What Life's Really Like for Ali Wolff, A Well-Traveled Equestrian

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Ali Wolff was seven years old when she got her first horse: It was Christmas, and she arrived in her family's Upper Arlington driveway with red bows in her mane.

"I was thrilled," Wolff says. "Her name was Dream. She came with that name; ironically, because she was a little less than perfect. She was a handful … but I think that she for sure made me a better rider."

Dream was the first of many horses for Wolff; the 26-year-old New Albany native is among the top-ranked show jumping riders in the United States. Show jumping competitions, which feature a set of numbered obstacles horses and riders must clear, are held across the globe. While rankings shift on a weekly basis (riders are awarded points based on the competitions they enter; therefore it's always changing), Wolff is continually named among the most elite riders.

"I started competing between ages 5 and 7," Wolff says. "I didn't come from a riding family, so this was all new to everyone."

Wolff and her family embraced her new sport-and the time and financial commitments that accompanied it.

"As I grew up in this sport, so did they," she says of her family. "They've been nothing but supportive in every aspect."

Wolff recalls giving up sleepovers and social gatherings to focus on her riding. She eventually transferred to a high school in Florida (many show jumpers train in Florida thanks to the climate stability the Midwest lacks), and then attended four different colleges-including a university in Europe. She earned a degree in business administration, concentrating on entrepreneurship.

"It took me about five-and-a-half years to finish [college], Wolff says. "A lot of other people in riding give it up for their own reasons. But I at least wanted to have something else besides riding."

Wolff's mother, Tanny Crane, explains her daughter has always been an independent soul-a tenacious woman who is whole-heartedly committed to her passions.

"She has been unrelenting in her quest since she started riding," Crane says. "She has never stopped. Even though she was in school and playing soccer and lacrosse, this was her passion. How could you want anything more than your child following their passion? I'm so proud of her."

Travel is inevitable in her sport, Wolff explains. In 2015 alone, she's been to Canada, Mexico, England and Spain, among other destinations. Many of these competitions have yielded high honors for Wolff, including a gold medal at the Young Rider Championships in 2010. Wolff has also been a fixture at the New Albany Classic, the annual equestrian event held at the Wexner residence each September. She has placed as high as third in the Classic, which benefits The Center for Family Safety and Healing and features an Invitational Grand Prix with some of the nation's best riders.

"It's such a fun event," Wolff says. "The crowd cheers us all on, and we love that. It energizes us. It's amazing that we can support something locally and bring in over a million dollars. There are very rarely horse shows that specialize in bringing in money to help different charities. I'm proud to say that I'm from New Albany."

And while she hasn't turned professional yet, it's on Wolff's list of goals-which includes the Olympics. Also on that list? Maintaining a balanced life.

"Sometimes I'll be riding by myself and think, 'Man, why do I do this?' " Wolff says. "But it's the horses. Even if it's just the slightest amount of progress that they're making through what you're teaching them, it's what really keeps me going."

Equestrian Ali Wolff dishes on some of her favorites

Local shop: I love Rowe and Ladybird. They're my favorites.

Restaurant: I love The Rossi and their lamb lollipops. They're so good. I've turned non-Columbus natives onto that restaurant. And all of Cameron Mitchell's restaurants. Any one-you name it, I'll go to it.

Clothing: I'm such a middle-of-the-road, depending-on-my-mood-that-day person. The easiest is to throw on a cute summer dress and a scarf and flats. I love dresses.

Beauty splurge: I love manicures and pedicures with friends or my sister. I can't go alone. That's just not fun at all. I love going to beauty stores and trying different exotic products, like scrubs or masks.

Pump-up song: It varies with the new songs of the week for me. I have Spotify, so I usually play Tuesday's New Music.

The New Albany Classic: Know Before You Go

This year's New Albany Classic is Sunday, Sept. 20 at 10 a.m. Along with the Grand Prix (which begins at 2 p.m.), you'll find family-friendly activities: There are concerts from pop group Before You Exit and country star RaeLynn, plus games, arts and crafts, and rides. Tickets cost $23 for adults and $7.50 for children ages four to 10 (children under three receive free admission). Tickets must be purchased in advance, and proceeds benefit The Center for Family Safety and Healing. Learn more