The Interscholastic Equestrian Association’s Zone 1 Finals will be held in West Springfield, MA this weekend, and local team members like the one from Willow Brook Farm in Lincoln are hoping to qualify this weekend for the National IEA Event to be held in Harrisburg PA at the end of April.
Zone 1 features teams from the New England states, making this weekend’s competition a big event at the Eastern States Exposition Center. IEA is a national organization since 2002 and now has about 14000 members and has become the largest equestrian youth organization in the United States and the numbers are continuing to grow on a yearly basis. 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 between grades 6-12. Zone finals will feature 12 different teams and 200 individual riders competing throughout the region.
“It’s challenging and fun and what is unique about the IEA is that you don’t have to own a horse to compete. The horse and tack equipment needed is provided to every rider at each event. It’s very helpful because owning and maintaining a horse is very expensive and generally that alone cuts off many kids that are interested in riding from even getting involved in the sport at all. So IEA provides a great system to those that want to compete, weather they own a horse or not”, said Nancy Micheletti, an equestrian parent from Cranston whose daughter Victoria, along with Sarah Savasta and fellow Cranston natives, Fallon Catauro, Amelia Martin and Jess Mendonca are the five team members qualifying to compete in West Springfield from Willow Brook Farm under the direction of coach Dina Patnaud. Dina’s been coaching an IEA team for the past 15 years. A lifelong equestrian herself, tirelessly devotes her attention to the love of this sport.
To reach the regional level of competition riders must accumulate points throughout the year as teams and individuals in both flat and over fences classes. Every rider may participate in up to five shows during the season, and must score at least 18 points to qualify. Some riders qualify for just one class while others qualify for both. The top three performers in each class with be invited to next month’s national competition.
“At this point, New England has one of the highest rider populations in the country and it only increasing. Some of it is the dense population in this area, but riding has also been rooted in our heritage since we were established as a country. There’s a heavy concentration here, you’d be surprised at how many barns are in operation in Rhode Island….that’s why it’s so important to highlight this sport,” said Micheletti. There are a lot of barns in the local area in Rhode Island with horses that are maintained for the purpose of letting these kids ride them. It’s almost like renting you can lease them as well. It is great for these kids to have affordable access to riding and to be able to train in a sport that has been widely regarded as only an elite sport. The IEA is a community of equine enthusiasts that continues to work together for the betterment of the beloved sport.
It’s a dream that really can come true for those who spend time with and care for horses, these are life skills learned like no other sport. Horsemanship teaches all of life lessons; patience, triumph, confidence, responsibility, the value of hard work, bravery, humble, driven, and at times great loss of a friend , your companion horse.