For more than 20 years The Chronicle of the Horse/U.S. Eventing Association Adult Team Challenge has given adult riders the chance to participate in a friendly team competition across the country.
But the program had a weakness that couldn’t be overcome through small tweaks by the USEA Adult Rider Committee: geography. Although the three ATCs—Eastern, Central and Western—changed location each year, the Adult Rider Committee saw that participation from each USEA Area varied greatly depending on location. If the Eastern ATC took place in South Carolina, then riders from Area III would attend but not from Area 1, and so on.
So, after much discussion, a different model for the ATCs was passed at the August meeting of the USEA Board of Governors. In 2014, a new national team championship will take place alongside the Nutrena/USEA American Eventing Championships in Tyler, Texas. Each Area will have the responsibility to qualify as many as eight teams and send them to the national competition.
USEA Vice President of Area Affairs Lou Leslie said this new team system should give adult riders the best of both worlds. Those who don’t want to travel will have the opportunity to participate in a local Area team competition each year. And for those who want to go to the AECs but can’t get qualified or afford to attend, then they’ll have additional opportunities.
And it will accomplish another USEA goal for the AECs: making it into an even bigger eventing celebration.
“The average adult amateur shows two times per year at novice,” said Leslie. “It doesn’t provide for the opportunity for them to go play in the big time. By having the team challenge, they have the opportunity to go to the AECs and compete, the opportunity to go play with the big boys.”
Riders may not ride the same horse in the AECs and the national team championship, but they could bring two different horses to do both competitions.
Areas may also be able to provide their team riders with financial assistance.
“If you have an adult amateur or individual qualify for AECs, no way [can the Area] support an individual,” said Leslie. “The adult rider group can’t give money to an individual to chase their dreams, but we can support teams.”
Leslie said there was 100 percent approval for the concept in the Adult Rider Committee, 90 percent approval from the Area chairs, and it passed by 94 percent at the BOG.
However, ironing out the details for team selection from each Area is still on the agenda for the December annual meeting. It may not be practical for riders from Area IX, where the total USEA membership is 250, to use an Area team competition to qualify. That Area may not even be able to send full teams, but they may be able to mix with riders from other Areas. But in Area II, the team challenge concept is very popular, and that competition could easily work as a selection trial to send eight teams to the national championship.
“I see this as a positive thing,” said Adult Rider Committee chairman Cindy DePorter. “People have an opportunity on an Area level and then an opportunity to take it to the AECs. To me the AECs are a showcase for this group. This is our place to go and shine, our place to meet a lot of new people, have a lot of fun, be competitive, and get some recognition for what we do as an adult. We feel like sometimes we get lost in the mix.”