Andrea Keacher grew up in the city, in a residential neighborhood with all of its trappings and restrictions, yet nothing would deny her a childhood dream. Keep your dance lessons, your soccer and your other group sports! All she wanted was a horse. Nothing would change her mind.
She was steadfast.
“I dabbled in dance and in soccer,” she said.”But horses were always my number one passion. All of my friends and teachers – everyone – knew I was devoted to horses. It didn’t change when I got older.”
She did what every kid does when they want something. She hounded her parents – for a horse, for any opportunity to ride one. “I bugged my parents so that I could take lessons and go to horse camps,” she said.
She started riding lessons around age eight and then began doing horse camps in the summer, eventually finding a horse she “simply couldn’t live without.”
Then came a savings account and its slow torturous growth, a few dollars here, a few more there. Slow but steady and by age 12 she had enough to buy that horse she couldn’t live without, a horse named Gray.
Growing up in Maple Grove, there was nothing to account for her love of the equine world.
“Everybody thinks that I grew up on a farm. No way. Maybe I got that love of horses from my aunt,” she says now. “She always had horses. My (immediate) family were not animal or horse people.”
Whatever the source, the horse business has become Andrea’s business – in a big way.
In fact, Andrea has become one of Canterbury Park’s biggest patrons of retired racehorses, having purchased around 20 of them since acquiring the first about 14 years ago, a couple of years after outgrowing Gray.
Now 28, Andrea has not forgotten her introduction to that first horse and her mother’s immediate reaction.”
“The horse was two at the time,” she said, “and was crazy. It nearly ran my mom over. She said ‘you’re not going to get THIS horse.’ I said ‘Oh, yeah, this is the one I want.'”
Canterbury regulars might recall the horse. He was “Wally the Beerman.”
“I wanted a challenge and I kept that horse until my first year of college at the University of Minnesota-Morris,” Andrea said. She kept him stabled on campus and competed in dressage and cross-country, eventually selling him to girl on the East Coast. “They’ve done extremely well together,” Andrea added.
Keacher has a nursing degree and supported herself in that profession in addition to giving lessons, something she has done for years, teaching youngsters – and adults – riding, dressage and cross-country.
She works with about 30 students a week, as young as six, as old as 75.
Some of them have purchased the retired racehorses she retrains, the ones she doesn’t keep herself as lesson horses. She has dealt consistently over the years with Dr. Dick Bowman at Canterbury, whose retired racehorse ranch in North Dakota currently has nearly 60 borders awaiting adoption.
“I lease some of the ones I buy, too,” Andrea said. “Others I’ll resell when I think they are ready for a second career.”
Some of the students have purchased racing videos of the horses they buy to become acquainted with their former occupations. Last summer Andrea took between 10 and 15 of her students to Canterbury Park on a tour of the stables. “They were begging me to go,” she said.”We hope to do it again this year.”
Keacher bought a 12-acre farm in Anoka about a year ago. It includes a large heated barn and indoor and outdoor arenas. In also includes a jumping course and a cross-country course. She works seven days a week, 12 hours a day or more, supplementing income at her Boulder Pointe Equestrian Center as a geriatric nurse, working with Alzheimer and dementia patients.
Her website is located at www.horseridingrocks.com and includes prominent quotations about horses and her chosen profession. One of them, from Winston Churchill, is especially noteworthy: “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”
Andrea can tell herself that very thing… several times a day.
This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.