AEC: American Eventing Championships

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Today I got home from my first week of work with the US Eventing Association. The office is in Leesburg, Virginia, but I spent my first day flying to Tyler, Texas for the American Eventing Championships. The USEA hosts the event, which means they send employees to do basically anything any everything. Starting the week of AEC is what USEA President Diane Pitts called, “Trial By Fire.” I’m going to share the highlights of the trip. Fun fact about the picture above. Leslie loved this pic of Buck and wanted to use it for the programs, name badges, etc., but there was a flagpole going through his leg. Leslie ended up using Buck’s leg from another picture and photoshopping it onto this one.

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USEA Staff. 

I met all of my coworkers for the first time in the impressively small airport of Tyler. Calling it an airport would be generous considering it is two rooms connected by a security hallway. So I meet up with Leslie, who is in media with me, and Kate, who manages USEA programs. We roll our luggage out to find a little two door economy car that frankly wouldn’t work. So after a little negotiating we left the airport in a very nice Jeep.

Leslie is officially the editor of the magazine, but as she has waited for me to claim my new position, she has been tackling all of my responsibilities on top of hers. She has been working so hard, so I’m looking forward to lightening her load. She told me the day I accepted the position she pulled out a notepad and labeled it the “Shelby List.” Every time she’s done something that doesn’t fall under her realm of responsibilities, she adds it to the Shelby List. She was a great teacher this week, and let me take on a lot of responsibility even if I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing. I even took photos and added wrote some stories for the website.

I spent the first two working days hanging banners. Monday Leslie, Kate and I went through over 800 zip ties attaching banners around the show grounds. Tuesday we polished my power tool proficiency by drilling banners all over cross country fences. I think the heat exhaustion was getting to us because by the end of the afternoon Leslie nearly hole in her finger. After this – and repeated failures to hang a Standlee banner – we gave up and reduced ourselves to begging the course builders to help us. (Which they did – Justin and Rob were awesome!!).

Tyler, TX is a rather small, rural town. Some may say it doesn’t have very much to offer, and they would be correct. Our hotel was actually in Lindale, TX, an even smaller town. Lindale is also the hometown of Miranda Lambert – somehow the USEA staff left visiting the Pink Pistol, a store dedicated to selling Miranda Lambert products including her own wine. Our hotel sits right next to a Mexican restaurant called Posados, which is regionally famous because people travel all the way from Tyler to eat here.

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Photo via the USeventing Snapchat. 

One huge highlight was that someone brought their pig to watch the cross-country action. The pigs name was Odie. He acted just like a dog and even went to play in the water jump between divisions. Capt. Mark Phillips also loved him which was hilarious, he was so excited to see him and snapped a few pictures on his phone. Another hilarious thing about Mark Phillips is that he’s a master Candy Crush player. I caught him playing a few times this weekend on his iPad.

I also saw some great rides this weekend. Caroline Martin was the only rider to make it around the advanced course within the time, and she didn’t user her watch. The overall winner for the weekend was 21 year-old Jacob Fletcher on his family owned Atlantic Domino. Jacob, being a southern gentleman, refers to Buck Davisonson as “Mr. Buck,” which was the most adorable hilarious thing ever. When Leslie Wylie of Eventing Nation asked Jacob what he was going to do with the “Fat Stacks” he won, Jacob responded that he plans to invest it. How responsible. Also I want to add a thank you shout out to Leslie Wylie! She was awesome company this week, and shared her birthday with us in the media center (I know there was no place she’d rather spend her bday than the AEC). She rolled in with mimosas for everyone! She also gave USEA more than a few honorable mentions on Eventing Nation. She also left us with Cupcakes on Sunday when she left – Thanks Leslie!

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Jacob also showed off his impressive helmet hair after his win. 

Just from my short time with the USEA I learned two important things: We know how to keep volunteers/staff happy and we throw one hell of a party. Unlike stories I’ve heard of media/volunteers at horse trials, the food was plentiful. I am definitely leaving Texas heavier than I came, but it showed me that the organization wanted everyone putting on the weekend to be full and happy. The competitor’s party Saturday was proof of our “honky tonk” skills. Every table was filled with people. There was a band, plentiful adult beverages, and even a mechanical bull (which I took a turn on!). Jacob’s crew kept the party going until the very end, and once they were finished popping bottles to celebrate his win, they tore it up on the dance floor. Area V knows how to party!

My experience in Texas showed me just how difficult it is to put on a horse trial. I never realized all the pieces necessary to complete this puzzle that is a successful horse show. I have volunteered at events before, but still didn’t realize how much blood, sweat and tears that organizers, officials and volunteers put in to pull it off! Seriously y’all, go volunteer at an event! So much happens behind the scenes to make the experiences perfect for competitors.

By the end of the week we were delirious. Proof is that Sunday night after the last day of competition we all posed for a picture with a dead cockroach in the elevator… Also Kate’s hand may be blocking the cockroach, but we swear were not that crazy it was there.

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This week has left me very tired, but also super excited to actually get started with my job. I gave the USEA a snapchat (Add us at USeventing), learned how to add to/edit the website, and began my media career with USEA. My boss, Rob, was great! He sets the example because he worked so hard all week and did it all with a smile. Of course the other staffers were amazing too – I’m lucky to be working with a great group! At times this event was American Eventing Chaos, but overall it was a huge success. There’s no better way to get a feel for things than to dive right in.  I truly had a great time this week, and I think I survived my “trial by fire.” I’m moving to Virginia this Saturday and will start in the office next Monday. Thankfully I will return to come get Justin two weeks after I move :).

Yall can follow the social media pages I will manage if you’re interested:

Facebook, Instagram

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