Keean White is one of two Canadian riders heading to Omaha this month after picking up numerous top 10 results in North American League qualifiers. Not only is White a top horseman, but he also runs a thriving business at the Ontario-based Angelstone Farm.
White began taking lessons at 10 years old and, thanks to a pony with a fear of jumping, learned perseverance the hard way. “The first horse my parents bought me was afraid to jump. It actually wouldn’t walk over a pole on the ground. It’s probably what got me hooked on the sport because I had to work so hard, and fell off so manly times trying to teach him to jump.”
White is a self-described sports addict, having played basketball and hockey in his school years, in addition to time in the saddle. “I’ve always been addicted to sports and have always been very competitive. In my teen years, I knew I wanted to find a way to make a career as an athlete,” says White, adding, “show jumping gave me the best chance to do that. I also love business and problem solving, so naturally show jumping offers many opportunities to challenge both my athleticism and my mind.”
A successful junior career, which included 5 successive trips to the North American Young Riders Championships, surely helped boost White’s decision to turn pro. At 18, he launched the Ontario-based Angelstone Farm and took to the Grand Prix circuit.
White benefitted from the coaching of Olympians Jill Henselwood and Eric Lamaze, who not only mentored White while on horseback, but were instrumental in helping him develop a support system of sponsors and the like. “Eric Lamaze had the most influence over me, both as an athlete and teaching me how to get a group of people behind you to support you,” said White.
In terms of his riding style, White acknowledges it’s evolving. Rather than resist criticism, he embraced it. “I had two moments in the last decade which made me realize the sport is evolving, and my style needed to evolve with it or I would get left behind,” says White. “The first was an article by John Madden in 2009 when I was competing at the World Cup Finals in Vegas. His comments were that I would have to evolve my style to be competitive at world-class events. The second was when I sold Pironella to Stephan Conter at Stephex Stables. The horse was bought for Daniel [Deusser] to ride and, when I was discussing the mare with Stephan, he told me how he thought she would improve because Daniel would ride the top of the fence and would ride a more balanced canter to the bigger oxer, whereas I always counted on my speed through the corner to jump the bigger oxers.”
While White recognizes it took a little time for the critiques to set in, like any elite athlete looking to climb the rankings, he accepted the comments and is adapting his style where needed. “I needed to make some major changes in how I train, and I had to take two steps back before I could go forward.”
White takes a similar approach to running his Angelstone Farm, adapting to the environment and taking risks in the name of progress. The operation includes the original Angelstone Farm, which is the main business and competition stable. From there Angelstone also operates Angelstone Tournaments, which hosts 5 FEI events annually and has spurred yet another business, Angelstone Academy. “Since we run the horse shows, we have grown a very large spectator base of younger people looking to involved in the sport. Because of the interest we had in entry level sport, we founded the Angelstone Riding Academy which is about 15 minutes from our main stable, and gives kids in the community the opportunity to get involved in the sport,” says White of his latest venture.
For all his successes, both in riding and business, White is most proud of the Angelstone group of companies – both for the ventures that worked, and the willingness to take a shot on those that didn’t. “We have had ideas that have totally flopped. In 2009-2011 we actually started Angelstone Production, which put on major concerts. What I’m most proud of is our ability to think outside the box and believe in our ideas. Not everything has been successful, but we’ve learned from those mistakes, and those mistakes have made it possible for the Angelstone group of companies to be where they are today.”
White will be bringing For Freedom Z, a 12-year-old gelding by For Pleasure, to the Omaha final. “I’ve been working with him for 3 years, and it wasn’t smooth sailing to get him from where we started to the World Cup final,” White admits. “He is a really talented horse who really wants to please. It took him time to believe in himself. He likes to practice a lot and doesn’t like to be surprised, but when you prepare properly he really gives you everything he has.”
By Ashley Fairfield-Remeza