The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) wrapped up their Dressage show season with their first official Dressage National Finals on May 15-16, 2021 at the Texas Rose Horse Park in Tyler, Texas. A relatively new discipline for IEA, the Dressage program has been in existence as a pilot program since 2017 and was slated to have their first National Finals in 2020 but was cancelled due to COVID-19. Despite pandemic-related challenges faced by everyone, IEA leadership, coaches, riders and parents pulled together and safely hosted more than 900 individual horse shows (Hunt Seat, Western and Dressage) from August 2020 to the present to qualify more than 140 riders from across the nation for the 2021 IEA Dressage National Finals. Previously in 2018 and 2019, IEA hosted a Dressage Finale at the end of their season, but without the typical qualifications required of a National Finals.
143 riders representing 39 teams from 12 regions across the nation converged on the picturesque grassy, rolling hills of the Horse Park to vie for IEA National titles. United States Dressage Federation (USDF) “S” Judge, Sandy Osborn of Loganville, GA had her work cut out for her as she judged more than 25 Individual and Team Dressage Test and Dressage Seat Equitation classes over the two-day event. Show Manager, Emily David of Howe, OK also had her hands full when the original show location in New York had to be changed just a few months prior to National Finals due to COVID-19 restrictions in that state. IEA members and show officials once again rallied together to find a whole new slate of borrowed horses and a facility that was available on very short notice.
In addition to being the first official National Finals for IEA Dressage, it was also the first ever Dressage Finals for walk-trot riders in middle and upper school and for 4th and 5th grade riders. Rising to the top of the weekend was upper school Freshman, Grace Young from Spruce Valley Stables in Erieville, NY (Region 2) to claim the title of 2021 IEA Dressage Leading Rider. A three-year member of IEA, Grace clenched the top placings in both the Varsity Open Dressage Test (which awarded her the leading rider title) as well as the Varsity Open Dressage Seat Equitation class.
Saturday’s competition consisted of both individual and team classes for Upper School riders. Eleven teams put forth their best efforts with Grier School of Birmingham, PA (Region D11W) coached by Chrystal Wood ultimately being named Champion Upper School Team. Linden Hall of Lititz, PA (Region D11E) and coached by Christina Stamos, Erika Kurtz, and Laura Snavely claimed the title of Reserve Champion Upper School Team. In lieu of the traditional National Finals IEA team parade (due to COVID-19 safety considerations), IEA elected to have theme days and Saturday’s theme was “Western Day.” Appropriately selected due to the Texas location, it was an interesting mix of dressage rider gear and Western apparel from chaps and cowboy hats to tall boots, helmets and white breeches. Teams decorated their seating areas with colorful displays and themed signage as part of the Team Spirit competition.
Similar to day one, Sunday’s competition consisted of individual and team classes for Middle School as well as the Varsity Open classes that determined the Leading Rider award. Not to be outdone by their Upper School teammates, ten fiercely competitive middle school teams also jockeyed for National awards. Ending with a 7-point lead to claim the Middle School Champion Team title was Laurel Manor Equestrian Team of Centerton, AR (Region D7) and coached by Laura McKenzie Duncan. Grier School again showed off their talents to claim the Reserve Champion Middle School Team award. This time the theme for the day was “Under the Sea” and IEA attendees saw everything from mermaids and scuba gear, to lobsters and colorful tropical fish. The competition was deep for the Team Spirit Award which was ultimately awarded to Duzan Equestrian Team (Region D5S) of Ostrander, OH and coached by Molly Wirtz.
Winslow Photography of Columbus, OH expertly took photos all weekend and ClipMyHorse provided live stream coverage, courtesy of the United States Equestrian (USEF). Dozens of sponsors provided prizes, awards, and financial support for the event including more than $7,800 in IEA Founders cash scholarships to seniors and $20,000 (out of a possible $48,000) in scholarships to Juniors and Seniors who elect to attend St. Andrews University.
The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. (USPC) again sponsored the IEA National Finals Written Horsemanship Test. This season, due to COVID-19 restrictions, all National Finals Horsemanship Tests were offered online to all rider members in each discipline. More than 100 members took the timed knowledge test with Elena Wright (Standing Ovation Equestrian – R11W) taking the top spot in the Upper School Test with Samantha Wright (Duzan Equestrian Team – R5S) taking Reserve. Middle School top honors went to Cadence Barber (Creidmont Saddle Club – R9) with Emmy Myers (Walnut Hill Equestrian Team – R5S) taking Reserve.
Sportsmanship plays a significant role in IEA and the 2021 IEA Dressage Sportsmanship Award was presented to Landon Kepple of Reinwood Equestrian in Weedsport, NY (Region D2). The Coach Sportsmanship Award was presented to Annette Spinetti of Las Vegas Blue Ribbon Youth Equestrian (Region10). Volunteer of the Show was co-won by Laurel Manor Equestrian rider members Abigail Butts & Adrian Treat, who incidentally joined IEA at the very end of the season (just days before National Finals) just for the opportunity to attend and provide horses for this national event.
IEA absolutely would not exist without the support of those who provide excellent horses for our riders at each of our events. Two outstanding horses were selected to be recognized for their efforts – Ginger provided by Nisse Pedigo of X-Halt Farms Dressage in Caldwall, TX (Region D7) was named Outstanding Dressage Test Horse and Hoopla provided by Shannon Flanagan of Silent Knight in Krum, TX (Region D7) was named Outstanding Dressage Seat Equitation Horse.
IEA Executive Director Roxane Durant and live-stream commentator, Megan Taylor, again discussed that IEA will host a combined National Finals with all three disciplines (Hunt Seat, Western and Dressage) on April 28-May 1, 2022 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as part of the IEA’s 20th Anniversary Season. Membership for the 2021-2022 Season will open in June 2021 with competitions beginning August 1, 2021.
For a complete list of class results, live stream archives, and professional photos of the 2021 IEA Dressage National Finals, visit https://www.rideiea.org/dressage/finals/
About the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA):
Now finishing its 19th year, the IEA has nearly 14,000 members across the United States riding and coaching Hunt Seat, Western and Dressage disciplines. The non-profit (501(c)3) 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. There is no need for a rider to own a horse because the IEA supplies a mount and tack to each equestrian for competitions. Its purpose is to set minimum standards for competition, provide information concerning the creation and development of school associated equestrian sport programs, to generally promote the common interests of safe riding instruction and competition and education on matters related to equestrian competition at the middle and secondary school levels.
For more information, please visit www.rideiea.org
Images available on request.