Aug 16, 2019

The Road to AEC: Getting to Know Each Other

Xpress Foto Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Ortiz.

In 2017, I started what was a year-long search to find that perfect eventing horse. I stumbled upon a sale ad for a beautiful (what looked like an Irish Sport Horse) eventer who had successfully competed through Training level. This horse was only about four hours from home and was also well-known by many people in our area. The next thing I knew, on October 27, I was traveling down to Elizabeth, Illinois to have a test ride on “The Chief.”

We showed up to a beautiful private barn that had an equally amazing cross-country course. During my test ride, I had the special privilege to school him over a lot of cross-country questions. He was very forward, which I was not used to at all. In my head, all I was thinking was, “We are not buying this horse, he’s way too much for me.” But my trainer had different thoughts. She told me that I wouldn’t find a better horse to learn on and I would be making a big mistake passing him up. Lo and behold, he was on the trailer to receive a pre-purchase exam, and then he was on the way to his new home.

Our first show together was the Wayne Eventing Derby in April 2018 to get us ready for our upcoming summer of horse trials. We received a 39.4 on our dressage score at the Beginner Novice level. We had one clean jumper round and time faults in our second jump round. I came off a little nervous for the rest of the show season, even though looking back now I realize this was just the beginning for us as a team. We were still figuring each other out.

Xpress Foto Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Ortiz.

We competed next at Silverwood Summer Horse Trials in the Beginner Novice division. Our dressage score improved significantly, where we scored a 26.7! We then went to have double clear show jumping and cross-country rounds, which had us winning our very first horse trials ever! This was also our first AEC qualification. I was overly excited about this major accomplishment and truly knew now why my trainer told me that I would be making a mistake passing up this amazing eventer.

We completed one more horse trial at the Beginner Novice level where I accidentally entered myself in the Open division instead of the Junior division. We held our own and ended up finishing eighth at the beautiful Otter Creek Farm. This has been our favorite venue of all time!

It was time for our big Novice move up now at the Silverwood Farm Horse Trials. We put in a stellar dressage round scoring a 28.8, a double clear cross-country round and an unfortunate rail in show jumping. The Chief and I had just finished our move-up to Novice, ending in second! We had just qualified for the AEC, again!

We’ve had a successful Novice season, finishing second place at the Otter Creek Fall Horse Trials and finishing in seventh place at the Sundance Farm Horse Trials, all in 2018. In 2019, we finished second at the Novice level at Wayne Eventing Derby, also winning the Pony Club award. We finished fourth on our dressage score at the Fox River Valley Horse Trials at Novice in June.

Bonnie Bowman competing The Chief at Otter Creek. Xpress Foto Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Ortiz.

My trainer and I had decided that it was now time for our big Training move-up! I had her take The Chief around the Training at the Otter Creek Spring Horse Trials where they finished third. My Training move-up was at the beautiful yet challenging Kentucky Horse Park in preparation for competing at the AEC. This move-up was definitely our most difficult ride yet. We had three unfortunate refusals on cross-country, all due to my lack of confidence with challenging combinations. My only goal was to complete the horse trials, and we did. We ended up placing 15th out of 19. I learned a lot of lessons from that show, and it fueled my drive more to keep facing challenges and get better.

Our most recent competition, we traveled down to Indiana to compete at the Penny Oaks Horse Trials at Training level once again. We put in a decent dressage test scoring a 35.0, as well as double clear show jumping and cross-country rounds in the scorching heat. This was a huge improvement for us as a team as we finished on our dressage score and ended up finishing in third place overall.

As I continue to grow as a rider with The Chief, my appreciation for him grows every day. The bond that I have created with him and all of the challenges and obstacles we have accomplished in under two years continues to grow. The Chief has such heart and fight for the sport of eventing and this has really helped me gain the confidence that I lack when it comes to cross-country. The AEC wasn’t even one of my goals to compete at, but qualifying for this event has set my goals even further and help me realize what an amazing team we have become.

Megan Waelti (left), Bonnie Bowman (center), and Gabrielle Ortiz (right). Lisa Grunewald Photo.

Many people have played a role in my journey to the AEC, from my everyday trainer, Bonnie Bowman, to my fill-in trainers. My parents, Tim and Annette Trenkle, who have supported me in this sport. Many clinicians who have given me valuable lessons and tools that I use on an everyday basis. Also my barn friends at Hidden View Farm that I see every day who encourage me to ride. My Bowman Sport Horse team who videos every ride, takes pictures, and supports me and cheers the loudest for me. Megan Waelti, who is on the Bowman Sport Horse team, who has acted as a big sister to me, taking me to horse events that my parents weren’t able to be at and being one of my biggest mentors. Stephanie Thomas and Mike French, who were The Chief's previous owners, continue to support us by sending us good luck texts - after all, they created the amazing eventer that is now mine. These people are my support group, my morale boosters, my cheerleaders, but most importantly my family. I am overly excited to compete at the Kentucky Horse Park at the AEC at the Novice level with the best horse any rider could ask for and my family.

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.

May 25, 2020 Association News

USEA Podcast #258: Getting Back to Business

We've been riding the "corona-coaster" for several weeks now, but with the hopeful return to competition on the horizon, Nicole Brown checks in with USEA CEO Rob Burk, USEA President Max Corcoran, and Chair of the FEI Eventing Committee David O'Connor for an update on what things will look like as we get back to business.

May 24, 2020 Education

Grid Pro Quo with Andrea Pfeiffer

Like most professionals, I tend to do gridwork for most of the winter, before transitioning to coursework through the competition season. I find this exercise to be a good middle ground exercise as you have a little bit of a gymnastic combined with two easy bending exercises to set you up well for doing courses.

May 23, 2020 Classic Series

Memories from the Vet Box with Stephen Bradley

In 1993, Stephen Bradley had something to prove. It was the year after the Barcelona Olympic Games where Bradley had two unexpected refusals at the water complex. “It was very disappointing and a huge learning curve for me,” said Bradley. Little did he know, his path to redemption would result in winning the Burghley Horse Trials CCI4* (now CCI5*-L) – a victory so great that only two Americans have achieved: Bruce Davidson Sr. in 1974 and Bradley in 1993.

May 22, 2020 Rules

USEF Approves COVID-19 Rule Modifications for 2020

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has approved additional modifications to the USEF Rules For Eventing in accordance with a resolution approved by the Board of Directors to address issues related to the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The full listing of rule modifications related to COVID-19 impacts can be viewed by clicking here.

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