IEA Ends 20th Anniversary Season With Record-Number National Finals

Photo by Winslow Photography

Edited Press Release

The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) completed their 20th Anniversary season on April 28 – May 1, 2022 with a combined 4-day National Finals competition at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Over 750 of the nation’s leading middle school and high school equestrian athletes (in grades 4-12) representing 242 different teams from across the United States gathered to compete as individuals and teams for top honors in Hunt Seat, Western and Dressage classes, championship titles and collegiate scholarships. IEA had a total of 1,458 teams this season with 84 teams qualifying for the National Finals team competitions.  This was the largest National Finals event IEA has produced in their 20-year history, and The Plaid Horse was onsite throughout the week, distributing more than 2,500 copies of the March and April issues.

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Upper School Western Team Champions – Flamekissed Equestrian Team poses with their awards.  Photo by Winslow Photography.

Similar to the collegiate riding format, IEA utilizes a unique draw-based competition format whereby riders compete on unfamiliar horses in the following classes:  Hunt Seat Equitation over fences and on the flat, Western Horsemanship, Reining, and Ranch Riding, Dressage Test and Dressage Seat Equitation. IEA riders must develop their catch-riding skills as very little to no warm-up practice is allowed before each class. All tack and horses for National Finals were provided by IEA member teams and outside horse providers – allowing for a more level playing field of competition. 

Thursday’s competition began with Hunt Seat Upper School team competition in the expansive and historical New Holland Arena (Ring #1).  18 Hunt Seat High School teams were represented with top honors going to Sharkey Farms (Zone 9 – Snoqualmie, Washington) coached by Kate Sharkey and Tiffany Woods.  Reserve Upper School Champion Team went to Empire State Equestrian Team (Zone 2 – Lagrangeville, New York) coached by Clare Knapp.  

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Hunt Seat Upper School Team Champions – Sharkey Farms.  Photo by Winslow Photography.

About 50 yards away from the New Holland Arena, IEA Dressage and Western Middle School teams were equally competitive in the Equine Arena (Ring #2) as 12 teams from each discipline vied for their own championship titles.  Each morning Ring #2 began with Dressage competition in the morning followed by Western classes in the afternoon.  Top Dressage Middle School Team honors went to Laurel Manor Equestrian (Region 7 – Centerton, Arkansas) coached by Laura McKenzie Duncan.  Reserve Middle School Champion Team went to RCR Farms (Region 8 – Gilbert, Arizona) coached by Renae Coates and Jennifer Brinkman-Ayers.

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Dressage Middle School Team Champions – Laurel Manor Equestrian.  Photo by Winslow Photography.

Top Western Middle School Team honors went to Grier School (Region W11 – Birmingham, PA) coached by Chris McElyea.  Reserve Middle School Champion Team went to Western NY Equestrian (Region 2 – Gowanda, NY) coached by Heather Payne. 

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Western Middle School Team Champions – Grier School. Photo by Winslow Photography.

Friday’s competition kicked-off the USHJA (United States Hunter Jumper Association) sponsored individual classes for Upper School Hunt Seat riders (Ring #1) as well as Middle School Dressage and Western Riders (Ring #2).  Individual class winners are some of the most coveted titles as these classes represent the top riders in the nation who have bested their fellow competitors through regular season, regional and zone competitions to qualify for National Finals.  

Each individual class of 18 Upper School Hunt Seat riders and 12 Middle School Dressage/Western riders were crowned numerous sponsored awards throughout the day including Hunt Seat trophies from USHJA, Reining trophies from NRHA (National Reining Horse Association), Western Horsemanship trophies from NSBA (National Snaffle Bit Association) and Western buckles sponsored by Rod’s Western Palace.  

In addition to beautiful ribbons, awards, prizes and gift certificates, multiple cash scholarships from IEA were awarded to the highest placing and second highest placing seniors in each individual class throughout the weekend.  More than $25,000 in IEA Founders Senior Scholarships were distributed.  Additional scholarships from the University of Findlay, St. Andrews University, and Long Island University were also awarded to top placing juniors and seniors. 

Saturday’s competition was jam-packed with USHJA sponsored individual classes for Hunt Seat Middle School, Dressage and NRHA and NSBA sponsored classes for Western Upper School including IEA’s marquee Hunt Seat class – the Varsity Open Championship (VOC).  Numerous prizes and cash awards are presented during this class.  The 2022 VOC class was sponsored by Otterbein University.

The Varsity Open Championship class is made up of the top Upper School rider from each of the 11 Zones.  In addition, the winner of the Varsity Open Equitation Individual over fences and the Varsity Open Equitation on the flat Individual classes are included as wild card slots. Winning this prestigious class was sophomore Alina Sweeney from Patuxent Run Stables (Zone 3 – Prince Frederick, Maryland) coached by Savannah English. Reserve VOC honors went to senior Kennedy Dewan from Foxtail Farm (Zone 3 – Virginia Beach, Virginia) coached by Dana Kiser and Sugi Dewan. 

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Varsity Open Championship Winner and Leading Hunt Seat Rider – Alina Sweeney.  Photo by Winslow Photography.

In the Dressage/Western arena, individual Upper School Leading Rider titles went to junior Sammy Jetton from RCR Farms (Region 8 – Gilbert, Arizona) who was crowned Dressage Leading Rider.  Sammy is coached by Renae Coates and Jennifer Brinkman-Ayers.

Junior Payton Porterfield from Aspire Equestrian Team (Region 8 – Franktown, Colorado) was awarded the Myron Leff Western Leading Rider Award. Payton is coached by Bridget Rohde.

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Dressage Leading Rider – Sammy Jetton.  Photo by Winslow Photography.
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Western Leading Rider – Payton Porterfield, pictured here with presenter Leah Ely of the University of Findlay.  Photo by Winslow Photography.

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