Aug 04, 2022

Past, Present, and Future of the USEA American Eventing Championships

By Olivia Airhart - USEA Staff
2022 USEA American Eventing Championship venue Rebecca Farm located in Kalispell, Montana. Hope Carlin Photo

A goal to be reached, the ultimate display of partnership and trust, a milestone to be remembered. Since the inaugural USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) held in 2004 at the Carolina Horse Park in Raeford, N.C. hosted the first 413 starters, the annual championship has served as a benchmark for eventers of all levels within the sport. For 18 years, the USEA AEC has continuously grown and evolved to match the needs and ambitions of the USEA’s members.

Montana Mountains serving as the backdrop for the cross-country course atRebecca Farm. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Farm
Montana Mountains serving as the backdrop for the cross-country course atRebecca Farm. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Farm

This year, the USEA AEC is to be hosted at the highly regarded and stunningly beautiful, Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana for the first time. Home to The Event at Rebecca Farm held annually each July, the world-class grounds have seen the highest levels of competition and are beloved by competitors of all levels. Though Rebecca Farm has never hosted a championship event itself, the event’s current CEO Jo Whitehouse dedicated more than 30 years of her career as the former CEO of the USEA and has plenty of experience with the championships, having spearheaded the founding of the AEC as well as overseeing the inaugural event.

"From the very first AEC to the upcoming championships at Rebecca Farm, the goal has been to give every member at every level of competition an opportunity to experience the best eventing has to offer: championship level competition, a sense of kinship with fellow eventers, whether at the Beginner Novice level or the CCI5* level, and to do all this in a safe, learning environment,” noted Whitehouse. “It was an enormous undertaking but I am happy to say that I think we achieved this goal.”

Sher Schwartz and Jamocean won the Novice Championship at the 2004 AEC. USEA Archives Photo.
Sher Schwartz and Jamocean winners of the Novice Championship at the 2004 AEC. USEA Archives Photo.

From its inception the event grew and evolved and in 2006 the Beginner Novice division was introduced to the annual competition allowing for more riders to experience the excitement of a year-end competition. As opposed to hosting another elite event for the smallest percentage of the eventing community, the USEA continued to make adjustments, add new divisions, and create more opportunities in an effort to make the sport more inclusive. In 2007, the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championships were held in conjunction with the AEC for the first time. The following year two of the newest divisions added to the competition, the Junior Beginner Novice and Junior Novice, saw the greatest turnout both with 42 starters. The Junior Beginner Novice division and a Junior Beginner Novice Under 14 division were added in 2013 to help foster a fair yet competitive competition scene for young eventers, while the USEA Adult Team Championships was hosted for the first time the following year. In 2021 the event made history with 1200 entries and just under 1000 starters, making it the biggest event in North American history.

The event has been hosted in seven of the ten areas in the United States in order to give riders from all over the country a chance to experience the event without having to travel extensively each year. It’s first home wasNorth Carolina, Area II, where it remained for the first three years before moving to Illinois in Area IV. Georgia - Area III, Texas - Area V, Colorado - Area IX, Kentucky - Area VIII, and now Montana in Area VII all had the opportunity to host the event. With every effort made to make the event as inclusive as possible and accessible for those traveling from far and wide to attend, the USEA has big plans to open up even more opportunities for those to come to the USEA AEC.

“Since I joined the USEA staff nine years ago, the AEC has created some of my best memories in the sport,” said current USEA CEO Rob Burk. “It has grown into a true championship for the grassroots of eventing. Based on what the USEA Board of Governors and other leaders first envisioned the AEC to become at its inception, I truly believe what we have today is in line with their goals. Thanks to the hard work of the USEA staff, especially Kate Lokey, the host facilities and organizers, volunteers, sponsors, and many others the AEC continues to improve. In the future, as others have suggested, I think the USEA Board of Governors and the USEA Foundation should consider ways to offer travel grants to competitors to ease access from all over the country. Additionally, research has shown that the location of the AEC has an overall positive impact on the number of riders competing in those Areas. I want to continue to measure that impact to make sure it holds true, and that the AEC is not a burden on other USEA and USEF events.”

With one eye on the current state of the organization and one firmly locked on the future, the governing body and members of the USEA are fixated on continuing to grow and improve the annual championships to match the goals, needs, and desires of the competitors.

Whitehouse concluded stating, "Rebecca Farm is poised to continue the tradition and is looking forward to welcoming qualified horses and riders from all over the US and Canada to participate in this festival of Eventing at the gateway to Glacier National Park. The Rebecca Farm Team from the Broussard family, the course designer and course builders, the staff and volunteers is committed to giving horses and riders an experience they will always remember in one of the best facilities anywhere in the world.”

In 2023 and 2024, the AEC will return to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

Learn more about the AEC here.

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