Repost, BTE 3 of 9: The AEC, a Realization in Five Phases

Continuing to post the entries from my previous monthly blogs Back To Eventing and Back To Riding. This was originally posted on the USEA website Tue, 2010-10-26, archived here.

Back To Eventing: Installment 3 – The AEC, a Realization in Five Phases
by Katherine Walcott
(The author chronicles her return to eventing after 20 years as a jumper rider)

“Have a wonderful time, and let the games begin!” Carl M. Bouckaert
Event Program, 2010 Land Rover USEA American Eventing Championships and Festival of Eventing

[For those only familiar with the short format, eventing used to have 4 phases: A – Roads & Tracks, B – Steeplechase, C – Roads & Tracks, D – Cross Country, plus until 1967, E – Run In.]

Like stout Cortez, silent, upon a peak in Darien, the author contemplates a Training level fence at the AEC. Photo by Kathie Mautner.
Like stout Cortez, silent, upon a peak in Darien, the author contemplates a Training level fence at the AEC. Photo by Kathie Mautner.

A – Roadtrip & Temptation
Since my publicly stated goal is to win the Training AEC, I went over to Georgia to scope out my future. So what did I learn?

I learned that Chattahoochee Hills is huge: six dressage rings, a stall assignment list that ran to 12 pages, and a parking lot that doubled as a horse trailer trade show. Yet, it felt neither squashed nor sprawled. The cross-country warm-up contained three stadium jumps, four permanent jumps and eight horses zooming about with plenty of room.

I learned that I am greedy. The USDF offers three medals covering First to Grand Prix. The USEA awards three medals for each level. A USDF medal represents years of work. A USEA medal could represent one good season. I believed this watered down the impact of a USEA medal, until I saw one on a friend’s lapel. I want one. I want them all.

B – Sidebar
Pause for rant.

During cross-country, it is your horse’s job to perform to the best of his ability. After cross-country, it is your turn. I do not care if it is a long walk back to the barn. He is a tired athlete, not a shuttle service to cart your sorry ass to the stable area. Get off, remove the saddle, and sponge him down, if possible. Now would be a good time to take off your helmet and vest, but I’m less concerned about you. If you don’t have helpers to carry your saddle back, carry it yourself. If you are not fit enough to do a proper job as a rider, go home and come back when you are.

Rant ends.

C – Reflection & Trepidation
I learned that competitions can be disheartening. On my last ride before leaving for Georgia, New Horse didn’t pay me the slightest attention. He only slowed down because he overshot a turn and objected to wading through tall grass. When I tried him, I had an outstanding ride that was indoors, flat, and supervised. My ring is none of the above. Intellectually, I saw daylight. Emotionally, I saw a vast distance between the cross-country in front of me and the amount of control I currently possessed.

D – Course Comments
I learned that fences have changed. Gone are the hay bales, old tires, and slender tree limbs we jumped in my youth. Today’s fences look better than my furniture. I also need to master narrow and angled fences. WEG was all about holding your line.

I learned that courses now run back and forth over open areas, which is easy to watch but hard to ride. Even with ropes, the paths crossed and riders would zip down the wrong galloping lane. Another lower level event had the same format, albeit unroped. Does compact and manageable mean we lose scenic? Doesn’t anyone canter through the woods on shady trails anymore?

E – Reaffirm Intent
Finally, I learned competitions can be invigorating. I stand by my goal of winning this sucker. As for specifying which year, I have no comment.

Rodney’s Saga Repost locations
BTE 1 of 9: How I Won the Training Level AEC
BTE 2 of 9: The Cast Assembles

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