Junior riders throughout California 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).
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, this non-profit organization supports more than 7,000 hunt seat, western and saddle seat student-riders 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," states IEA Co-founder and Executive Director
Those efforts include dedicated support staff just for western states, an area-specific website (www.ieawest.com), and social media connections through Twitter (@ieawest), Facebook (IEA West), and Tumblr (rideiea). California already has eleven new teams on tap for the 2012-2013 show season!
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) format. 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 the stable of ownership. Moms and dads really like the fact that IEA provides an affordable format for their child as they build equestrian skills.
Riders compete in three disciplines, hunt seat, western and saddle seat, in individual and team events performing various techniques:
• Hunt Seat: flat and fence classes
• Western: horsemanship and reining classes
• Saddle Seat: rail and pattern classes
There are four ability levels: beginner, novice, intermediate and open.
• To encourage recognition for middle and secondary school equestrians and to promote the equestrian as an athlete.
• To provide riders with organized competitive opportunities.
• To introduce new riders to equine sports.
• To promote the IEA among its constituencies.
• To provide riders with opportunities to further their education in equine sports and equine-related matters.
• To encourage liaison with other equestrian associations for the betterment of equestrian sports.
• To encourage a higher standard of coaching and instruction.
• To provide information concerning the creation and development of school associated mounted and non-mounted equestrian programs.
• To establish and enforce IEA rules, standards and policies. To keep pace with the continuing progress of equestrian sports and to encourage good horsemanship.
• To generally promote the common interests of riding instruction and competition, and education on matters related to all segments of the horse industry.
• To develop team and individual sportsmanship.
• To establish a foundation to support the continuing mission of the IEA.
How To Join
Individuals and teams have until November 15 of this year to join the IEA. Any parent, rider, school administrator or coach should contact the IEA Membership Marketing Coordinator, Carol Sterrett (404-931-1149) to help start a team.
The IEA show requirements are minimal: two shows minimum to qualify with a maximum of five shows; then qualifiers potentially move on to zone or national finals. The zone and national competitions give riders a chance to travel and compete with riders in other parts of the country.
At the national finals, riders have an opportunity to compete at highly recognized, national venues that otherwise might be out of reach. For example, in 2011, IEA Nationals were held at the Prince George's Equestrian Center in Maryland, where the Capital Challenge Horse Show is held each year. In 2010, IEA Nationals were held at the Georgia International Horse Park where the 1996 Olympics were held.
Finally, these competitions give riders exposure to college coaches who are involved in IEA with their younger riders. Last year, California qualified two teams to compete in IEA National Hunt Seat Finals: the Stanford Red Barn high school team from San Francisco and the White Rock Ranch middle school team from Watsonville.
Individual riders throughout the state also qualified and competed at the IEA National Finals. Katrina Ivanovich, Monte Vista Equestrian Team, Eleanora Heindel, White Rock Ranch Team, and Sabina Kariat, Woodside Equestrian Team,
all placed in the top six nationally in their individual classes.
The 2013 Hunt Seat finals will be held in Syracuse, NY in April and the Western Finals will be held in Oklahoma City, OK during the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby in June. As California participation grows, we expect to see more riders competing at Nationals. Even better, we expect to see a large number of California school banners in the show's traditional Parade
For more information, visit www.ieawest.com.