If you are a horse person on social media, you have likely noticed postings about IEA horse shows and results. Here in the northeast, the shows are taking the area by storm.
What is the IEA?
The Interscholastic Equestrian Association is an organization that was developed to provide competitive and educational activities for youth riders in grades 6 through 12. It is now the largest youth equestrian association in the country, with over 14,500 members and 1500 teams throughout the United States. The programs have hunt seat and western divisions, and the organization provides scholarships for winning riders at the regional and national level. The English division includes flat and jumping classes. The western division started with horsemanship and reining and has recently added a ranch division. There is also a dressage division.
At an IEA horse show, the riders are competing for individual points as well as team points. Riders draw a horse for their class and have to show their class with no warm up on the horse. Showing in this manner prepares riders for intercollegiate competition, which uses the same format. Riders do not need to own a horse, as all mounts and tack are provided. Riders compete at shows throughout the season. Riders who have scored the requisite number of points (15) move on to the Regional Show. The top two placing riders in the regional show classes move on to the National Show, which this year is in April in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
We caught up with two Pennsylvania trainers/instructors, Alida Burkholder and Caitlin Otero, who both have teams at their barns to see what the benefits of the program are.
Alida Burkholder – Lower Hopewell Farm, Lititz, Pennsylvania
Alida Burkholder, of Lower Hopewell Farm in Lititz, PA, had been the Intercollegiate coach for the Penn State Harrisburg campus so was familiar with the format of the horse shows. Her long-time client, Kara Grube, came to her one day and suggested that she start an IEA team at the farm. Alida agreed to have a team if the kids got the paperwork together. They did so and Lower Hopewell Farm has had an IEA team for about 5 years.
Alida sees several benefits of the program. For her lesson students, the ones are never likely to own their own horse (for whatever reason), the IEA program gives them a chance to experience horse shows and see if they like showing. It is an affordable way for these kids to get a taste of horse showing with a relatively low financial investment. The classes are about $45.00, and they can show in 6 horse shows a season. For Alida’s die hard horse show students, the IEA shows allow them to continue to show all year, even after the breed shows in Pennsylvania have stopped for the year.
One of Alida’s students, Aspen Grube, made it to the National Show in 2021. This was held at the Paint Horse World show in Fort Worth, Texas. The IEA makes a big deal out of the shows which is great for the kids.
For Alida, she sees an additional benefit for her riders. The format of the shows really builds the confidence of her students. They end up riding a lot of different horses and must quickly figure out how to get them shown since there is no warmup time. It builds their horsemanship skills and their confidence. As for Alida, she really enjoys working with the kids. She also occasionally provides horses for the shows and one of her Appaloosas has won the best horse award at some of the shows.
Caitlin Otero – Holy Spirit Stables, Palmyra, Pennsylvania
Caitlin Otero, of Holy Spirit Stables, started her IEA team about three or four years ago. She had a few new students come to her barn that had previously been on an IEA team. She thought her students would do well. Holy Spirit Stables has a Western team.
Caitlin agrees with Alida in that a big selling point for IEA is that the kids do not need to own horses to show. It provides an opportunity to show for individuals that can’t afford their own horse or perhaps don’t want to make the commitment of a purchase. All they need is a makeup box and some show clothes. Caitlin loves that the program provides something for everyone. They have a middle school and high school program and classes that range from Walk Jog to advanced.
One of the biggest benefits she sees for her riders is the teamwork. Everything they do is as a team. She appoints team captains who help provide support and guidance for team members. The students are learning to ride many different types of horses at many different levels of training. The horses can be anything from a greener horse to a very aged pony. Her students get very comfortable with the format which she thinks sets them up for success in IHSA teams in college.
The highlight of the Holy Spirit Stables IEA team’s 2021 show season was their trip to the Quarter Horse Congress. There were 22 teams at the event which was the first time Congress had an IEA show. Her team ended up 3rd out of the 22 teams and were only off the top placing by 3 points. She said that her team consistently does well and seeing the kids succeed is the coolest feeling for her.
If you are interested in starting a team at your farm, all the information you need can be found on the Interscholastic Equestrian Association’s website at www.rideiea.org. From all accounts, it is a great program that allows youth riders of all ages and abilities to show and have a great team experience. It can provide additional lesson revenue to a riding facility and scholarships for eligible riders.