Abby (Friedman) Steller ’08
As a California girl, Abby (Friedman) Steller ’08, had one response as a 14 year-old girl considering the prospect of moving across the country to attend Eagle Hill School.
“‘No way. I am not going there.’ I was so stubborn about it. I was young and thought I could make all of the decisions on my own. Little did I know, it was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me,” said Steller.
Steller moved from California to Connecticut in the hopes of finding a school to address her diverse learning profile. Skeptical as to where she would fit in, Steller quickly found a home in Hardwick.
“I didn’t feel like I had teachers. It didn’t really feel like going to a school. It felt like a family. People cared about me and talked to me about how I was feeling. I had teachers like Mr. and Mrs. Riendeau, Mrs. Bonica, and Mr. Burnett, who cared so much about my ability to learn.”
As time passed at Eagle Hill, Steller began to open up as an individual by participating in clubs and sports on campus. By the time her senior year came, Steller had already taken away lessons that would shape her life for years to come.
“I was allowed to make mistakes, and that helped me grow so much. In my other educational experience, I was scolded or made to feel stupid. At Eagle Hill, I was able to learn and be myself. I learned how to advocate for myself, and that’s something that I remember that helps me every single day.”
Steller had always felt comfortable on the farm with her horses. After Steller graduated from Eagle Hill, she pursued the passion that made her the happiest in her life.
Steller met Jim Hagman, CEO and founder of Elvenstar Farms, located in Moorpark, California. There Hagman and his team operate a recreational equestrian facility for both beginners and experienced riders. Steller began working with Hagman to find quality, young horses to train and develop all over the world. In doing so, Steller works to find homes for horses that would be suitable for competition.
“I feel like I have been on a horse as long as I can remember. I knew I wanted to pursue a career within equestrian studies because that was where I was the happiest and where I knew I could make a positive impact.”
“Once I met Jim, he really became a mentor to me and taught me so much about the industry. I’ve learned so much and really continue to develop my passion for equestrian studies. Now, we work to import quality horses for warmblood jumping, usually from regions like Germany and Holland, in the hopes of finding them an amazing home.”
As Steller began to grow her business, she became more actively involved in the equestrian community overall. Currently, Steller is on the board of directors for the Pacific Coast Horse Show Association, a large organization based in California, where she is tasked with budgeting and overseeing all programs for the growth of their organization.
With all of her success thus far as a young professional, Steller looks to teach young riders the lessons she learned from those at Eagle Hill, especially longtime EHS faculty member and newly appointed assistant head of school for student life, Mrs. Kristyl Kelly.
“Mrs. Kelly taught me how to be a sportsman. I played softball and soccer, and she taught me so much about how to compete, how to fight for yourself, and how to grow as an individual. I use so many of the things she taught me when I’m working with young riders and showing them how to compete."
Echoing similar sentiments, Mrs. Kelly described Steller as a legacy at Eagle Hill.
“Abby was one of the most versatile players we ever had. Some days we would find her behind the plate, some days out in the field. She was an athlete who geared up every day to win and compete. She trusted her instincts, was never afraid to get dirty, and always led by example. I’ll always say that her greatest achievement at EHS was helping other student-athletes do great things on and off the field,” said Mrs. Kelly.
Steller was honored with the 2019 Dan Abbey Sportsmanship Award at the California Professional Horseman’s Association for her outstanding work in the equestrian community. She hopes to continue her success within her community and expand upon her passion to help others.
Abby Steller resides in California with her husband, James Steller, a visual effects artist with work shown in popular movies such as Avengers: Infinity War and the new Ghostbusters, and shows such as Fences and Lucifer.
For current and future Eagle Hill students, Steller offered some great advice:
“Take your time making decisions. Every step you take along your path comes with difficult decisions, and not everything will come quickly, but it’s important that you always take a step back and ask is this right for me? It’s okay to make mistakes. Very few things in life are final. You will grow if you are willing to learn from your mistakes.”