Riding horseback worldwide, Krystal Kelly – coach, author, world-renowned equestrian professional, and creator of The Equestrian Adventuresses community – fully validates the idea that you don’t have to live like everyone else.
If I were to describe Krystal Kelly in one word, it would be “determined.” Then additionally, intelligent, motivated, focused, fearless, and indeed a worthy role model for young women.
The world produces many accomplished people, but those who make it happen out of pure determination are most admirable. They earn their accolades through hard work and unwavering focus on a goal, regardless of negativity and bad advice given along the way.
Often those who think they know what is best for you are, well, just plain wrong. You don’t have to live life like everyone else.
Some people know what they want at an early age, and Krystal Kelly is one of them. She started with riding lessons at age nine, but the California horse world is expensive. She soon found herself mucking stalls and doing other mundane work to continue the self-served education not afforded otherwise.
By age 15, she earned enough money to buy her first horse. Despite the advice to get a “real job,” Krystal’s dreams of making it happen in the horse world persevered. Injuries, lack of finances, and the tragic loss of her horse are all hurdles that would keep many from continuing, and could have done the same to her…but Krystal’s goal of becoming a professional showjumper never wavered.
Instead, she enrolled in the Riding Masters program at Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre. When questioned about her goals, she answered without hesitation: Olympic show jumping and working with horses on an international level.
She stated that many believed she could not do it. They were wrong.
Again, she continued to jump financial hurdles by doing the dirty, tiring work all stables require to function. When others went home for the holidays, she stayed behind to manage the feeding and watering of 150 horses three times a day.
With perfect attendance and a straight-A average, Krystal graduated with a Riding Master II, Equine Massage Therapy Certification, and Training Certification. One week after she graduated, she was on a flight to Belgium to work with a four-time Olympic rider on the Belgium Olympic team as a groom and working student. She was 21 years old.
Since that time, Krystal Kelly has touched ground in 60 different countries with a goal to visit every country worldwide. She is currently the only USA FEI* III Coach and has traveled to many countries where women are forbidden to ride horseback, let alone excel. In 2014 Krystal completed the “world’s longest and toughest horse race,” the Mongol Derby, riding over 1000 kilometers (over 621 miles) on semi-wild Mongolian horses! She’s also ridden in Germany, Ireland, and Bhutan, among others.
* FEI, The Fédération Équestre Internationale, was founded in 1921. The FEI, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, is the governing body for eight equestrian disciplines: Jumping, Dressage, Eventing, Driving, Endurance, Vaulting, Reining and Para-Equestrian. Their code of conduct protects the welfare of the horses from physical abuse or doping.
The Equestrian Adventuresses, founded by Krystal in 2019, is a culmination of her achievements and perhaps her finest hour. Called a tribe for women who love horses, travel, and adventure, The Equestrian Adventuresses encourage women of all origins to see the world from the back of a horse. The organization’s goals are clear: promote women in the equine industry, inspire women, improve horse welfare in countries of need, get local women involved in the equine industry, and go places where others dare not to go and achieve what others would not dare to achieve.
Their values support equality and support women as entrepreneurs and their businesses to develop the equine industry in countries of need. They promote positivity, action, the desire to educate and support each other in their accomplishments…and to build everlasting friendships, whether two-legged or four.
While Krystal has since married, it has not stopped her direction. Instead, she has another partner to share her adventures with. She met her German husband, Christian, while in Azerbaijan. At age 30 he learned to ride – and the two have been on the trail ever since.
Krystal Kelly is an amazing horsewoman, but she is also an amazing human being. HRL will be watching to see what this driven trailblazer does next – and how she’ll undoubtedly change the world in the process. Follow Krystal on Facebook, check out the latest podcasts and posts at equestrianadventuresses.com, and purchase any of her books available on Amazon and Audible!
Below you will find an excerpt from many of Krystal Kelly’s blogs. I found it to be inspiring on so many levels; I think you will too.
Some countries still believe horse riding is for MEN. An advocate for women’s empowerment, Krystal is determined to continue to bring education and her love of horses to young girls worldwide.
I’ll never forget when I was invited to the country of Bhutan in order to introduce the very first equestrian program in the entire country that wasn’t affiliated with the royal military. I was both ecstatic and bewildered with the amount of responsibility and good fortune that landed in my lap. I hadn’t known what to expect when I took the assignment. I had assumed that after two years living in India I was just about ready for anything… how wrong I was!
Horse riding in this small, landlocked country was not a familiar sport or hobby. Only the military were known to ride horses. The small local Himalayan Mountain Ponies were merely used to carry heavy supplies up the mountain side. The herders would chase the ponies carrying the large packs with long sticks while the sure-footed creatures carefully made their way up steep, rocky slopes and crossing shallow rivers while treading lightly on the wet stones, careful not to slip and careen down the dangerous path.
After two weeks of intensive training to the staff about everything horses, I was thankful for a much needed break. Although the Bhutanese men were extremely friendly and polite, I was looking forward to some girly time. Luckily, one of the daughters of the owner of the homestay I was living in offered to take me out. The girl wrapped garlands of silk around my waist in the traditional style dress and we set off on foot towards the nearest temple only a couple miles away. Girly talk ensued the entire round trip and I was fascinated by this young girl, who had been raised with such foreign customs to my own. I hadn’t known, in my past life back in America, that working with horses would give me the opportunity to have amazing encounters with people much like the one I was experiencing in this moment and I felt grateful for it.
The girl smiled brightly as she admired me in the traditional dress. My blonde hairs and green eyes contrasted to her features as she looked up at me. My long legs caused me to tower over her like an awkward Amazonian. “Krystal,” she said to me thoughtfully, “I really think it’s amazing what you do for a living.” I pursed my lips in confusion but before I could say anything she continued, “You know, I didn’t even know that it was possible for girls to ride horses.” The words hit me like a kick to the chest. “But now, thanks to you, I know it can be done! And the idea that you can make money for something like that?! Riding horses!?” She laughed in disbelief. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.”
This wasn’t the first time I had been confronted with the notion that “horses are for men.” Nearly three years living in Asia and two years in the Middle East had taught me that I was a woman living in a man’s world. I had been matched against countless Retired Military Generals and men shouting at me in various languages. I had dusted myself off after being launched from my horse and slammed into wooden jumps only to spring back into the saddle and try again without a tear shed to prevent the men from thinking me as “weak.” I had survived men making the assumption that the only possible reason for me being in their country was because “she’s here with her husband,” only to disappoint them. I had been tested, tried, sexually harassed, embarrassed, and tormented all in masochistic attempt at “proving myself.”
In all my efforts and all my hidden tears, I had spent countless nights wondering if any of my hard work was actually accounting to anything. What good am I doing? I used to think. I’m not making any difference…
“Krystal,” the girl had said, “I didn’t know it was possible until I saw you.” And then I realized how much of a difference I was making. My realization didn’t stop there. Girls from countless cities and remote villages where I continued to spread my love of horses continued to approach me and thank me. They thanked me for showing them it can be done. They thanked me for showing the men it could be done too, and that it wasn’t “a man’s sport,” as they had previously believed. Then I realized that the men too would approach me and shyly ask me questions. They wondered how a woman with much less physical strength and force and power than a man could control a wild beast of a horse without brute force or a whip. They asked me why the horses were listening to me when they couldn’t even see me ask the question.
Maybe empowering women and girls in other countries doesn’t just mean teaching English or volunteering at a charity. Maybe it means doing what you love, travelling solo and showing to the world that it CAN BE DONE. That women can go out and do daring things and be bold and beautiful and independent. Maybe the more women that go out and travel and do what they love the more we will inspire other women to do the same thing. And the more women we motivate to follow their own path, the more stereotypes and stigmas we will break and the impossible will suddenly be possible. I am lucky that horses exist around the world. It is because of horses I have gone to places and cities and faraway lands that as a little girl I could never have imagined possible. Horses have brought me together with people and women in all cultures and languages and beliefs and I am forever grateful to these noble animals for giving me the world. Now go out and break down the barriers, climb the mountains, scale the walls, and go the distance!