September 2016 - IEA Celebrates 15 Years
Written by Corie Astroth
Thursday, 01 September 2016 04:47
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Middle & high school riding program thrives by providing opportunities to all.

by Corie Astroth

Many young riders dream of competing in horse shows, but not all aspiring equestrians own a horse. IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) has offered a solution for riders like this for 15 years. IEA is unique because the horses and tack are provided at shows. This look at IEA only scratches the surface of the benefits the shows and, of equal importance, the teams provide for riders nationwide.

As IEA has grown in popularity, understandably, so has the number of teams. Not only do barns have IEA teams, many schools have added equestrian teams to their sports programs, fulfilling one mission of the organization: to promote the equestrian as an athlete. The team element is an integral part of the IEA experience. As each rider competes to earn points and be eligible for regionals, zones, and nationals, so do their teams. This creates a collaborative environment for the teams to thrive. Additionally, IEA connects riders of all levels and of all backgrounds. IEA is not only for the rider without a horse, but also for riders who frequently compete on the rated circuits. The mixing of these two groups contributes to the success of the IEA teams.

IEA challenges riders at all levels with the random assignment of horses. After watching the horses warm up, riders randomly pick the name of the horse they will ride. Classes are judged on Hunt Seat Equitation, but IEA also has competitive western teams that compete at separate shows, excluding nationals. Showing an unknown horse can seem like a daunting task, but there are few better ways to find your strengths and weaknesses as a rider and ultimately learn how to effectively ride many different types of horses.

Although the team aspect of IEA and the positive effects it has on the barn community has endeared the organization to so many people, the fun of the horse shows is not to be underestimated. The riders support people from their own barns and help riders from different teams. For example, it is common to see people offer advice to members of different teams on a horse they have experience with or even just competed on.

Even with the growth IEA has experienced, the shows and classes are small enough for riders from different teams to get to know each other and form friendships.

The website is a valuable resource for riders and coaches looking to become members. Team and rider memberships are accepted through Nov. 1, but the competition season begins Sept. 1. IEA is offered to riders grades 6-­12. If you are interested in joining IEA, consider watching a nearby show and seeing what an IEA show is like.

This coming IEA season will be my last. Looking back to my first season (which was my first ever experience with horse shows), I can appreciate how many lessons I have learned through IEA, the most important being perseverance.

Watching new riders join my team, Strides Riding Academy, I have witnessed these lessons that only a sport involving horses can teach be passed on. I am thankful to the IEA organization for offering me and all other members opportunities that encouraged my growth as a rider and as a person. I am also grateful for being given leadership opportunities, both as a Team Captain and a Youth Board member. There are so many lessons to be learned through IEA, and I hope that riders of all levels will consider joining a team and sharing their passion for horses with the expansive network of members.

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

Happy 15th!

This month marks IEA’s 15th year and the organization has come a long way. Beginning with 250 riders, the IEA now has over 12,500 members and is the largest youth equestrian association in the United States. The uniqueness of the IEA, and primary reason for the organization’s growth, is the fact no rider needs to own a horse to participate in the IEA. The IEA provides a mount and tack to each youngster at every event -- from local shows to the National Finals. In addition, should any rider not be able to pay for IEA involvement, or any coach meet with a hardship, financial assistance is available for those who qualify through the IEA Benevolent Fund.