During the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) National Finals, 549 of the nation’s leading middle school and high school equestrians competed in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. The finalists represented more than 1,300 teams and 11,000 student riders from eight zones throughout the country. Individuals and teams participated in multiple competitions during the regular season shows, regional finals and zone finals to qualify for the National Finals.
During the week, riders competed in Hunt Seat Equitation Over Fences, Equitation on the Flat, Western Reining and Horsemanship. Sunday marked the closing of the team competitions followed by the awards ceremonies.
The Champion of the Upper School Hunt Seat Team Competition was North Gate Equestrian Team, from Sudbury, Massachusetts, in Zone 1. In the Middle School Hunt Seat Competition, North Gate also took home first-place ribbons and prizes. The Champion Upper School Western Team Competition came down to one class to determine the winner. Autumn Rose Farm Equestrian Team, from Plain City, Ohio, in Zone 5, took home the win. In the Middle School competition, KM Equestrians, from Findlay, Ohio, in Zone 5, were named Champion.
The IEA holds the trait of good sportsmanship in the highest regard, both for riders and coaches. For the Hunt Seat, Mehdi Kazmi, of Old Homestead Farm in Rocky Point, North Carolina, in Zone 3, took home the second annual Coach Sportsmanship Award. Roger and Sandra Elder, of Last Lap Ranch in Maryville, Tennessee, in Zone 4, received the award among all Western coaches. Sarah Doss, of Chatham Hall in Chatham, Virginia, was awarded the Victor Hugo-Vidal Sportsmanship Award, and Caroline Gute, of Dublin, Ohio, who rides for Autumn Rose Farm Equestrian Team, took home the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Sportsmanship Award.
The IEA is committed to the wellness of the horses in all competitions. To recognize the quality of the horses donated for the five-day event, “Thomas” (provided by Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio) was named the Outstanding IEA Hunt Horse, and “Kesha” (provided by Jewell Reining in Conyers, Georgia) took home the NRHA Outstanding Western Horse title.
“[It was] just spectacular,” said IEA Co-Founder and Executive Director Roxane Lawrence when asked about the competition. “Our young student riders rode really well. The horses provided were excellent and we had a fun and safe event. Most important, while the competition was fierce, the sportsmanship exhibited by the riders, coaches and parents was superb. I can’t wait until next year’s Finals.”
It was announced that the 2017 IEA Hunt Seat National Finals will be held in April at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia, and the Western Finals will take place in late June during the NRHA Derby in Oklahoma City.
Founded in 2002, the IEA has more than 12,500 middle and high school student riders across the United States. The IEA was organized to promote and improve the quality of equestrian competition and instruction available to middle and secondary school students and is open to public and private schools and barn teams. Its purpose is to set minimum standards for competition, provide information concerning the creation and development of school-associated equestrian sport programs, promote the common interests of safe riding instruction and competition, and improve education on matters related to equestrian competition at the middle and secondary school levels. There is no need any rider to own a horse, as the IEA provides a mount and tack to every rider at every event, including the National Finals. For more information, visit the IEA website.