A passion for riding motivates Bella Thorpe


Max Potter

Junior Bella Thorpe stands alongside her horse and close companion, Bella Ymas, inside the stables of Woodbe Farm.

Emily Gazzaniga and Jaiden Edelmen

When she’s not studying, playing basketball or field hockey, or practicing the viola, junior Bella Thorpe is dedicating her time to equestrian training at Woodbe Farm in West Tisbury as a nationally ranked horseback riding champion, currently ranked fourth in the nation in her division.

Horses have played a crucial role in Bella’s life. “As soon as I could walk, I was on a horse,” says Bella. “As a small child, I was pretty shy. The relationships people have with horses are special. Horses are very emotionally connected with people. It was really great for me to be able to grow and succeed alongside a horse, [which in turn] gave me so much more confidence in myself and my abilities.” 

She is no stranger to competition, either. Since the age of 4, she has been participating in local Island tournaments, and advanced to more competitive off-Island shows in fifth grade. 

Currently, Bella competes in one or two shows per month, from April to October. These shows have taken her around the country to places like Mystic, Conn.; Woodstock, Vt.; and Providence, N.Y. 

In 2016, Bella and her former horse, Reina, qualified for the national competition in Lexington, Ky., a feat that Bella hopes to achieve again next year.

After riding Reina for more than five years, Bella recently began building a connection with another Bella, one with hooves and a mane. This horse, originally from Spain, was transported to the Vineyard in July 2018, and Bella first rode her in competition in February of this year. The two Bellas won their regional dressage show on Sept. 22, and are now preparing for April competitions that may qualify them for the next national competition. Bella competes in the U.S. Dressage Federation’s second-level young rider (21 & under) division, and is currently the Region 8 champion. 

She is quick to point out, however, that horseback riding is a team sport: “My horse works as hard as I do, and it’s inspiring to be on a team like that. We are constantly learning new things together. I love her a lot.” 

Tracy Olsen, one of Bella’s longtime coaches, expressed her admiration for Bella and her love for the sport. “She really sets high goals for herself, and is so driven to meet those goals. Two weeks after Bella won the regional championship, we drove up to Vermont for another competition just so she could have a practice run for next year. Even when she wins, she always has a new goal, thinking about what’s next. That’s one of the reasons I love being her coach.” 

Caroline Hermann, a current member of the dressage team at the University of Vermont, has been riding with Bella for eight years. “Her greatest asset as a rider is her ability to stay so cool, calm, and collected, no matter what the horse throws at her,” says Caroline. “I’ve seen her handle so many situations with such poise, even when she was just a little girl. She has such an incredible personality, and an unbelievable heart. Those combined with her phenomenal riding skills will take her anywhere she wants to go, and I can’t wait to see her get there.” 

Bella plans on continuing to pursue advancement in the sport for as long as possible: “I hope to keep riding in college, possibly even going to a school with a team. But I still want to keep my individual riding strong. I’m not sure what it will look like yet, but I want to continue to ride for sure.”