Riding West: Westelius siblings bond over horseback riding


Sunjin Chang

The sun’s golden rays hit the 10 riders on horses cantering around an arena full of poles and ramps in Los Altos Hills. Their hooves fling dust in the humid air as they practice jumping two-foot poles and trotting around the rectangular arena fence. Among them is junior Ebba Westelius on Bojack, a dark-haired horse with a white diamond on his forehead. She and Bojack spend an hour practicing jumps and chatting with the other riders between their courses.

On October 2, Ebba attended a monthly meeting for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association at Westwind Community Barn. A competitive equestrian, Ebba tries to teach herself how to ride unfamiliar horses, horses she hasn’t connected with, to prepare for show competitions where she’ll be in the same predicament.

Junior Ebba Westelius rides her horse, Bojack, at the monthly IEA meeting. She practices her jumps and walks along with other riders.
Junior Ebba Westelius rides her horse, Bojack, at the monthly IEA meeting. She practices her jumps and walks along with other riders.

Although she is constantly surrounded by riders at the meetings, Ebba first sat on a horse at the age of six because of one person: her older brother Frej Westelius.

“My older brother was always interested in horses, so he begged my parents to let him start and they let him,” Ebba said. “And because I worshipped everything he did, I also wanted to start.”

In their family of five, Ebba and Frej are the only two who actively ride. Their dad used to but has dropped it since college, their mother wasn’t interested and their younger brother was kicked by one when he was little. Horseback riding is the one thing that only the two of them bond over, especially since Frej lives halfway around the world. Currently studying veterinary medicine at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Frej doesn’t have the time or money to ride, but he gets his fix through riding his friends’ horses or helping out at their stables. Regardless, he calls his family every weekend and never misses the opportunity to talk about horses with Ebba. They bridge the gap of thousands of miles between California and Sweden by talking about practices, upcoming competitions or Ebba’s horses.

“The fact that we share that hobby, it’s helped us get closer,” Ebba said.

When Frej visits during the holidays, the two head over to Ebba’s barn in Scotts Valley and visit Kolo, her 12-year-old dark brown thoroughbred. Despite the fact that Frej can’t ride in the U.S. because of barn policy restrictions on Frej’s insurance, he feels content catching up on what he’s missed and watching Ebba ride Kolo. He adds that even though Ebba started riding to follow in his footsteps, she continues because of her love for horses.

“They’re a good pair,” Frej said. “Ebba loves horses and is better at taking criticism and is better at riding [than me]. Her own passion [towards horses has] developed overtime.”

Similarly, junior Kelly Marzolf has noticed the same about Ebba. Marzolf attends the same IEA meetings and competitions as Ebba, getting to know her and her riding style better.

“[While riding], you don’t always look perfect,” Marzolf said. “You [have to] ride efficiently and she’s good at that. It’s an admirable talent.”

Marzolf, who comes from a family of horse-lovers, has been riding since her mother signed her up at the age of four, and has pursued this hobby since. Though she’s has only ridden alongside Ebba a few times, she looks up to Ebba’s skills and her way with horses.

Ebba doesn’t plan to stop horseback riding anytime soon, and neither does her brother. Being an equestrian, whether recreationally or competitively, is something both see themselves doing well into their adult lives, giving them a lifetime of stories to share with each other.

“Both of us will continue to ride because we have the ‘bug,’” Frej said. “It’s more than just a sport.”