Aug 21, 2021

The Road to AEC: A Little Kid, A Talented Pony, and a Big Dream

Alli Gill and Teagan. Photos Courtesy of Alli Gill

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.

Dec 07, 2022 Convention

Meet Your USEA Board of Governors

During the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention, there will be two meetings of the USEA Board of Governors (BOG), one on Thursday, December 8th from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and one on Sunday, December 11th from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The USEA is run by a BOG of around twenty individuals. These individuals discuss and vote on important matters related to the organization and its members. BOG members come from all over our ten USEA areas and come from various backgrounds from grooms, to professional riders, to amateurs, to course designers, and much more. Each BOG member serves a three-year term.

Dec 07, 2022 Convention

Fast Facts: 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention

USEA members from near and far are getting ready to converge on the historic city of Savannah, Georgia this week for the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention! With four full days jam-packed with educational seminars, committee meetings and social gatherings, the convention is sure to excite all members of the eventing community that will be in attendance. The USEA Annual Meeting & Convention will be hosted at the Hyatt Regency Savannah Hotel this year, and we have all of the information you need to know to make the most of your experience!

Dec 06, 2022

The Business Toolkit for Eventers

As USEA members prepare for the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention, the USEA is pleased to share “The Business Toolkit For Eventers” from our educational partner STRIDER. This webinar is part of their popular Professional Development Series for Equestrians, which features experts from across the horse industry speaking on business topics relevant to equestrian sport.

Dec 06, 2022 Young Event Horse

Get to Know the 2022 Holekamp/Turner Grant Recipient: HSH Blake

If you look at HSH Blake’s competition record, it won’t take you long to understand why Caroline Martin is dreaming big with the7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. Owned in partnership by Caroline Martin, Sherrie Martin and Molly Hoff, HSH Blake (Tolan R x Doughiska Lass) has already seen much success in his short career, collecting the championship title at the 2020 Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse East Coast 5-Year-Old Championship, several top 2 finishes at the CCI2* level and multiple top 10 finishes at the CCI3* level since stepping up this year.

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