The Interscholastic Equestrian Association is a non-profit organization that began in 2002. It introduces both private and public students in middle and secondary schools—ages nine through 19—to equestrian sports. The association supports three disciplines: Hunt Seat, Western, and Dressage, and began with just over 200 participants. Now the association holds over 14,500 members hosting competitions nationwide. Out of thousands of members, two Barrington locals were lucky enough to compete in the 2021 regional and national competitions.
Briony Robinson, 13, and her sister Amelie, 15, both competed in the Hunt Seat Division with their team “Somerset.” Briony, an 8th grader at Prairie Middle School Campus, got through individually to the 2021 IEA Hunt Seat Regional Competition, and Amelie, a sophomore at Barrington High School, made it through individually to the national finals. Amelie became this year’s Junior Varsity Novice Equitation on the Flat Champion and also placed 5th in the Junior Varsity over fences. Here’s the catch: neither of them needed to own a horse or tack. With the IEA, all you need to start a team are three riders in either middle or secondary school, a coach, and a facility to ride. There is no need for any rider to own a horse since competition horses are provided at each venue to the contestant.
At the competition, the riders are divided into middle school and high school teams. The 4th and 5th-grade riders can earn points in middle school teams, which is new this year. There are several divisions within the teams as riders progress depending on points and experience. “Our coaches are just wonderful and they love being part of IEA,” says Sally Robinson, mother of Briony and Amelie. “They are very supportive and also organize lots of fun social events to help build team spirit.” In addition, the riders gain so much in so many ways. “One day you might not do well, but you can still cheer on your teammates and vice versa,” says Sally. “It’s such a fun atmosphere.” IEA encourages social development and team camaraderie in addition to becoming a champion rider. “Your barn hosts a show so you get to prepare the horses and care for them as well as help other team riders mount and dismount and prepare their tack,” says Sally. In addition, there are several colleges that attend the national finals that offer riding programs to IEA riders to continue learning and practicing the sport.
Sally thinks it’s a great sport because it teaches children to care for their equine partner, to be a great team member and horse person while learning to adapt to different kinds of horses. She noticed a difference in her daughters since being with IEA and the sport. “They have a newfound determination to constantly improve and move up the levels for their teams as well as themselves,” she says. “Riding horses at home can be lonely and hard to stay motivated, but being at the barn with friends is more fun.”
For more information visit, rideiea.org.