Your Guide to Interscholastic Riding: Different Organizations Explained

Photo by Grace Salmon


For many riders, the start of winter means the end of the show season. However, for many others, the winter only means more opportunities to ride and grow as a rider, even if you do not show competitively throughout the summer. Through the local interscholastic and intercollegiate riding programs throughout the United States, students and riders have found that riding can become a school sanctioned sport. This is an opportunity to meet new friends, improve your riding abilities on different horses, and even get scholarships. Below is a description of each of the types of interscholastic and intercollegiate riding programs for your convenience.

IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association)

This national organization was started to help open the sport of horseback riding to students in middle and high school. Riders do not need to supply their own tack or horse, as this is the job of the host team to arrange. Riders then draw their horse out of a hat and get a short introduction to the horse until they enter the arena for a jumping round or flat phase which is judged on the riders horsemanship and riding abilities. This program helps middle and high school riders compete with the thrill of a team by their side and the suspense of not knowing what horse you could draw. IEA is a great program to join for riders and students to further their education in the sport and give them a show schedule in the winter. (

Photo by Grace Salmon

IEL (Interscholastic Equestrian League)

This Los Angelos and Ventura County, California based program is open to all middle and high schools who are interested in the IEL program. Students who join are expected to provide thier own horses and tack, and make the stall reservations. The riders compete in teams designated by their school or where they ride and also individually. Riders may enter in either equitation or hunter classes depending on their horses style. IEL helps students and riders improve their horsemanship and prepare them for the regional and national competitions in the summer. (

Inter-School Horse Show (ISHS)

ISHS has made it their mission to open the sport of horseback riding to those in school who may have limited access to horseback riding. Members are required to either supply their own horse or lease one from the host schools at shows. Varsity and Junior Varsity divisions are supplied with many variations within those two divisions. Throughout the show season, riders individually and with a team acquire points to lead up to the invitational show at the end of the year. ISHS is a great program for students to get into as it is a sport not normally offered in schools and gives riders a basis for better horsemanship. (

Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA)

IHSA, much like IEA, allows for students, now in college, to compete individually and as a team no matter their riding ability or financial status. Riders draw their horses and get a short amount of time to figure their horse out before they go into the arena for a jumping round or flat phase. This program helps students continue their riding throughout college all over the nation while maintaining their busy school schedule. IHSA not only furthers a riders education in the saddle, but also provides more of a basis of essential horsemanship skills needed to perform with excellence both in and out of the arena. (

Photo by Grace Salmon

National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA)

NCEA is the only female-only association within the mix, but is open to all female college athletes at the participating schools. Five horses are brought to each event, and both schools competing select five riders to compete in head-to-head competitions. The riders are allowed to watch the horse that they randomly draw warmup before competition, and then are allowed four minutes to become acquainted with their horse before going into the arena for a jumping or flat phase. The riders from the opposing team then compete on the same horses and all riders are judged on their position and ability and not the horses skill.  NCEA really helps to further open the sport of horseback riding to girls in college. (

College Preparatory Invitational (CPI)

CPI is a national program that offers equestrians in college the ability to expand their equestrian experience through comprehensive educational programs, scholarships and community service opportunities, and competition. CPI members do not need to bring their own tack or horses, as CPI provides them for the riders during the competition. Students compete at one of the two shows, one in Burbank, California, the other in West Palm Beach, Florida. The competition format is similar to those of IEA and IHSA, but also includes possible tests that are in both the flat and jumping phases. Students in CPI have the opportunity to earn scholarships and also become one of the two Junior Ambassadors for CPI. (

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