‘I Thought I Would Never Ride Again’: How Ashlee Bond Fell Back in Love With Horses

‘I Thought I Would Never Ride Again’: How Ashlee Bond Fell Back in Love With Horses

Last month, the Israeli show jumping team made history when they secured an Olympic team qualification for the first time. During the qualifying competition’s prize giving in Moscow, four Israeli riders stood atop the podium with the knowledge that a long-awaited dream had finally come to fruition, personally and for their country. One must wonder what each of them was thinking in that pivotal moment. No doubt they must have reflected, even briefly, on the journey that brought them to this point in their career.

For Ashlee Bond, a member of Israel’s 2018 World Equestrian Games team, that moment may have been bittersweet, considering she once almost gave up riding altogether.

Beginning riding from a young age, Ashlee showed early promise. She competed — and won — her first grand prix at age 16. That same year, she was named Grand Prix Rookie Rider of the Year by both USEF and Pacific Coast Horse Association. After a brief hiatus, Ashlee returned to the sport renewed in mind and spirit, and it showed in her forthcoming string of successes. In 2009, she reached the top 40 in the FEI World Rankings, was #2 on the Rolex/USEF Show Jumping Rankings, and was named “Chronicle of the Horse” Show Jumping Horseman of the Year. All this at just 24 years old.

Between 2009 and 2014, Ashlee competed in four FEI World Cup™ Finals and clinched a major win at the 2014 HITS $1 Million Grand Prix and an FEI Nations Cup™. After welcoming her first child in 2016, a daughter named Scottie, she barely missed a beat, claiming the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping title at Thermal just four months after becoming a mother.

With a lifetime of achievements accompanying a professional career spanning barely two decades thus far, one can’t help but wonder — what’s her secret? Most top riders would indicate a particularly talented horse or an astute trainer in the turning point of their career that energized a subsequent wave of success. But for Ashlee, the answer is more subtle. Enjoying success is less a product of what she does and more about how she lives. She got to where she is today by staying true to three key elements of life: passion, faith, and family.


At age 16, Ashlee was living most young riders’ dream — competing at the grand prix level, earning national honors, making a name for herself in the sport.

Then, at 19, she quit for one simple reason: “I lost the passion.”

The strain of training and competing at such a high level had taken its toll. “I felt like I had accomplished enough of what I wanted to accomplish and I was just burnt out. I really thought I would never ride again.”

Without horses, the thing that had been her identity for so long, she went on a search to find herself. Ashlee “dabbled” in the entertainment industry for a while, trying to find her way to a singing and acting career. But it didn’t feel right. Something was still missing. “I realized that I just didn’t want to be in front of the camera. It wasn’t for me and it wasn’t something I was deep down passionate about. It was just something that I was good enough at that I thought I could do. There was no love there for it.”

Unsure of her future, a 21-year-old Ashlee tagged along with her mom, Cindy Bond, a filmmaker, to a movie set in New Zealand. On a whim, she tracked down a place to go riding, which resulted in a glorious three hours spent riding through the countryside, galloping freely across the picturesque New Zealand landscape past grazing wild horses, through streams, and across rivers. That’s when it all fell back into place.

"I lost the passion."

“It was one of those movie moments. Like, this cannot be real life,” Ashlee recalls. “I got to fall in love with the animal again and riding in its purest form. It was definitely an ‘aha’ moment. I got home and got on a horse that day and haven’t looked back.”

With all the victories she’s enjoyed as a young rider and since returning to the sport, one might pine to have those few years back to see what they could achieve. But Ashlee, now 34, doesn’t regret it for a minute. “I had to find out who I was without horses. I think it brought me back to the horses for the real reason that I started riding in the first place — for the love of the animal and the sport.”

With a renewed passion and appreciation for the equestrian lifestyle, Ashlee quit trying to define herself through riding and focus instead on the journey. “Now I was just going to enjoy what I do. Not just the glory but the blood, sweat and tears, the ups and downs. I was going to learn from every experience and try to better myself and my program every day.”


Ashlee is a devout Christian and felt that God was showing her her path on that magical day in New Zealand when she re-discovered her love of horses, and her faith remains a driving force in her life and career still today. In early 2018, Ashlee, who is half Israeli, switched her nationality from USA to Israel in part due to her strong religious connection to the country.

Yes, she prays, but she also strives every day to listen to what God is saying to her and take His guidance to heart. She relies strongly on gut instinct and intuition when it comes to working with horses and trust the path He has laid out for her.

Part of growing as a rider is learning to deal with disappointment.

“I feel like gut instinct is probably one of the best tools we have as riders, especially riders that have been doing this so long. It isn’t just a feeling. It’s years and years of your experience telling you something deep down. I’ve learned to hone that and really listen to that voice,” she says.

“I feel like my intuition is God tapping me on the shoulder and giving me the insight of what I should and shouldn’t do. I try to follow that instinct and that Godly way of life. It’s not easy. I try my best and I feel like whatever path I’m meant to be on is the path that he has chosen for me. I try to stay true to that and follow that lead.”


Ashlee’s father, Steve Bond, is a lifelong horseman and passed his passion down to his daughter. Together they own and operate Little Valley Farm in Hidden Hills, California, where Steve raises youngsters and gets them started under saddle, then turns them over to Ashlee to develop their talent in the competition arena.

Ashlee and her husband, Roy Meeus, who retired from his professional soccer career last year, purchased a home nearby, close enough to Little Valley Farm that Scottie can ride her pony to her grandparents’ house for a visit.

It’s a dream come true for Ashlee to live in the neighborhood where she grew up and raise her daughter in the community she holds so dear. But it’s not enough for her to have an address nearby — it’s important for her to actually get to spend time with her growing family. It’s why her husband retired from his job, and a large part of why Ashlee switched flags.

“I didn’t just want to be showing 50 out of 52 weeks and traveling all the time. Some people do it and they love it, but for me I wanted — I needed — balance,” she says.

Even if she’s competing less, however, Ashlee feels becoming a mother has made her a better, more insightful athlete. “It’s made me more sensitive to the horses. I feel like I’m more in tune to the way they feel and what their schedule should be, how much they should be jumping or schooling and when to back off or push a bit.”

Still, being surrounded by family and watching her daughter’s own passion for horses grow has taken priority over competitive success. And that’s just fine by Ashlee.

“It’s not that riding has lost importance, it’s just been put into perspective. You have your husband and your kid and you realize what are the most important things in your life. Riding is one of them, but it’s not the end all be all. If something goes wrong, you have your family and it’s going to be okay. You’ll make it through anything because you have your family.”

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Feature photo and portraits by Henry Recinos. Competition photos by Sportfot.

Written by Hossein Maleki

Having grown up on horseback, Leslie Threlkeld, Managing Editor at NOËLLE FLOYD, treasures her career in the equestrian industry as a writer, photographer, and eventing technical delegate. Leslie thrives on frequent travel but never tires of returning home to the serene mountains of North Carolina.