IEA Hosts Successful 21st Annual National Finals at Beautiful Tryon Facility


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The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) has nearly completed their 21st season with the first two of three National Finals on April 27 – 30, 2023 in a combined 4-day Hunt Seat and Dressage competition at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) in Mill Spring, North Carolina. Over 600 of the nation’s leading middle and high school equestrian athletes (in grades 4-12) representing 206 different teams from across the United States and Canada gathered to compete as individuals and teams for top honors in Hunt Seat and Dressage classes, championship titles, cash and collegiate scholarships and more. IEA had a total of 1,467 teams this season with 60 teams qualifying for these National Finals team competitions.

Following the resounding success of IEA’s 20th Anniversary season last year, IEA focused their 21st season on maintaining the energy, growth, development of new programs, and strengthening of relationships and procedures going into this second year of a 2-discipline Finals. Many hands make light work and indeed many hands were needed on-deck for a competition of this size and scope. The backdrop of the beautiful Tryon facility (home to the 2018 World Equestrian Games) made it a fantastic location for IEA members to compete and reside. A multitude of comfortable cabins, restaurants and camping sites set in the lush green hills of western North Carolina made it seem more like a resort than a horse show. A complete list of officials and show staff for the 2023 IEA Hunt Seat & Dressage National Finals can be found in the show program here. IEA will host their third National Finals for the Western discipline on June 24-25, 2023 in Fort Worth, Texas during the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) World Championship Show.

Similar to the collegiate riding format, IEA utilizes a unique draw-based competition format whereby riders compete on unfamiliar horses in the following classes: Hunt Seat Equitation over fences and on the flat, Dressage Test and Dressage Seat Equitation (and Western Horsemanship, Reining and Ranch Riding). IEA riders must develop their catch-riding skills as very little to no warm-up practice is allowed before each class. All tack and horses for National Finals (and every other IEA show) were provided by IEA member teams, colleges, and outside horse providers – allowing for a more level playing field of competition.

DAY 1 – THURSDAY, APRIL 27, 2023

Thursday’s competition began with Hunt Seat Upper School team competition in the expansive Tryon indoor arena. This arena (Ring #1), while built approximately 5 years ago, has not been used as heavily as Tryon’s many outdoor rings and Grand Prix arenas on the grounds. Spanning nearly two football fields long – the Tryon indoor was very recently (as in a week before our Finals) expanded to include arena sand the entire length of the building to accommodate two competition arenas at the same time as well as multiple warm-up and mounting areas. IEA finals arenas expanded almost as far as the eye could see – yet conveniently located under one roof. Parallel to the arenas and seating areas was a long concourse filled with 50 IEA vendor booths supporting the event. Most notably, the Tryon on-site staff and in particular the in-house jump crew, made for world-class level operations when it came to lightning-fast course changes, drags, and heavy lifting.

On Thursday, 18 Hunt Seat Upper School teams were represented with top honors going to Grier School (Zone 11) coached by Chrystal Wood and Frannie King. Reserve Upper School Champion Team went to Pleasant Hill Farm (Zone 3) coached by Cammie Fielding and Meaghan Kearns.  The remaining top 8 Hunt Seat Upper School teams were as follows:

3rd Place     Farmstead Equestrian (Zone 2)

Coached by Galterio and Tara Malone Baron

 4th Place     Team Randolph Macon (Zone 3)

Coached by Lauryn Tannenhaus and John West

 5th Place     Clover Grove (Zone 3)

Coached by Britini Cash and Sarah Irvine

 6th Place     Sharkey Farms (Zone 9)

Coached by Kate Sharkey and Tiffany Woods

 7th Place (Tie)  Summer Hill Farms (Zone 7) and East Point (Zone 1)

Coached by Jordan Gilchrist and Megan Green

Coached by Ashley Edwards and Betsy Kupic

As part of the Upper School Team awards ceremony, IEA was proud to introduce a new perpetual trophy for both the Upper School and Middle School Hunt Seat Teams courtesy of a new partnership with the (now dissolved) Junior Essex Troop of Cavalry.  Known as the “JET Trophy”, this award, along with a sizeable financial contribution to the IEA, will allow IEA to continue the Troop’s legacy of fostering the love of horses among youth through education in the art of horsemanship and equine athletics. Earlier this year, IEA was selected among a small handful of organizations to receive support from the Junior Essex Troop as they retired their long-standing organization. Representatives from JET were on-hand during IEA National Finals to help present these prestigious trophies, including JET President Rodney Seelig and former Junior Essex Trooper Brad Siegel.

 About 50 yards away from the Hunt Seat Arena, IEA middle school Dressage Individual riders were equally competitive in Ring #2 as they vied for their own championship titles.

DAY 2 – FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2023

Friday’s competition kicked off the USHJA (United States Hunter Jumper Association) sponsored individual classes for Upper School Hunt Seat Riders (Ring #1) as well as Middle School Dressage Team Competition in Ring #2. Individual class winners are some of the most coveted titles as these classes represent the top riders in the nation who have bested their fellow competitors through regular season, regional and zone competitions to qualify for National Finals.

Each individual class of 18 Upper School Hunt Seat riders and 12 Middle School Dressage riders were crowned numerous sponsored awards throughout the day including Hunt Seat trophies from USHJA. In addition to beautiful ribbons, awards, prizes and gift certificates, multiple cash scholarships from IEA were awarded to the highest placing and second highest placing seniors in each individual class throughout the weekend.  More than $25,000 in IEA Founders Senior Cash Scholarships were distributed. Additional scholarships from Emory & Henry University, St. Andrews University, University of Findlay, Delaware Valley University, Lake Erie College, Averett University, and Otterbein University were also awarded to top placing juniors and seniors.  A staggering grand total of $1,153,550 in multi-year scholarships were awarded during National Finals – the biggest scholarship total ever in the history of IEA.

Day two also include the middle school dressage team championship. Capturing the top honors was Euchee Meadows Equestrian (Region 4) coached by Denise Talley. Reserve Dressage middle school honors went to Grier School (Region 11B) coached by Chrystal Wood and Frannie King. The following top 8 Dressage middle school teams in the nation are as follows:

3rd Place      Laurel Manor Equestrian Diamonds (Region 7)

Coached by Laura Duncan

 4th Place      Bankshire United (Region 3)

Coached by Nancy Sterett

 5th Place      Cedar Lodge Equestrian Team (Region 5A)

Coached by Ashley Butler and Amy Edwards

 6th Place      RCR Farms (Region 8)

Coached by Jennifer Brinkman-Ayers, Ranae Coates and Haley Reeves

 7th Place      Great Parks Equestrian (Region 5B)

Coached by Taylor Schrand, Kate Wegman and Kate Wukie

 8th Place      Creidmount Saddle Club (Region 9)

Coached by Kimberly Barber

 The end of the day highlight on Friday culminated in a festive and energetic Team Parade which included all participating teams, individuals, coaches, and the occasional canine who marched in Zone order and were individually recognized. Teams dressed up in a variety of fun costumes and team-wear to show off their team spirit. Each day of National Finals had a dress-up theme and Friday’s theme was “Dress As Your State Day”. IEA Executive Director, Roxane Durant, led the parade announcements and traditional “get-to-know-you” games as well as announcing the location for the 2024 IEA Hunt Seat and Dressage National Finals. The 2024 IEA Hunt Seat and Dressage National Finals will be held in late April at the LA Equestrian Center in Los Angeles, California. The 2024 IEA Western National Finals will be held again in Fort Worth, Texas at the APHA World Championship Show. Special guest and IHSA Founder, Robert ‘Bob’ Cacchione addressed the group during the parade and was on hand during the weekend to talk to riders about collegiate riding opportunities.

 During the team parade, Durant switched into a more serious and reflective tone as she and other past recipients presented the 2023 Timothy J. Boone Lifetime Achievement Award to longtime IEA staff member, Mira Clark. Clark was the first official IEA employee – handling all the paperwork and membership administrative duties. Fast forward 21 years and Clark has worn many different hats with the IEA – currently serving as the Membership Office Representative for Zones 2, 5, 6 & 9.

Friday night culminated in a wonderful exhibitor’s celebration event sponsored by USHJA in the Tryon Village. IEA riders, parents, and guests enjoyed free tacos, deserts, antique carousel rides, a dance party and human jump course with riders enjoying the music and dancing into the dark. A special thank you to our Member Partner USHJA and to Executive Director Kevin Price and Outreach & Affiliates Coordinator, Melanie Mader, for spending the week representing USHJA and helping present trophies in the arena.

DAY 3 – SATURDAY, APRIL 29, 2023

Saturday began the Upper School Dressage Team competition in Ring #2, while middle school Hunt Seat Individual riders vied for championship titles in Ring #1. The pinnacle class each year is undoubtedly the Varsity Open Championship Class – a 2-part competition of the highest level riders in the IEA from each active Zone. Riders qualify for this prestigious class by accumulating the highest number of points during the regular season to win the one coveted spot for their zone. Ten riders are then combined with the top placing two riders in the individual Hunt Seat over fences class and Hunt Seat Equitation on the flat class. This year, IEA had three “wild-card” riders join the mix as there was a tie. Thirteen total riders duked it out in a very competitive 2-part over fences and flat class with the final two riders having to switch horses in the final work-off. Emerging as the 2023 IEA Hunt Seat Varsity Open Champion Leading Rider was sophomore, Madison Ramsey who rides on the Ravenwood Farm FL Team out of Palm Harbor, Florida and coached by Lauren Wilkins. Reserve Varsity Open Championship rider went to junior Lauren Hoyt, of Sharkey Farm out of Snoqualmie, Washington and coached by Kate Sharkey and Tiffany Woods. Eleven other outstanding Varsity Open Riders were among the top 13 out of 1,157 Open Riders this season.

In the Dressage Arena, Upper School Team Riders wowed the crowd with top-notch riding. Dressage is IEA’s newest discipline – this being only the 3rd year Dressage has held an official National Finals. Previously, as the Dressage program was moving from a Pilot Program to a permanent discipline, there were several Dressage Finale’s held at Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio. Twelve Upper School teams volleyed for points to claim the championship titles and once again the team that could not be beat, Grier School, walked away with their 2nd National Championship Title as the Upper School Champion Dressage Team. Reserve Dressage Upper School honors went to RGB Equestrian (Region 2) coached by Ronald Bartholomew, Alissa Donnell, and Stacy Pickering.

The following top 8 Dressage Upper School teams in the nation are as follows:

3rd Place      Woods Edge Equestrian (Region 7)

Coached by Katherine Harcsar

 4th Place      Centerline Dressage (Region 3)

Coached by Tina Klapper

 5th Place      Scottsdale Equestrian Team (Region 8)

Coached by Kathy Johnson, Allison Kerivan, and Wendy Riddell

 6th Place      FoxRun IN (Region 5A)

Coached by Jean Martin

 7th Place      Duzan Equestrian Team (Region 5B)

Coached by Samantha Thomas and Molly Wirtz

 8th Place      Creidmount Saddle Club (Region 9)

Coached by Kimberly Barber

 Saturday evening’s festivities ended with an IEA Youth Board led Game Night and Candy Bar sponsored by Grier School. Riders of all ages (including some IEA show staff) showed off their bouncy ball riding skills in an obstacle course across the Dressage arena. Hilarity ensued as more sugar was consumed and riders raced around. It was another evening of youthful joy and celebration.

DAY 4 – SUNDAY, APRIL 30, 2023

The final day of IEA National Finals wrapped up with competition for the Hunt Middle School Teams and Upper School Dressage Individual competitions. Not to be undone by their older teammates, 18 Middle School Hunt Seat Teams showed every bit of the same confidence, skill, and determination to bring home a winning title. In the end, it was South Breeze from Zone 3 and coached by Leann Smith to take home the top prize with a five-point lead over the Reserve Champion team – Pleasant Hill Farm also from Zone 3 and coached by Cammie Fielding and Meaghan Kearns. South Breeze also was the recipient of the other JET Award for Middle School and will have their name engraved on the new perpetual trophy.

The remaining top 8 Middle School Hunt Seat Teams in the nation are as follows:

3rd Place      Clover Hill Equestrian Center (Zone 1)

Coached by Ali Calcagni

 4th Place      Woodside (Zone 10)

Coached by Katie Steiner Garcia

 5th Place      Platinum Farm (Zone 5)

Coached by Melanie Stenstrom

 6th Place      TerryAllen Farms – Team B (Zone 1)

Coached by Jordan Borkoski and Samantha Borkoski

 7th Place      Burkwood Farm (Zone 9)

Coached by Lina Hamada-Hooper and Paige Wagter

 8th Place      Berthoud Equestrians (Zone 8)

Coached by Molly Brame and Audrey Kouns

Over in the Dressage arena, the Leading Dressage rider was plucked from a very talented group of Dressage Varsity Open test Riders to claim the 2023 title. Taylor Allen from Grier School (Zone 11B) and coached by Chrystal Wood and Frannie King took home a slew of awards. Claiming the reserve title was Jenna Bunce from Green Acres Equestrians coached by Dawn Dascomb. Numerous other individual winners were crowned National Champion titles as Dressage Upper School classes rounded out the final competition of the four-day event.

As is tradition, not only did riders receive class awards, but the IEA presents a long list of special awards including coach and rider sportsmanship awards, horse of the show awards, team spirit and stall decorating awards, Volunteer of the show, and more. Here are some of the final show awards presented during the 2023 IEA National Finals:

Stall Decorating Contest – “Decorate for the Decade”

Powerhouse Dressage (Region 3) with a 1990’s theme – Coached by Lisa Powers & Lani Tigchelaar

HUNT SEAT END OF SHOW AWARDS

Outstanding Over Fences Horse of the Show – Wysiwyg provided by Evermore Farm (Zone 4)

Outstanding Flat Horse of the ShowSamuel provided by Maryville College

Nancy Kohler Cunningham Stewards Choice HorseSnoopy provided by St. Andrews University

Most Valuable Paint (MVP)Rooster provided by Five Star Hunters (Zone 4)

Award sponsored by American Paint Horse Association (APHA)

 Outstanding Thoroughbred HorseBently provided by TerryAllen Farms (Zone 1)

Award sponsored by Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP)

 Coach Sportsmanship Award Jay Moore from The Authentic LLC IEA Team (Zone 4)

Team Spirit Award Empire State Equestrian (Zone 2)

Hunt Seat Volunteer of the Show Harper Hood from Sharkey Farm (Zone 9)

Rider Sportsmanship Award Genevieve Barnett from Empire State Equestrian (Zone 2)

DRESSAGE END OF SHOW AWARDS

Outstanding Dressage Test Horse of the Show – Gilligan provided by Bankshire United (Region 3)

Outstanding Dressage Seat Equitation Horse of the Show – Mr. T provided by Bankshire United (R3)

Most Valuable Paint (MVP)Dakota B provided by Bankshire United (Region 3)

Award sponsored by American Paint Horse Association (APHA)

 Outstanding Thoroughbred HorseLucy provided by Talbot Run (Region 3)

Award sponsored by Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP)

 Best Arabian HorseReady provided by Euchee Meadows Equestrian (Region 4)

Award sponsored by Arabian Horse Association (AHA)

 Best Half-Arabian HorseNugget provided by Euchee Meadows Equestrian (Region 4)

Award sponsored by Arabian Horse Association (AHA)

Coach Sportsmanship Award Kimberly Barber from Creidmount Saddle Club (Zone 9)

Team Spirit Award Creidmount Saddle Club (Region 9)

Hunt Seat Volunteer of the Show Lisa Powers from Powerhouse Dressage (Region 3)

Rider Sportsmanship Award Hayley Powell from Laurel Manor Equestrian (Region 7)

For many years, the United States Pony Clubs, Inc. (USPC) has sponsored the written Horseman’s Knowledge Test at National Finals. This year, Pony Club has again sponsored 1st through 8th place awards for both middle school and high school riders in Hunt Seat and Dressage.  A full list of award winners can be found here.

More than 100 sponsors and vendors came together to support the 2023 IEA National Finals.  A full list of sponsors can be found on the IEA Website at www.rideiea.org.  Photography was expertly provided by Winslow Photography and photos can be viewed here.  Live Stream coverage was provided by ShowGrounds Live and can be viewed by subscription here. Additional information, results, and more can be viewed on the IEA National Finals webpage here.

Membership for the IEA 2023-2024 season will open in June with regular season shows beginning in August. For more information on the IEA, visit www.rideiea.org or call 1-877-RIDE-IEA.

For media questions, please contact IEA Director of Marketing, Kimber Whanger at kimber@rideiea.org.

ABOUT THE INTERSCHOLASTIC EQUESTRIAN ASSOCIATION (IEA)
Now finishing up their 21st year, the IEA has over 14,600 members across the United States participating in Hunt Seat, Western and Dressage disciplines. There is no need for a rider to own a horse because the IEA hosting team supplies a mount and tack to each equestrian for competitions. IEA’s mission is to promote lifelong involvement in equestrian athletics. IEA wishes to introduce students in grades 4-8 (Future) and 9-12 (Upper School) to equestrian sports and to develop understanding and appreciation of equestrian sports through organized competitions and educational opportunities. IEA further wishes to inspire and facilitate adults to continue their journey in equestrian athletics for a lifetime. For more information, visit www.RideIEA.org