When thinking of horse-jumping, one might envision a rider and horse working countless hours to hone their skills for competition.
That scenario isn’t the case when it comes to Interscholastic Equestrian Association competitions; the IEA makes it possible for middle school and high school students of any economic level to compete by supplying the horses and equipment.
According to the IEA website – www.rideiea.org/zone3 – the organization was established in 2002 and held its first national finals event in 2003 in Ohio. The organization has more than 8,000 members in 32 states.
The website also states “students have the opportunity to earn scholarships… through awards in competition and through sportsmanship activities.”
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On March 7, Cedarhill Farm in Waxhaw hosted the Zone 3, Region 7 IEA competition. Top riders advance to the Zones competition at the Garrison Forest School in Owings Mills, Md., on March 28-29.
The first- and second-place teams, as well as first- and second-place individuals, advance to Zones; Zone 3 includes North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware.
Maddy Parker, 16, competed at the highest level, winning first place for individual over fences, individual flats, team over fences, team flats and the Varsity Open Championship.
Parker’s performance earned a trip to the Zones along with the Cedarhill Farm team, which won the High School Team Championship; and Carolina Country Acres, also from Waxhaw, which won the Middle School Team Championship.
Teams and riders who win at the Zones will advance to the nationals in Wellington, Fla., on April 24-26.
The riders are separated into two groups: varsity riders (grades nine through 12) and future riders (grades six through eight). They also are divided based on skill, with seven classes in high school and five in middle school.
Show manager Caroline Foto, IEA coach at Cedarhill Farm, said the horses also are divided into levels by the show manager, and each rider pulls a name from a bag to determine which horse they’ll ride.
The riders are allowed to take the horse over two practice jumps before they enter the ring for competition.
Parker said she has been riding in competitions since she was 7 years old and living in Michigan. For the last eight years she has represented Cedarhill Farm. Even though Parker has her own horse, she said, values the team experience with Cedarhill Farm.
“The hardest part is getting on a horse you don’t know and trying to give it the best ride possible,” she said. “ … I come out here to work all day and ride a bunch of different horses, which gives me a little bit of an advantage.”
Parker said she enjoys being part of the team.
“You can have the worst round, but your team members can make you feel like you had the best one,” Parker said.
Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, visit www.rideiea.org.