The “meet cute” in romantic-comedies is a plot device used to introduce two main characters.

The circumstances of the meet cute are sometimes unusual, other times contrived, and typically funny. No matter the situation, the sole purpose is for the two main characters meet so you can get to the real story.

The story of Paul O’Shea (aka, “Coach”) and Eye Candy’s Erica Hatfield is not a love story in the traditional sense. But it has all the markings of a comedy, complete with the unexpected meet cute, hilarious antics and happy endings, not to mention a shared love of the horse. It’s safe to say, O’Shea is Eye Candy’s leading man.

Horse Network: When did you and Paul first meet?

Erica Hatfield: Coach was actually the first FEI rider I ever met! I came to Wellington and rented a small casita so I could learn what show jumping was all about. I also rented a golf cart from Devers. They gave me some International Club (VIP) tickets. To me, the Winter Equestrian Festival VIP was the fanciest horse thing I had ever seen—I didn’t know such a world of horses existed!

I was with my mother and loudly proclaimed, “Mom! We must sell all our boats and buy horses!”

Just as I said that I heard a dude with an Irish accent suggesting that if that were my plan of action, I better call him. That was Coach!

In fact, I did call him, but found him to be very snobbish with a persistent cough when I visited him at his farm. On his side, he took me as clueless and unserious, an impression I apparently manage to give a lot of people.

HN: How did the “Coach” nickname come about?

Hatfield: Coming off of my last rider, I think possibly Eye Candy did not have the best reputation. Coach didn’t want to stroll in there and slap his name on everything, he requested discretion. So we agreed I could only call him “Coach” on social media and could tell no one who this mysterious “Coach” was!

It worked well enough because we had all gone into COVID lockdown. After that it just stuck and now I feel like I cannot possibly call him anything else. It’s like calling your teacher by his or her first name—it just doesn’t seem right.

Coach is a true obsessive—everything he does is for his horses and his sport.

HN: You and Paul are opposites in a lot of ways. You have a big personality and brilliant social media presence. Paul is more reserved. Why does your partnership work so well? And will Paul ever update his IG page?

Hatfield: It may seem like Coach and I are opposites, but we’re really working as one giant “hive mind,” along with Eye Candy’s Global Director of Strategic Operations, Pauline Watterlot. All of us are completely obsessed with horses and our sport and that’s the glue that keeps us together. We all care very much about being good to our horses, having them happy, and being good to and honest with people.

As far as Instagram—it will never happen!

HN: You two share is a great aversion to media. Please discuss.

Hatfield: Both Coach and I have an aversion to media because we know ourselves to be awkward weirdos. Why reproduce that on film?

HN: You’re a notorious texter. What is the most common text you get from Paul? (👍?)

Hatfield: The most common text response from Coach is no response at all, though, being an absolutely voluminous texter, I have to say I don’t really blame him.

The second most common response is the thumbs-up emoji, and that often comes at the end of long paragraphs I’ve written on something I’m upset about or a sad story from my past. I suspect he is not thoroughly reading my precious words!

HN: What is the biggest lesson Paul has taught you? And vice versa, what have you taught him?

Hatfield: I have a lot of gratitude to Coach for all he has done for me and my horses. After my last rider, I was really in rough shape. That was my introduction to the sport. I was sunk in shame and guilt about the situation I had put my family and my horses in. It was not easy dealing with me at this time and Coach really took the time. He cared as a person. He showed me how a true horseman could be and how those people care for horses. He showed me that there are very good people in the sport.

As far as what I’ve taught him, he claims it’s a lot a lot a lot of vocabulary words! And patience! And to not be so passive, to really go after what he wants. I think that’s really nice.

HN: Paul has had an incredibly success season on the MLSJ tour. What do you think is his superpower?

Hatfield: Coach has an endless obsession with show jumping and a tireless work ethic. He’s infinitely conscientious. I call him “The Great Experimentalist” because he’s always curious, always learning and trying something new.

HN: Conversely, what is his kryptonite?

Hatfield: His kryptonite is very obviously human interaction!

HN: What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done (or thought about doing) to Paul in public? (This column doesn’t count).

Hatfield: The most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done to Coach is actually in the future. It’s a grand day of celebration I’m planning that I have named “The Day O’Shea”! Stay tuned!

Feature image: ©MLSJ / Atalya Boytner