Ryan May. Photo: Waltenberry
Youth equestrians, throughout the western part of the United States, are gaining recognition as middle school or high school athletes. One organization supporting this effort, while making middle and secondary schools and barn teams possible, is the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA).
In the 12th year as an association, this non-profit organization supports nearly 10,000 hunt seat, western and saddle seat members, ages 11-19, across the United States. These equestrians compete throughout the school year for a spot at the IEA National Finals.
"A focus of this season's effort is to increase the number of teams and riders in the western portion of the country with emphasis on California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas and the surrounding states," states IEA co-founder and executive director Roxane Lawrence.
Last season, teams and individuals from the West accomplished much. In the hunt seat arena, 18 teams traveled from California, Colorado and Texas to represent their areas at the IEA Hunt Seat Nationals in Syracuse, NY. The Monte Vista Christian School of Watsonville, CA, placed third in the upper school competition and the North Woods Equestrian Team from Parker, CO, finished third in the middle school competition. The IEA holds sportsmanship to be a necessary trait in the riders and teams that belong to the association. For this reason, the IEA gives a sportsmanship award to a deserving member at each show throughout the season. At the 2013 Hunt Seat National Finals, Jacob Werner, riding for the Elvenstar Team from Moorpark won the sportsmanship award. His name will be added to the Hugo Vidal Perpetual Sportsmanship Trophy.
Kelly Karanges. Photo: Waltenberry
Colorado and Texas qualified five teams to compete at the IEA National Western Finals held at the NRHA Derby in Oklahoma City, OK. Among those five were the Rocky Mountain Wranglers riding out of the Guynn Training Center in Berthoud, CO, who took home fifth place in the national upper school team competition. Individual riders throughout the country also qualified and competed at the IEA Western National Finals, including Kelsey Karanges riding for the Oakridge Equestrian Team from Arlington, TX, taking home the co-Champion Western Rider Award for 2013.
Current IEA student-riders backgrounds vary from under privileged to the very privileged. The most important item for prospective new members to know is there is no need to own your own horse. The IEA offers a level playing field for each participant. All IEA events hold blind draws for mounts, similar to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) program. The riders compete on unfamiliar horses in supplied tack. It is all about performance and skill of the rider, not the value of the horse. Most of the mounts are school-owned horses donated for use during the competition and returned to stable of ownership. Moms and dads really like the fact that IEA provides an affordable format for their child as they build equestrian skills. Members earn points throughout the season to earn a spot at zone and national competitions, giving riders a chance to travel and compete with riders in other parts of the country. Riders have the opportunity to be exposed to college programs and scholarships specializing in the equine industry as well as college preparatory competitions aimed toward the college-bound athlete.
Photo: Ron Schwane - Ron Schwane Photography
To fulfill its purpose, the IEA offers guidance regarding the creation and development of school and/or barn associated equestrian programs. IEA coaches aim to develop understanding and appreciation of equestrian sports through organized student competitions and additional equine educational opportunities. Students also have the opportunity to earn scholarships toward their college education through awards in competition and through sportsmanship activities. In addition, the IEA established the Benevolent Fund in 2011 to assist riders and coaches in need through programs such as the IEA Financial Assistance Program and the IEA Coaches Fund.
Individuals and teams have until November 15 of this year to join the IEA. The National Hunt Seat Finals will be held may 16-18 in Springfield, MA., and their western counterparts will take place June 26-28 in Oklahoma City.
Any parent, rider, school administrator or coach, with interest in becoming part of the IEA, should contact the IEA Membership Marketing Coordinator, Jennifer Eaton (508-443-4053) to help start a team. Additional information is available on the IEA website: www.rideiea.org. Article provided by the IEA.