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Tue, 2017-08-08 08:45

The Road to AEC: Overcoming My Fears

Authored By: Dawn Johnson
Photo courtesy of Dawn Johnson.

The Road to AEC is a series of articles contributed by our members about their journeys to compete in the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Tryon, N.C., August 30-September 3, 2017. 

My road to the AEC has been full of ups and downs. This time last year the AEC wasn’t even a goal I had in mind. I have had some time off in previous years due to injuries, surgeries, and a limited budget, but I was finally ready to take the plunge at Beginner Novice, even though the thought of cantering jumps still terrified me. My forties were looming in my near future and I figured it was now or never.

In the summer of 2016 my plan was to compete at my first recognized horse trial with my off-the-track Thoroughbred, Bo. Unfortunately, in July Bo started having soundness issues and would be out of commission for months to come. My trainer, Morgan Batton, graciously offered me the use of her ex-event horse, Chesterfield Pilot aka "Pilot". He has been the best teacher for helping me work on my confidence. I started riding him that August and we had our first horse trial less than a month later and got our first AEC qualifier. 

Our next event was the Oktoberfest Horse Trials at Stable View Farm. I was still struggling with my jumping fears and as I walked the cross-country course it was more intimidating than any course I had ever seen. My nerves almost got the best of me and I considered withdrawing from the competition because I wasn’t sure if I was ready. I woke up the morning of the trial with the mindset that if I could get around that course it would be the biggest accomplishment in my riding career. It must have worked, because we won our division and got our second qualifier for AEC!


Photo courtesy of Dawn Johnson.

For the winter my plan was to continue working at defeating my fears of jumping. In December I had a jumping fall and broke my collarbone that kept me from riding for several months. We focused on dressage for the first two months after I was able to start riding again. My fall did not help with my fear of jumping, but two months ago I was ready to try again. Pilot began experiencing some back trouble about a week later so we both had another month off. At this point I wasn’t sure if we would be ready in time for the AEC, but we have him comfortable again and started jumping a few weeks ago. We have our first horse trial in almost 10 months this weekend at WindRidge Farm Summer Horse Trials, just three weeks prior to the AEC. 

My family and friends are my biggest supporters. Even though my husband, Brad, doesn’t get the “horse thing,” he has been my side through it all, even when I’ve been laid up from surgery and he had to take on all the farm chores. 


Photo courtesy of Dawn Johnson.

I am very thankful I found Morgan, Pilot, and New Venture Farm. Without their guidance and encouragement I don’t think I would have ever found the courage to leap outside my comfort zone. My dreams have now become a reality. Morgan will be moving from my area in a few months to work towards her goal of competing at the four-star level. I will miss her tremendously but I’m very happy for the time I’ve spent with her and the knowledge gained. I look forward to what the future holds for both of us. 

Will I ever overcome my fears? Probably not, but that’s the driving force that keeps me going. "Scars show us where we’ve been, they do not dictate where we are going." - David Rossi

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