Another American Eventing Championships (AEC) has come and gone, and I’m very thankful to say I’m a back-to-back survivor. It is a really special week – the Championships for the national levels, and this year was a bit different as it was hosted by the Tryon International Equestrian Center.
Tryon is not without its faults, and there were some legitimate concerns with the facility beforehand, but they did succeed in making this year’s championships something very special. Besides the word-class amenities (permanent air conditioned bathrooms everywhere, praise!), the venue provided a competition atmosphere that I don’t think many eventers have experienced before. It amped up the environment, and in turn I think amped up the competition.
AEC is for many riders a representation of months and years of hard work paying off, and that’s what I love about it. There are always unexpected champions, tear-jerking stories of success and above all a celebration of eventing and our shared love of horses.
I photographed cross-country on Friday, and for a good part of the day deliberately positioned myself where I could see the finish flags. I can’t even count how many shouts of success, hugs, pats and celebrations I witnessed. It was awesome.
I also decided that the Master Amateur divisions are my people. Enjoying their horses is their horses is paramount, and they are happy no matter what – I love them, and I aspire to be more like them. Like Suzzane Murray, who never ran out of words to describe her love for her horse.
And it was awesome to see them named reserve champions 🙂
AEC was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. I think every single USEA staffer was reduced to tears at some point. Covering 18 divisions over 5 days of competition may be a bit much for two people to tackle, but getting to watch the smiles and successes makes it worth it.