Aug 27, 2022

The Road to the AEC: Heather Norman is Grabbing Opportunities

Photo courtesy of Heather Norman

Sometimes rare opportunities present themselves and initially you think, there’s no way I can make this happen. But when you have an incredible team behind you pushing you to reach your goals, assuring you that you CAN do it, you realize those opportunities are indeed possible.

As an adult amateur living in Atlanta, Georgia, I never imagined I would be able to travel to Montana to the gorgeous Rebecca Farm to compete in the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (AEC). However; last summer my incredible coaches from Go With It Farm, Halliea Milner and Meg Bowers, said that if we wanted to make it happen, they would get us there.

And that they did! Not just for me – our farm proudly has six riders making the trip to compete.

These amazing ladies created a year-long plan of competitions, clinics, camps, and specialized lesson programs for all of their students who strived to qualify and compete in Montana. They have worked as hard (and many times harder!) than I have to help me reach my goals in every aspect of my riding. Their highest priority is of course the health of our horses. Their Road to AEC plan also included a comprehensive health and physical wellness program for all of our equine partners, from daily supplements to periodic veterinarian exams, to chiropractic and bodywork. I know my fellow adult riders can agree that we definitely pamper our horses more than we do ourselves!

To begin my road to the AEC, I spent the earlier part of this year campaigning my fabulous KWPN gelding, Faldeus (barn name Mr. Fox). Mr. Fox is one of the coolest horses I have ever had the pleasure of coming across. He is a 17-hand, striking chromey chestnut. I will admit when I first saw him in person I was quite intimidated by his size. But once I sat on him and looked through his perfectly floppy ears, I was in love. He is a hard-working, athletic, talented teacher with a fabulous goofball side to his personality. I consider myself quite lucky to have found such a perfect partner.

True to his form, he came through for me at our competitions this spring and summer and we celebrated all the hard work we had put in together with qualifying runs at Jumping Branch Farm, River Glen, and Poplar Place Farm. Competing in the Area III Championships at Stableview was a wonderful added bonus!

But Mr. Fox isn’t my only horse. I purchased Full Gallop’s Dolce after my “return to riding” as happens with so many of us adult amateurs. I had ridden all through my teen years but had to put riding on the back burner after college as the realities of adulting took hold. After a break of about 15 years, I decided to get back in the saddle.

And, as we all know all too well, once you get back in the saddle, you’re there forever!

Dolce is the quintessential “little bay mare” with the attitude and drive to eat up a cross-country course and make it the most fun you’ve ever had doing it! We competed together for a few years and was the perfect teacher for me to get back into the swing of competing. When I decided one horse just wasn’t enough and purchased Mr. Fox, I decided to lease her out to some other riders in our program so that she could continue to teach others the ropes of cross-country.

Fast forward a bit to the beginning of August when the young rider to whom I lease Dolce was sadly unable to make her AEC trip this year. My trainer, Halliea, approached me with the news and I was understandably disappointed for this hard-working kid. But then she asked, “So, do you want to take Dolce?” Another rare opportunity! Together with my coaches, I have spent the past three weeks riding and competing both horses to get all three of us ready for the trip of a lifetime.

Then came opportunity number three - the chance to be a member of the Area III Team for the Adult Team Challenge (ATC). I feel extremely honored to be able to ride alongside the other super talented adult riders from Area III. I promise to do my best to show off what we southern ladies can do! Thank you to the AEC organizers, the Area III Adult Rider Program for their generous scholarship and support, and the challenge sponsors for all they have done to make the ATC possible.

This is true in all facets of life, but most especially in horses…the future is unpredictable. Grab the opportunities that you can, when you can.

Have an incredible and supportive team behind you to help you reach those goals and believe in your horses, they will get you there.

About the USEA American Eventing Championships

The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds is the pinnacle of the sport at 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 2021 AEC garnered over 1,000 entries and now stands as the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held August 31 – September 4 at the beautiful Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.

The USEA would like to thank Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles Gold Level Sponsors: Parker Equine Insurance, Smartpak, Capital Square, Standlee; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, Mountain Horse, The Jockey Club, Kerrits; Bronze Level Sponsors: Athletux, The Chronicle of the Horse, Dubarry of Ireland, FITS Riding, Equilume, Devoucoux, Fifth Third Bank, Gallops Saddlery, D.G. Stackhouse & Ellis, Clark Nissan; Contributing Level Sponsors: CrossCountry App, WeRideTogether, Haygain, First Interstate Bank, Schellinger Construction, Glacier Bank, Animal Health Solutions Inc., Discover Kalispell; Prize Level Sponsors: Vet Blue, Practical Horseman, Hound & Hare, Strides of Equality Equestrians, Horse & Country TV, Bemer Independent Distributors, Freelance Design, Achieve Equine/FLAIR, Flexible Fit Equestrian USA, and more! ATC Sponsors:

The Chronicle of the Horse, FITS Riding, Nutrena Feeds, SmartPak, Achieve Equine/FLAIR, Kerrits, and Horse & Country TV

About the Adult Team Championships

The USEA Adult Team Challenges have been generously sponsored by The Chronicle of the Horse for more than 20 years. The Challenges have given adult riders a chance to compete in a friendly team competition. For many years, the Challenges were held annually in different locations (Eastern, Central, and Western) around the United States, but in an effort to re-energize the program, the membership of the USEA voted to change the overall model of the program. Starting in 2014, every Area was encouraged to hold Adult Team Challenges to offer adult riders the opportunity to compete in team competitions leading up to the USEA Adult Team Championships held at the USEA American Eventing Championships. As a result, Adult Team Challenges were no longer isolated to the three challenges around the country. Instead, there may be as many as 10 opportunities to compete in a Challenge, with a final occurring at the Adult Team Championships at the AEC!

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Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Real Estate Partner of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Competition & Training Apparel of the USEA

Official Horse Boot of the USEA