Ultimately I guess you could say my journey to the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (AEC) began when I was 6 years old. Like so many horse-crazy kids, I started taking lessons at a local hunter barn, and I fell in love with riding. When I was 8 years old, my family (who are novice horse people) decided that it was time to find me a pony of my own. We searched for a year and a half and finally stumbled upon a bay mare named Teagan while on a family vacation in the Smoky Mountains. At the time Teagan was a 9-year-old Chincoteague pony mare. Like me, Teagan didn’t know a lot, but she was the right size and age and she was safe for me to ride and learn on. With my trainer, we did lots of basic flatwork including straight lines, circles, transitions, and jumping. We entered some local schooling hunter shows and schooling combined test shows. We also started fox hunting with a local fox hunt club, and Teagan and I were having a lot of fun.
In April of 2018, I attended the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event (LRK3DE), and I saw a couple of cross-country jumps that looked like my level (which at the time was equivalent to Starter/Beginner Novice). I asked around and found out that there are shows other than the LRK3DE held at the Kentucky Horse Park. This was when I found out there was an entire U.S. Eventing organization with recognized shows and roadmaps to progression in eventing. I was so excited and worked with my trainer to develop a 14-month training and local showing schedule to get ready to attend Champagne Run at the Park in July 2019. Teagan and I worked harder than ever and finally made the long journey to the Kentucky Horse Park to compete. I had no idea what to expect and was happy to have just arrived at the park with my little backyard Chincoteague pony. Much to my surprise and excitement, I placed fifth in a field of 15 junior riders.
Upon returning from this show, I started taking eventing more seriously as I realized that this is what I really wanted to focus my riding on. I moved my pony to an eventing barn and learned so much more about eventing and even joined the local Pony Club. Within three months, I had my first Pony Club ratings and attended my first Pony Club Rally at Fleur De Leap as a Beginner Novice rider. Teagan and I placed first! While coming out of show jumping, my trainer told me I had just qualified for AEC and I replied “What is that?"
I spent the next year working harder than ever to prepare. Even through the shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to train and ride at our barn in shifts. During the summer as things started to open back up, and following strict COVID-19 guidelines, we were able to attend a couple of shows at Texas Rose and Poplar Place. There was so much uncertainty going on with Covid and I was so excited when the registration window opened for AEC 2020 - we were going to the Kentucky Horse Park to ride in the biggest event in North America. One evening in late July at Eventing Camp with my barn mates, I received the news that AEC was canceled, I was devastated!
However, I saw the positive and built a new strategy - continue to train, work hard, and improve, and come back the next year stronger. Our next show was at Fleur De Leap in September 2020 and we moved up to Novice at this show. I placed first, ending on my dressage score. We were now qualified for the Junior Novice Division at AEC 2021. We have continued to train and focus on our dressage this year and attended a few more shows this spring to finish our qualification criteria. Looking back at AEC 2020 being canceled, I see now that it was a blessing for us because we have had so much time to work on improving our dressage and jumping strategies.
I am so proud of how much my pony has improved and I have loved every second of our journey together. We are so excited to attend AEC 2021. It still amazes me how far a little kid with a talented pony and a big dream can go.
Kentucky here we come!
About the USEA American Eventing Championships
The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds is the pinnacle of the sport for the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Beginner Novice to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of horses and riders from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. In fact, the 2019 AEC garnered over 1,000 entries and took place with 925 starters, now standing as the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2021 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held August 31 – September 5 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.
The USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is an educational tool that was developed over the course of two years and is loaded with materials and resources targeted for all levels of eventing professionals, instructors, and coaches.
The USEA Future Event Horse Program (FEH) was introduced in 2007 to evaluate yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds for their suitability for the sport of eventing based on conformation and type. The FEH program also created a pipeline for horses to gain experience competing before attending USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) competitions.
The key to eventing’s success lies heavily in the organizers who put on our events. The USEA is proud to recognize each year the organizers who have made contributions to the sport through their organizational efforts. For 2021, the USEA Organizers Appreciation Honor Roll of Names honors nearly 200 organizers for five to 25+ years of service. The Blue Ribbon is awarded to those organizers with five to nine years of service, the Bronze Medal recognizes organizers with 10-14 years of service, organizers who have contributed 15-19 years of service are awarded the Silver Medal, those with 20-24 years of service will receive the Gold Medal, and a select few with 25 years or more of service as organizers are bestowed the title of Platinum Medal organizers.
The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is pleased to announce the members of its newly populated Eventing Elite Program Task Force. These respected members of the Eventing community have proven expertise in sport on a global level within their respective roles and represent a diverse constituency of athletes, owners, coaches, licensed officials, governance leadership, and team support personnel.