September 2018 - Growing Enrollment for High School Equestrian
Written by by Kimber Whanger
Wednesday, 29 August 2018 22:42
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IEA Hunt Seat teams continue to expand along West and North West Coast.

by Kimber Whanger

Founded in Ohio in 2002, the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) reached a major milestone in the 2017-2018 season with record membership of nearly 14,000 members in 44 states. The expansion of a new Zone (Zone 9) in the Northwest region of the United States (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming) has seen an explosion of membership over the past two years, and is a big contributor to the IEA success. Importantly, the exponential growth in the region is not expected to slow down anytime soon.


California is also showing steady growth, with 13 qualified teams (from nearly 60 teams across the state) making a strong showing at the 2018 IEA Hunt Seat National Finals this past April. Thirty California riders from Bonsall, Castro Valley, Modesto, Moorpark, Napa, Stanford, Walnut Creek, Watsonville and Westlake Village earned enough points in the regular season to qualify for post season Regional Finals, then Zone Finals and ultimately winning a coveted spot at the National Finals in Syracuse, New York.


Sophie Kane (Grier School - Zone 11) participated in the 2018 IEA Dressage Finale aboard Jerry provided by Otterbein University. Photo: JWinslow Photography

Belmont Training Equestrian Team from Watsonville, CA coached by Cassie Belmont and Lara Connell. Photo: Ron Schwane Photography

Chestnut Hills Equestrian Team from Bonsall, CA coached by Shayne Wireman and Ally Meeks. Photo: Ron Schwane Photography

Chestnut Hills Equestrian Team, from Bonsall, was named third Place Upper School Team. Chestnut Hills is coached by Shayne Wireman and Ally Meeks and included riders Taber Ball, Karsyn Boyd, Emilie Melnychuk, Chloe Oyanguren and Sophia Sundem.  Chestnut Hills Middle School rider, Skylar Wireman, walked away with a National Championship title in the Future Intermediate Over Fences class. Belmont Training Equestrian Team of Watsonville took eighth place overall in the Middle School Team Competition. Belmont Training is coached by Cassie Belmont and Lara Connell and included riders Elisa Broz, Alexis Giblin, Carmen Gonzalez and Bella Primavera.  As a reference, there were 759 Hunt Seat Upper School Teams and 692 Hunt Seat Middle School Teams in the nation during the 2017-2018 IEA season.  

Dressage Pilot Program

IEA is also excited to announce the addition of a new Dressage Pilot Program. The dressage program has been running scrimmages the past two years in small pockets of the Midwest and beginning this season is seeing a surge of interest from riders and teams across the United States as the program takes on a more formalized structure. In addition to the growing interest among members, the IEA recently gained the support of the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) as a partnering organization to help promote and grow the Dressage Pilot Program. Many IDA teams are planning on hosting IEA horse shows this season which will assist the IEA with workforce, guidance and sponsorship opportunities.

SkylAr Wireman from Chestnut Hills Equestrian Team in Bonsall, CA. Photo: Ron Schwane Photography

Emma Symon from Woodside Equestrian Team in Stanford, CA coached by Colin Daly. Photo: Ron Schwane Photography

Gianna Brocchini from Team KMT in Castro Valley, CA coached by Katie Voss, Carolyne Erlach, and Kelly Maddox. Photo: Ron Schwane Photography

“The Intercollegiate Dressage Association is thrilled to be working with IEA to help grow the sport of dressage. We know how rewarding competing as a team can be for young riders and having that available for middle and upper school dressage riders through IEA is a fantastic new opportunity,” says current IDA President, Ginger Henderson from Averett College. “We are delighted that many of our IDA schools are choosing to work with local IEA teams to bring more dressage competitions to their IEA regions.  As an organization, we look forward to welcoming those dressage enthusiasts to our IDA teams when they reach college.”

The unique aspect of IEA competitions, both at the local and national level, is that riders do not need to own a horse to participate. Horses and equipment are provided to each rider at every event by the host team using a draw-based system similar to the collegiate riding programs. Since the horse is new to the rider, the scores are based upon horsemanship and equitation. The IEA format levels the playing field while maintaining affordability for participants.  

“I’m really pleased with how the teams in Zone 10 banned together to help each other during the wild fire crises this past year,” stated IEA Zone 10 Administrator Colin Daly. “We have a strong network of support across the state and it was uplifting to see volunteers pull together quickly in a time of need for all our equine friends.” In addition to being Zone Administrator, Daly also serves as the coach of the Red Barn and Woodside Equestrian Teams, both of which had riders represented at the 2018 Hunt Seat National Finals.

The IEA has competitive offerings that include Hunt Seat classes on the flat and over fences, Western Reining and Western Horsemanship, as well as Dressage Tests and Dressage Seat Equitation classes. Student riders must be in grades 6-12 and may compete in beginner, novice, intermediate and open levels regardless of age. Riders not only compete for individual points, but also team points. The format adds team camaraderie to a normally individual sport. Competing this way allows for serious athletes to not only prepare for a collegiate future in equestrian sports, but also the opportunity for scholarships.  

The competition year runs from September through June (depending on discipline). Individual membership is open all year. However, the IEA will be accepting team memberships for the 2018-2019 season from now until November 1. Starting a Hunt Seat or Western team requires three members in either middle or upper school and an IEA coach. A dressage team can form with only one rider and an IEA coach. Each team must have access to an equine facility whether in a private or public school or at a local barn.

Article provided by the IEA. For more information about IEA and teams in your area, please contact Jennifer Eaton at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit