Anyone who knows me really knows me as the loud American.
It can’t be helped really, America is really big, like really, really big, so if you want to be heard, you better be loud.
Roughly 40 United Kingdoms fit into America, although if you google it the number varies from 31-70 so who really knows. So just imagine for a second that instead of 30 people in your section at your latest event, there are 1200.
Ok so that is an extreme comparison but the size of the eventing world in the US is just huge. As an amateur it is a dream, in the UK, to qualify for the Grassroots Championship at Badminton, which is no easy feat, especially at BE100 where you compete equally with the professionals.
In the States, they have the equivalent- The Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships, but the competition to qualify is much stiffer because of the sheer volume of people competing. However, in the States you are only competing against other amateurs, not professionals. Big difference! So why does this matter? It’s all about the vibe man.
As someone who has competed in both countries I am astounded at the difference in attitude that the eventing community has in the UK. Is it just the English and their culture of benevolence that creates a warm community or is it just because in this smaller community of riders and we are all risking life and limb for a sport we love?
Don’t get me wrong, the US has its own vibe, but one will always be a small fish in a very large pond. Although, it has to be said that I am grateful for the time I spent riding in the States as it instilled a sense of humbleness that I greatly appreciate. But here in the UK, blessed with my American sense of chasing the dream, it actually all seems possible.
I can have the career and the hobby and I don’t have to choose one over the other. If you want to make it in the UK as an amateur, all you need is a bit of time, some money, and a bit of devotion to the cause. In the States, to compete, you have to have lots of time as sometimes you would be driving 2 days just to get to an event. Think about the diesel bill! I feel spoiled for choice now! Yes there are some early mornings, especially when I owned a grey horse, but the choices of events that are within 2 hours means you can go out pretty much as often as you like.
“My name is Jo, and I am addicted to clinics”. I make no apologies for this addiction as this year I was able to train with some of the world’s top riders.
Through British Eventing and through the amazing staff at Littleton Manor in Reigate I was given first class knowledge on an economy class budget.
To have a lesson with the likes of Nick Gauntlett, Paul Tapner, and Harry Meade would be darn near impossible in the States.
And I was greedy so I had multiple lessons! These guys are the top of the field and they take a lot of time out of their season preparations to give lessons to little ol’ me.
Not only that but they were happy about it! I was quite intimidated at first but was swiftly reminded that all horses have something to give and it is about getting the best out of you and your horse. It is because of this training I had the confidence to take a step up to the BE100 level, something I had never even considered.
What I was really surprised about was the sense of comradery I felt, I knew that if I was at an event, having a panic attack about one of the cross country fences and one of these guys were there, I could go find them and they would talk me off the ledge.
I fully realise that this also may have to do with my brash sense of communication and willingness to talk to anyone who walks or rides…
So enough fan-girling over the really big question which was who was the best looking 4* rider and onto my next observation… If you build it they will come- you
Brits may have heard this famous catch phrase from a hugely popular American film, aptly named Field of Dreams, but if you haven’t then it is simple, bring good attitude and true intentions and people will join in. At every clinicsthis year I met a new group of people and every time I was surprised at how friendly everyone is in eventing. We all have our demons to overcome- horses coming of lameness, riders coming off horses, riders staying on horses but scared of coming off horses, and through each lesson we were all able to conquer such fears.
There are some great social media groups such as #twittereventing and the strength of these groups are remarkable- I have sold a horse through this particular group, I have asked numerous questions regarding health, transport, entries, you name it someone has the answer. At the beginning of this season I was about to embark on my first overnight show and without the help of one of the members, Tamsin, I think it would have been a disaster!
I’m super proud to know one of the founding members and think that this group has changed amateur eventing into a caring and supportive community where you can talk to strangers endlessly about our favourite topic…horses!
So if you’re on your way to your first event or are nervous about a course and want a bit of support, remember that we are all in this together (another American reference). And if you are about in the South East, listen out for the loud American with the gawdy American flag socks and come say hi!