ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Despite the many differences between horses and humans, at 17 years old, Addie Ruppel sees similarities. She is a senior at Forest Hills Eastern High School who spends a lot of her time in school leadership groups planning fundraisers.

Most of her classmates have no idea that what makes her so confident and outgoing is the time she has spent with her horse, Tupac. He is a half-Arabian horse, which she shows saddle seat across the country on the national Arabian circuit.

“I’ve been really lucky to see lots of places. We go to Oklahoma. I’ll be leaving for Arizona in (one) week, so that will be really fun. It’s my favorite place to go,” said Ruppel. “It’s so beautiful there. I love the desert.”

When Ruppel first started riding, she was very shy with few friends and kept to herself.

“Horseback riding is something you have to have a lot of confidence to do well in the show ring, even just to get up on the horse. I think it has taught me a lot of confidence and to be more comfortable with myself. It has definitely taught me a lot of patience and trust. I guess that does kind of parallel with humans to let yourself be a little more vulnerable,” said Ruppel.

She described what she does as “kind of like a beauty pageant, but with a horse.” She has to show the judges how well she can steer her horse, doing different, difficult moves, while keeping her body very still.

“The whole time, a million different things are running through your head like I have to move my left hand up one inch and I have to squeeze a little more of my right leg, but you’ve got to keep it all super quiet and controlled so you can look as elegant as possible,” she said.

Giving back is also important to Ruppel. She finds time to do that through a club she runs at school called the Community Giving Club. She is helping to organize a fundraiser next month to benefit the unhoused. She is also the co-president of the National Honor Society.

As far as advice for underclassmen who might be shy like she was at that age, she said, “I was always trying to fit in a certain way and cover up parts of myself that might be more unique or strange. In the last two years, I have discovered when you are truly yourself and are doing things that are a little more out-of-the-box, you tend to find people who are more like you. You make better friends that way. I know it sounds cliche, but just be yourself.”