California Riding Magazine •September, 2013

Back To School
High school equestrian season resumes on growing circuit.

Corona Del Mar Equestrian Team, English riders (L-R), Front Row: Piper Adams, Kalia Rodich, Brogan Stout, Courtney Marshall, Cat Black. Back Row: Rachel Bauerlein, Ivara Roth. Photo courtesy of Norman Rodich.

Interscholastic equestrian competition in Southern California is alive and kicking! As many know, Orange County Interscholastic League, (OCIEL) is a non-profit corporation which operates to foster regional and national amateur equestrian sports competition. It adds a team component to a traditionally individual sport, similar to the CIF for "traditional" sports. 

However, OCIEL differs in that these athletes each train independently, at their own barns, each with a coach of their choosing. Many do not even own their own horses, opting instead to lease their mounts or ride their trainer's horse. This is a perfect outlet for students not inspired or drawn towards traditional sports competition and also gives them the opportunity to compete, by representing their public, private or even "home" school.

Photo courtesy of Orange County Interscholastic Leage (OCIEL)

 Although called Orange County Interscholastic League, these student athletes hail from Los Angeles and San Diego as well as Orange County. Some riders train under many notable trainers including Hap Hansen, Andy Fleischhacker, Tracy Baer, Mickey Hayden, Christy Arbuckle and Callie Bell, just to name a few.

Their training is considered an independent study PE course and, with their coach's help, students can get school PE credit for the hours they spend riding and training for competitions. Athletes not only represent their school in competitions, they can also qualify to earn letters like any other high school athlete. In addition, riders also earn points that go towards year-end awards and can apply for IEL-sponsored scholarships. Kimberly Coleman, a 1994 Corona del Mar High School graduate and founding member of the CdM Equestrian Team, says "Not only is it an amazing thing to compete in a sport where your teammate is 1500 pounds, it was an absolute honor to be able to compete as an equestrian for my high school. There was a heightened sense of camaraderie as the few of us on CdM's first equestrian team trailered our horses to the shows and so proudly dressed our horses in the CdM letters embroidered on our saddle pads. I will never forget that feeling." Kimberly also lettered in varsity volleyball.

Photo courtesy of Orange County Interscholastic Leage (OCIEL)

We all know how important and equally daunting college admission is. Amy Mendelson, President of Competitive Edge College Counseling confirms, "There is no question that the college admissions climate is more competitive than ever. Student applicants can improve their chances by participating in extracurricular activities. For example, UCLA and UC Berkeley both, in addition to academic records, have elected to evaluate applicants in 'other evidence of achievement' which includes '...sustained achievement in any field of intellectual or creative endeavor; accomplishments in the performing arts or athletics.'" 

Certainly every parent welcomes the opportunity to blend their child's passion with the college admission process. Parent B. Harmon states, "Many of our riders go on to successful professional careers such as Nick Haness and now Colin Perrin, both IEL hunter stars. We have had riders go on to be on the USEF Young Riders teams. Academically, our members often get full scholarships to college and continue riding by competing on their college teams. The biggest benefit is learning how to compete with a team and represent their school. Not only was my daughter a successful competitor in IEL but being in it (OCIEL) for six years added to her resume which helped her to win many scholarships. She is now a NASA engineer at JPL working on the newest rover on Mars, Curiosity."

Photo courtesy of Orange County Interscholastic Leage (OCIEL)

The current IEL competition divisions include Hunters and Jumpers, Dressage, Western Novice, Trail and Limit, in Novice, Freshman, JV and Varsity. New this year, our dressage classes will also be CDS (California Dressage Society) recognized as well as the addition of a Jumper Classic for Junior Varsity and Varsity that will have points accumulate towards the Final at the last show of the year. 

Furthermore, OCIEL is proud to add Gymkhana classes as well. All competitions will be held at Blenheim Sports Park, (formerly known as "The Oaks"), in San Juan Capistrano. The Orange County Interscholastic Equestrian League's 2013-2014 Season starts with its first show Oct. 5-6, followed by shows Nov. 16-17, Dec. 7-8 and Jan. 11-12 each day being its own show. As with any school sport, the support of fans is vital. So, please, come watch us compete and support our athletes at any of our upcoming events. 

Photo courtesy of Orange County Interscholastic Leage (OCIEL)

For more information on these show dates or details on how you can participate in OCIEL, please visit our website at:
Author Gibran Stout runs Phoenix Farm in Newport Beach.