October 2016 - IEA Zone 10 Report

High school league enables riders to bond over hits and misses.

by Corie Astroth

Interscholastic Equestrian Association competition gives riders the opportunity to participate in horse shows at a discounted rate compared to rated shows, and because of this, some riders every year experience their first horse show through IEA. During my first season of IEA, in my last year of middle school, I was one of those riders.

Showing a horse is generally nerve-wracking, and showing a horse you have never ridden can cause even the most unshakable riders’ stomachs to turn. Having never performed with the level of nervousness I felt during my first season of IEA, those five shows will forever bring me laughter and embarrassment, as I think back to the mistakes I made.

One show in particular was so memorable, on the account of my jumping round, that it has become a classic tale at my barn, often told to new IEA team members for an example of what not to do.

Butterflies seem too delicate an animal to describe how my stomach felt looking out into the jumping arena on this infamous day. A stampede of horses seems the most fitting. Regardless, my trainer walked me to the gate and I entered the ring. As frazzled as I was, I managed to make it almost to the end of my course. Then my worst fear for the show came true -- I had no idea where I was going.

At the last minute, I remembered my next jump. Unfortunately, I was about to pass it. Unwilling to give up, I made a jagged turn to the first jump of a line, taking it at a 45-degree angle. Landing from the jump I wiggled my way back to the last jump, leaving out a stride or two in the line.

Whenever a ride receives some twisted facial expressions and sharp breaths in from the audience, more people start to pay attention. At this point I had gathered a large audience, and just when they started to think that the excitement was over, because all I had to do was walk out of the arena, the round took an even more thrilling turn.

Straight For The Gate!

I was cantering straight at the in-gate, and straight at the next rider atop her horse, patiently waiting for me to finish. At first everyone assumed I would veer off and turn to exit through the out gate, but I was having some out-of-body experience, a result of the feeling of relief from finishing my round, disappointment that I almost forgot where I was going, and total embarrassment that I had made the simple last line appear as some strange obstacle course.

I still have no idea how I completely missed the fact that I was steadily coming closer and closer to the horse and rider at the in-gate. Luckily, the announcer somewhat caught on to the fact that I was still going full speed in the wrong direction.

“Rider, please turn left and exit the arena,” a woman’s voice said calmly at first. I did not actually hear this, but my team informed me later that the woman would go on to repeat this another time before frantically yelling it, as I was approximately five strides away from the rider and horse at the in-gate. This rider’s trainer was now quickly attempting to clear the area behind the rider of people so they could all move out of the way in the event that I came crashing through.

My brain clicked back on and I turned the horse to the left, not all the way so I would be facing the in-gate, but instead I was now heading straight at the four-foot arena fence. There was a moment where the horse seriously considered jumping that fence, but perhaps the crowd of waving people on the other side of the fence yelling to turn left, discouraged the horse from this, and we instead came to a skidding halt, then to a walk, as we gracefully exited the arena.

Although I do not wish IEA show experiences like this on any rider (and I have yet to see any round quite this eventful), good can come out of even the worst rides. My team continues to bond over our misses as much as our hits. Not to mention I have never exited out of the wrong gate, in any riding scenario, again.

Author Corie Astroth is an IEA Zone 10 ambassador and a team member for the Strides Riding Academy in Petaluma. For more information on the IEA, visit www.rideiea.org.