Aug 25, 2019

The Road to AEC: My Safe Haven

Hendrix and Kelly happy to have found their home in eventer world. Jamie Allison Photo.

I can honestly say I never thought I would compete at the AEC. I started my eventing career as a hunter reject with a little quarter horse named Hendrix, who I was told was too ugly to be a hunter. After never feeling like I really fit in in the hunter world, I moved barns and found my safe haven, eventing. In eventing, I wasn’t told my horse was useless or my thighs were too big. I was told we belong. Even if we weren’t winning at recognized events or mini-trials, I still had fun and didn’t feel like I was wasting my time. After seeing that competitive riding could be supportive and enjoyable, I fell in love with the eventing. Even if I was little anxious jumping those solid jumps.

My husband started riding and since Hendrix is the perfect teacher, quiet enough to be safe but spunky enough to be fun. I decided I wanted to get another horse that could more easily move up the levels. Hendrix is a superstar packer but his conformation limits him a bit. I ended up getting a 4-year-old Thoroughbred who I named Jude. His quiet demeanor is what really drew me to him. When I went to try him, it was a cold spring day and two other horses were being lunged in the arena. Even with whips cracking and horses bucking, Jude toted me around the ring like an old lesson horse. Again, I didn’t necessarily get the flashiest horse, but I got one with a good brain, in my price range who I thought I could maybe go Training level in the future if I got super ambitious.

Being an adult amateur, I don’t always have the time I would like to put into training. Between some long days at work, keeping up with my non-horsey friends, and just general life it’s sometimes hard to make time to train and show to the degree I would like to. I can’t always take days off in the week to make it to a recognized event or get to the barn before 8:00 p.m. to get in a good training ride. Between that and natural ability I often feel like I’m not as good as the other women on my team. A lot of these girls are so incredibly talented with flashy horses and the time to train. I feel like that middle of the pack rider who’s happy to just hack around and spend time with her horse. Plus, Jude was young and I still consider myself green when it comes to working with young horses, so I wanted to take things slow.

Our first blue ribbon together, my first blue ribbon ever at a recognized event, and Jude's first recognized Beginner Novice event. Rowan Myatt Photo.

But then things started to change. Jude was growing up and becoming more athletic. I switched barns, moving to a facility where my trainer and teammates would be, which motivated me to make the time to train and not just hack. At this time, I didn’t even know what the AEC was or that it was going to be at the Kentucky Horse Park, which is only a five hour drive away. But a friend told me since I had a winning ride at the Flying Cross Horse Trials at the end of 2018, I already had met one of the requirements. Flying Cross had been Jude’s first recognized event at Beginner Novice at which he saw his first down bank ever and first real ditch but he jumped them both like he had been doing it his whole life! So, after a clear show at the May Daze Horse Trials, I needed one more recognized event. We were rained out at one show, so I was thinking that this wasn’t going to happen.

But then came the South Farm Horse Trials. South Farm is a great venue if you ever have the chance to show there! Everyone is so friendly and kind and it just feels like coming home. Again, I was worried with the weather that cross-country might be rained out and I wouldn’t have the chance to get that last qualifying ride. But I lucked out and the sun was shining for the majority of the week before and at the event itself! Jude put in a great dressage test, forward and fun cross-country run, and a good show jumping round with one unlucky rail that put us in fourth. But it was the show I needed to qualify! Now, Jude and I are headed for the AEC in August. I’m honestly just excited to be there. I want to go, have fun, and meet new people in this great sport of eventing.

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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