Yes, she is an award-winning athlete who loves giving back to the community. Yes, she has the same number of hours in her day as you. Yes, she’s only 14.
For many of us, if we were given the chance to relive our awkward teen years, the answer would be likely a “Are you crazy?! No way!” Those emotions, those struggles, those hormones… yikes. But one teen we’d certainly consider trading places with and doing it all again would be Annabelle Rehn, a 14-year-old who’s absolutely killing it on the equestrian sports circuit both here in Singapore and overseas.
One thing we’re all in agreement with though? How inspiring it is to see committed people – of any age – really living their dreams and dedicating their lives to a passion of theirs. Which is why, when we heard about Annabelle and her amazing achievement, we decided to shine the spotlight on her. Not only does she have numerous medals and wins under her belt (she’s already competing against adults in some competitions, too!), but she really enjoys charitable giving, too. We had a little chat with Annabelle to find out what drew her to the sport, how she balances her school work with training and her advice to other teens her age about following their dreams. Oh, and we also had a quick catch-up with her mum because #proud!
Hi Annabelle! You’re a bit of a sports legend in the making, we hear! Tell us more about how you got started in equestrian sports.
I came from a family of equestrians. My mum first introduced me to horses at a very young age: 18 months old, if you can believe that! It’s always been my first love. I was three-and-a-half years old when I joined my first ever equestrian competition and I’ve enjoyed the competition environment ever since.
What’s your training schedule like?
I tend to follow a strict schedule when it comes to my training: six times a week early in the morning (so it won’t be too hot for my horses), with one day for them to rest. Here in Singapore, I train at the Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre, and I also train at another stable in Denmark when I’m there, called Emma Ahlberg Horse Performance [Annabelle is Danish, was born in Malaysia and moved to Singapore at age 11 – phew!]. I have two horses here – Adjudant and Darwin – and two more in Denmark: Aros and Nikitaro. As for me, I run at least five kilometres almost every day to make sure I’m fit and healthy.
Putting us to shame with all that running! Tell us what a typical day looks like.
Every day is different, but I usually get up at 5.45am (I know, it’s WAY TOO EARLY for most people my age!). Sometimes it’s because I have training or because I’m going for a run with my mum or fitness training at the gym. Like every other kid though, I spend most of my time in school, five days a week.
How do you find school?
I looove my school! I go to Dulwich College Singapore and really enjoy it. Aside from the academics, they have a lot of activities to make sure we get a well-rounded education. I also use the gym there, which is awesome for my fitness routine. My favourite subjects are sports, science and drama. I think those are also the ones I’m best at.
How do you fit in your studies and achieve balance?
Sometimes it’s very challenging to find balance but I really love what I do so I think that’s how I make it work. In between training, I have school and then I dedicate two more hours for studying every day, mostly in the evening after dinner. So far, everything has been working out well.
Busy, busy, busy! When you’re not training, what else do you enjoy doing?
I love going to the movies! When I’m not spending time with my family, I’m mostly hanging out with my friends. We have sleepovers or just go to each other’s houses. As well as that, I’ve always believed that being an athlete, I have been given an opportunity to create a positive impact in the world; my parents have taught me how to be grounded and to always share when I can. For instance, in 2016, I was in Malaysia for an event where I created and painted donated horseshoes, and donated all my earnings to the Riding for the Disabled Malaysia. The following year I went to Mumbai to support an NGO called Magic Bus that helps in educating underprivileged children, where I volunteered to teach the students. I really try to get involved in my own little ways; making a positive change in other people’s lives is something I’m passionate about. I hope to be able to do more in the future.
We love hearing about that! What life lessons and traits do you think the sport teaches you as a person?
A lot, haha! But I think the two most important lessons are a) perseverance: to never give up no matter how many times I fail, which is exactly what my mum always tells me. And b) teamwork. Sometimes my horses have bad days too; we’re always a team.
What have been the highlights of your sporting career so far?
In terms of ranking, I am placed fifth in the world for my age category in dressage. I am also currently the FEI World Dressage Challenge reigning champion for ages 12-16, where I broke the record of obtaining the highest score in any age category. The FEI European Championships, which was held in July of this year, is also at the top of my list. I won Individual Bronze Medal after competing against more than 20 nations in Children Dressage. Like any other athlete, my biggest dream is to be selected for the Olympics. Baby steps! I’m also working very hard towards representing Denmark in the World Championships for Dressage. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
And the lowest points?
The injuries – I’m no stranger to them! I’ve broken my arm twice and sustained temporary nerve damage in my right hand for almost three months. That was so scary. I tried to be as positive as I could be but the possibility of not being able to ride again really did cross my mind.
What advice would you give to other teens who want to pursue their dreams?
Maybe that age is just a number?! Yes, I am very young, but I also know that opportunities are rare so I’m trying to take as many as I can get. Only those who take risks will achieve what they want. Secondly, keep dreaming and working on it. And lastly – persevere, no matter what. Never give up, even when times get tough!
We also chatted to Annabelle’s mum, Marianne! Here’s what she had to say…
“I myself was introduced at a very early age to equestrian sports by my family and it taught me amazing competencies and attributes – qualities I wanted to pass on to Annabelle. Fortunately, she also felt very passionate about it from a young age, so it’s been easy to develop her talent. In fact, she’s been the one to challenge us and motivate us to take everything to the next level!
“But you know, more than anything, it is very important to me that she has something she is intricately motivated about, something that goes beyond academic studies. The sport itself wasn’t important; it’s about seeing her develop an interest in something and become passionate about it.
“I am tremendously proud of Annabelle and everything she has achieved – and I’m also proud that, despite her busy training schedule, she still manages to do well at school. And, as a mum, I am so proud of the young lady she has become: grounded, humble and very hardworking. It’s important for me to teach her that it’s not always about winning, but how well you overcome every challenge and loss you go through. She amazes me in each competition and quest she pursues.”