So here I am, getting tucked into bed the evening of my first day at the American Eventing Championships. This is a wholly new experience for me, never having been to a championship event, and a new experience for the US Eventing Association. Not only is this a new, unseasoned eventing venue in general, coming attached to the pursestrings of some much discussed political characters, but it also happens to be a record setting debut- at over 700 competitors, this event marks the biggest in US Eventing history.
Because of all this novelty, both personally and as an organization, it’s a little difficult to compare to AECs of the past. But one thing is exceptionally obvious, and that is that this event is very…. pretty.
Don’t get me wrong, pretty is nice. Dressage is pretty. Hunters are pretty. But something about seeing an event be so gosh-darned-beautiful is just… odd. The fences are beautiful works of art, the lawns manicured to the nth degree. The water complex sports a jumbotron as its centerpiece. Hell, they served baked brie and beef wellington at the welcome party.
But when I think of this sport, I tend to think of the grit, and the sweat, and the tears, and the adrenaline of two hearts pumping as they race across the country. I think eventers are known for embracing a Get ‘Er Done attitude that sometimes doesn’t come across with the grace the other disciplines so easily assume.
Does this AEC version of eventing still jive with the “eventing culture” (described from my own biased view)? Can eventing be made pretty like some of the more popular [sponsored] disciplines and still retain its heart and soul? For those non-eventers, would you consider eventing if it more resembled the format (cross country derby style) presented in the Wellington eventing showcase? For the eventers out there- would you stay if cross country took on a slightly more technical, and less sprawling and terrain inspired approach? Weigh in!