ll go back to school in person.
AW: Are there other Latina riders in your age group or are you the only one?
EA: There are very few, and they’re not in my age group.
Delia: Both of my parents grew up in Puerto Rico. It’s not diverse at all in Pennsylvania, where we are coming from. In this industry, we have to break through barriers because a lot of the women Latinas are thought of as the grooms, not as riders. We’ve been paving our own way. When you work closely with them, the horses know you care. Ellie works really hard. She trains about 8 hours a day, on different horses.
AW: How long does it typically take to train a green pony or green horse?
EA: Depends on the pony’s mindset. When they are young, they are showing you what their future job might be. With my current horse Goldy, we keep pushing him.
AW: Tell us about your travels. You’re in Wellington for the winter months. Where else do you compete?
EA: Every summer we try to stay closer to home. We show a lot in NJ, PA, VA, NY and sometimes NC. Also, Lexington, KY. This year we will show in VA, NY and Tryon, NC.
AW: What musical instruments do you play? Do you think music helps you too, as a hunter/jumper?
EA: Sax, accordion, guitar, piano and a little bit of violin. Music definitely helps. It helps me escape to a totally different place. I don’t have to think about horses, school, or anything. I just get into my zone and love playing.
Delia: When you ride, there’s a whole conversation going on between you and the horse.
AW: What’s the most challenging thing about working with the horses? What’s the most rewarding thing?
EA: They’re animals; they’re going to make mistakes. They’re not perfect. You can’t blame yourself or the horse. They’re trying their best. It’s so rewarding – when they’re not getting something, and they finally get it. With my pony (Isabelle), we had the hardest time getting the right number of strides in between 2 jumps. It was so rewarding at last when she finally got that right.
AW: Tell us about your current coach Victoria Colvin.
EA: Tori explains things so well – she makes it sound easy, which makes it easy for the rider to do. They, Tori and her Mom, will tell you how things are and not sugar coat it. They’re both very helpful. Victoria is in her early 20s. She’s possibly the most accomplished hunter/rider in history – ultra gifted. She was winning against professionals when she was 12.
AW: Tell us about your Mom.
EA: Really hard worker and always supported me in whatever I’ve wanted to do. She has made a lot of sacrifices for me, which I appreciate. She works really hard with the horses to make everything flow.
AW: What do you see as your goals for the rest of WEF this season?