Aug 05, 2019

The Road to AEC: Destined for Eventing

Xpress Foto Photo courtesy of Emma Hilt.

I am 17 years old and have been riding for nine years. When I started asking to ride horses, I had no idea my mom had a horse in high school and competed in dressage. Naturally, she wanted me to ride dressage too. In one of my flat lessons, I could not get the horse to the arena rail and jumped a little 2-foot vertical. The rest is history.

Over the next five years, I was riding in the Starter, Beginner Novice, and Novice divisions in all the local shows at The Kentucky Horse Park. Until I was about 12, I rode and competed on lesson ponies. By that time I was 5’7" and I needed to move on to a horse.

I met my horse about four years ago when I was 13 years old and he was a 4-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) from New York. He was let down at Blackwood Stables in Versailles, Kentucky. At the time, I was leasing a chestnut Trakehner cross named Strider. We were running Novice and the owner decided to sell him. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford to buy him so I was out of a horse.

My mom had just been given a steel grey 4-year-old OTTB named Johnny. His Jockey Club name is John Bailey. We decided to keep his name Johnny and my mom gave him the show name The Blues Man. My mom is an Alan Jackson fan and loves his rendition of The Blues Man. My mom's plan was for Johnny to be her dressage horse. However, she decided she would let me take lessons on him here and there until we found me a new horse to lease.

The day after Christmas, we started him over cross rails to see how he would do and he loved it. Unfortunately, my mom fell off of Johnny and couldn’t ride for six weeks so she gave me the ride until she could get back on. By the time my mom could ride again, Johnny had become my new event horse.

We went to his first horse show at Spring Bay Horse Trials where we competed in the Starter division and placed ninth. In the last four years, we have moved up through the levels and are currently at the Training level with plans to move up to Preliminary within the next year!

As a 4-year-old, Johnny was super calm and level-headed most of the time and had little, if any, personality. He was definitely not the type of horse that would want to be cuddled. As he has gotten older and fitter, he has become super playful, sassy, and cocky. He even loves to cuddle. He is so playful that we have even hung baby toys outside of his stall to occupy him while he is inside. When we stable at shows the baby toys travel with him. He loves to be scratched or curried and sometimes he will even fall asleep. Johnny is known to many as the nicest jerk, which pretty much sums him up. We love him dearly and all of his quirks. He loves his job, and it shows in every phase, even in the dressage ring. In our off-season, our favorite thing to do is go on bareback hacks with my two dogs, Simon and Grace.

Johnny has taught me so much about bringing up a young horse, and it will help me with all future horses that I ride. I am so excited that the AEC is right in my backyard this year and cannot wait to compete in the Training Championships! Best of luck to everyone!

About the USEA American Eventing Championships

The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) 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. The 2019 USEA American Eventing Championships will be held August 27-September 1, 2019 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.

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