December 5, 2017 | By Chuck Carlson
There isn’t much in the world of equestrian that Andrea Wells hasn’t experienced.
She has trained horses, taught riders and judged competitions. She has coordinated collegiate programs and, most recently, has been involved in importing and training sale horses.
And, yes, she has shoveled out more than a few stalls in her time because, after all, it’s what you do when you’re learning a business from, literally, the ground up.
And she’s loved it all.
Wells has been interested in horses since she was a kid when she learned to ride on the Army base where her father was stationed. She would spend hours with horses and even work in her spare time at the Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York, where she hot-walked and groomed horses.
Later, she taught riding and ran her own equestrian business and then helped develop and expand two collegiate equestrian programs.
“I’ve done everything,” she says.
So when Albion College went looking for a new director of its equestrian center last year, she was intrigued and confident.
“For me, because I think I’ve done just about everything you can do in equestrian, I love the challenge of elevating a program—making it better and stronger and faster,” says Wells, a native of Manlius, N.Y., just east of Syracuse, and a graduate of Skidmore College. “I like making it more and I think I can do that at Albion. I’m excited for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to getting back into a collegiate riding program.”
On December 1, Wells took the reins, so to speak, of Albion equestrian, and she plans to help implement a program that will highlight the facilities and tap into the enthusiasm of a program looking to make prominent strides.
Wells certainly knows the ropes, having had the equestrian programs at Centenary University in Hackettstown, N.J., from 1995-2008 and then creating the equestrian studies program at Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design.
She departed collegiate equestrian in 2012 and worked independently, judging horse shows and training horses.
And while she wasn’t necessarily looking for another challenge, when Albion called, she was certainly ready to listen.
“I knew it would be a challenge, but it was one that was in my wheelhouse,” Wells says. “I knew it would be a good fit and I think with my background and my particular skill set, I can make a difference for Albion College and the surrounding community.”
She sees Albion as a model for developing a top-notch, nationally known equestrian program, which has expanded its varsity program to hunt seat, western and dressage as a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association and Intercollegiate Dressage Association.
“It has a strong academic program with a strong equestrian team,” Wells says. “And there are terrific facilities.”
Indeed, she was attracted to the College’s 340 acres south of the campus and the Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center, which just last year underwent a $1.8 million construction project to enlarge and improve the indoor arena.
“And when you have great facilities, that’s always a way to put a program on the map,” Wells says.
Randi Heathman, ’03, the College’s equestrian recruitment coordinator, sees Wells and her experience as the perfect balance to not only help Albion coordinate its expanded varsity equestrian program but other duties that range from fundraising to hiring coaches to scheduling local and regional competitions at the Held Center.
“It’s a program very much in transition,” Heathman says. “And in many ways this is a perfect time to bring in new leadership with fresh eyes and decide who we want to be in the next three to six years. There are so many pieces to this job. It’s a very complex job, but the two schools Andrea has been with have been part of the national [equestrian] conversation every year, and this looks like a great match. She’s going to be a busy lady.”
Heathman says there are currently 45 students in Albion's varsity equestrian program; she hopes to build on that total.
“We’re going to have to grow our roster to be part of a national conversation,” says Heathman, adding that the number of participants for next year is already climbing. “We’re trying to build a deep bench. And with what we have for the December 1 early-decision recruiting deadline, we have some promising student-athletes.”
It’s a situation Wells knows all too well.
“I want to generate some buzz and excitement,” she says.