IEA Returns to Tryon for 22nd Annual IEA National Finals

IEA Dressage Leading Rider - Alexis Foster from RGB Equestrian Team (Zone D2) - Photo by Winslow Photography

Edited Press Release

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5, 2024 (Columbus, OH) – The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) has nearly completed their 22nd season with the first two of three National Finals on April 25-28, 2024 in a combined 4-day Hunt Seat and Dressage competition at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) in Mill Spring, North Carolina. Returning for the 2nd year in a row to TIEC, IEA showcased over 700 of the nation’s leading middle and high school equestrian athletes in grades 4-12 representing 215 different teams from the United States and Canada. And for the first time in the organization’s history, IEA unveiled the first ever IEA Adult Pilot Program qualifiers to the spotlight. In addition to including adults in this year’s event – IEA also played host to the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) National Championships at the same time in the Dressage arena. All total, 60 teams battled it out for team championship titles and more than $1.5 million dollars in scholarships were awarded to Upper School Junior and Senior Individual riders.

The addition of adult and collegiate riders brought a whole new energy to this year’s Finals – with more spectators attending than ever before. The enormous indoor arenas at Tryon were busy from sun up to sun down – packed with spectators, vendors, horses, competitors and volunteers. Many hands make light work and indeed many hands were needed on deck for a competition of this size and scope. The backdrop of the beautiful Tryon facility (home to the 2018 World Equestrian Games) made it a fantastic location for IEA members to compete and reside. A multitude of comfortable cabins, restaurants and camping sites set in the lush green hills of western North Carolina made it seem more like a resort than a horse show.

A complete list of results, show officials, and vendor/sponsors can be found here. IEA will host their third National Finals for the Western discipline on June 23-25, 2024 in Fort Worth, Texas during the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) World Championship Show.

Dressage Horse, Irish, watches the competition intensely on the Ride Review screen. Irish was provided by Talbot Run – 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, Dressage Test and Dressage Seat Equitation (and Western Horsemanship, Reining and Ranch Riding). 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 (and every other IEA show) were provided by IEA member teams, colleges, and outside horse providers – allowing for a more level playing field of competition. During the Parade of Teams, IEA Executive Director, Roxane Durant announced that IEA had hosted over 1,000 individual horse shows across the nation during the 2023-2024 season.

Day One – Thursday April 25, 2024

Thursday’s competition began with Hunt Seat Upper School team competition in the expansive Tryon indoor arena. This arena (Ring #1), while built approximately 6 years ago, has not been used as heavily as Tryon’s many outdoor rings and Grand Prix arenas on the grounds. Spanning nearly two football fields long – the Tryon indoor includes arena sand the entire length of the building to accommodate two competition arenas at the same time as well as multiple warm-up and mounting areas. IEA Finals arenas expanded almost as far as the eye could see – yet conveniently located under one roof. Parallel to the arenas and seating areas was a long concourse filled with over 50 IEA vendor booths and colleges supporting the event.

Hunt Seat Upper School Team Champions – Pleasant Hill Farm. Coached by Cammie Fielding and Meaghan Kearns. Team Riders include: Carly Williams, Casey Arriaga, Nicola Sena, Alice Haney, Amelia Parrish and Margot Allen – Photo by Winslow Photography

On Thursday, 18 Hunt Seat Upper School teams were represented with top honors going to Pleasant Hill Farm (Zone H3) coached by Cammie Fielding and Meaghan Kearns. Reserve Upper School Hunt Seat Champion Team went to Burkwood Farm (Zone H9) coached by Paige Wagter. 

The remaining top 8 Hunt Seat Upper School teams were as follows:

  • 3rd Place – Empire State Equestrian Team (Zone H2)
  • 4th Place – The Ethel Walker School (Zone H1)
  • 5th Place – JG Equestrian (Zone H5)
  • 6th Place – Grier School (Zone H11)
  • 7th Place – Sporthorse Intl (Zone H4)
  • 8th Place – Forest Edge Farm (Zone H8)
Junior Essex Troop of Cavalry (JET) Retired Members joined IEA at Tryon to present awards during the Hunt Seat Team Competition. Pictured Left to Right: Patrick Nicholson, Rodney Seelig, Ken Okken, Don Nicholson, William Bronstein, and Tim Cleary – Photo by Winslow Photography

As part of the Upper School Team awards ceremony, IEA was proud to present for the 2nd year a new perpetual trophy for both the Upper School and Middle School Hunt Seat Teams courtesy of a partnership with the (now dissolved) Junior Essex Troop of Cavalry (JET). Known as the “JET Trophy”, this award, along with a sizeable financial contribution to the IEA, allows IEA to continue the Troop’s legacy of fostering the love of horses among youth through education in the art of horsemanship and equine athletics. In 2023, IEA was selected among a small handful of organizations to receive support from the Junior Essex Troop of Cavalry as they retired their long-standing organization. Representatives from JET were on-hand during IEA National Finals to help present these prestigious trophies, including JET President Rodney Seelig and former JET members, Ken Okken, Don Nicholson, William Bronstein, and Tim Cleary.

About 50 yards away from the Hunt Seat Arena, IEA middle school Dressage Individual riders were equally competitive in Ring #2 as they vied for their own championship titles.

Thursday also kicked off the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) classes that were interspersed between IEA Dressage classes.

Hosting the IDA Championships was a wonderful opportunity to share the stage with our IDA friends as well as provide opportunities for IEA riders to watch more experienced collegiate riders and speak with IDA coaches, ” says IEA Board President and Dressage Coach, Amanda Garner. “IDA teams put on an impressive show of outstanding riding and team spirit adding to the energy of the dressage horse show.” Garner served as one of the Stewards of IEA Dressage National Finals.

Not only was the competition deep in the show arenas, but back in the barns, another friendly competition was brewing among the horse providers to see which horse/barn could collect the most WINNING HORSE COOLERS!

As part of their generous sponsorship to the IEA, Schneiders Saddlery provided dozens of beautiful, embroidered coolers to every Hunt Seat horse and Dressage horse that carried their rider to first place in their individual or team class during National Finals. At the end of each awards ceremony, the winning horse entered the arena led by their owner/provider wearing their new cooler to be recognized for their outstanding effort in the class and to pose for photos with their winning rider.

Day Two – Friday, April 26th, 2024

Friday’s competition kicked off the USHJA (United States Hunter Jumper Association) sponsored individual classes for Upper School Hunt Seat Riders in Ring #1 as well as Middle School Dressage Team Competition in 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 riders were crowned numerous sponsored awards throughout the day including Hunt Seat trophies from USHJA. 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. Each year, the IEA awards $25,000 in IEA Founders Senior Cash Scholarships. Additional scholarships from Albion College, Emory & Henry University, St. Andrews University, University of Findlay, Delaware Valley University, Lake Erie College, Averett University, and Otterbein University were also awarded to top placing juniors and seniors. A staggering grand total of $1.5M in multi-year scholarships were awarded during National Finals – the biggest scholarship total ever in the history of IEA. 

Dressage Middle School Team Champions – RCR Farms. Coached by Jennifer Brinkman-Ayers, Renae Coates, and Hayley Reeves. Team riders include: Sofia Colin, Bella Jetton and Philippa Garza – Photo by Winslow Photography

The newly constructed arena for Dressage competition saw 12 middle school teams from each of the 6 IEA Dressage Zones. When the dust settled, it was RCR Farms (Zone D5) who came out on top, coached by Renae Coates, Jennifer Brinkman-Ayers, and Haley Reeves. Reserve Middle School Dressage Champions Team went to Las Vegas Blue Ribbon Dressage (Zone D6) coached by Missy Corbin, Annette Spinetti, Meghan Truppner, Catherine Prato, and Dinnia DiGennaro.

The remaining top 8 Dressage Middle School teams were as follows:

  • 3rd Place – Bankshire United (Zone D3)
  • 4th Place – Country Springs Equestrian (Zone D3)
  • 5th Place – Scottsdale Equestrian Team (Zone D5)
  • 6th Place – Stoneleigh-Burnham School (Zone D1)
  • 7th Place – Duzan Equestrian Team (Zone D4)
  • 8th Place – Standing Ovation Equestrian Center (Zone D2)
Photo by Winslow Photography

The end of the day highlight on Friday culminated in a festive and energetic Team Parade which included all participating teams, individuals, coaches, and the occasional canine who marched in Zone order and were individually recognized. Teams dressed up in a variety of fun costumes and team-wear to show off their team spirit. Each day of National Finals had a dress-up theme and Friday’s theme was “Hometown or Team Spirit”. IEA Executive Director, Roxane Durant, led the parade announcements and traditional “get-to-know-you” games, recognized all the seniors in attendance, and gave them a special gift and a shout out to their prospective colleges and post-high school plans. Durant also announced the location for the 2025 IEA Hunt Seat and Dressage National Finals which will be held in late April at the National Equestrian Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The 2025 IEA Western National Finals will be held again in Fort Worth, Texas at the APHA World Championship Show.

Photo by Winslow Photography

During the team parade, Durant switched into a more serious and reflective tone as she and other past recipients presented the 2024 Timothy J. Boone Lifetime Achievement Award to IEA Director of Marketing, Kimber Whanger. Whanger is the 16th recipient to receive this honor and brings to the IEA years of experience in non-profit management, graphic design, and a background in Saddle Seat and Western competition. She came on board to IEA in early 2017 in the Marketing Department when her daughter joined an IEA team as a 5th grader.

Photo by Winslow Photography

Friday night culminated in another wonderful exhibitor’s celebration event sponsored by United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) in the Tryon Village. IEA riders, parents, and guests enjoyed free food, deserts, antique carousel rides, a dance party and human jump course with riders enjoying the music and dancing into the dark. A special thank you to our Member Partner USHJA and to Outreach & Affiliates Coordinator, Melanie Mader, for spending the week representing USHJA and helping present trophies in the arena and taking lots of candid ring photos.

Photo by Winslow Photography
Click on the image to see a video recap from Day #2 of National Finals and the Parade of Teams. Video by IEA Rider and Video Intern, Katie Plastid.

Day Three – Saturday, April 27, 2024

Saturday began the Upper School Dressage Team competition in Ring #2, while middle school Hunt Seat Individual riders vied for championship titles in Ring #1. The pinnacle class each year is undoubtedly the IHSA Varsity Open Championship Class – a two-part competition of the highest level riders in the IEA from each active Zone. This year’s class was sponsored by the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) and Otterbein College.

Riders qualify for this prestigious class by accumulating the highest number of points during the regular season to win the one coveted spot for their zone. Ten riders are then combined with the top placing two riders in the individual Hunt Seat over fences class and Hunt Seat Equitation on the flat class.

IEA always has two “wild-card” riders who join the mix following the results of the individual Varsity Open over fences and Varsity Open on the flat classes. Twelve total riders duked it out in a very competitive two-part over fences and flat class. Emerging as the 2024 IHSA Hunt Seat Varsity Open Champion was senior, Ellie Welte who rides on the Limerick Lane Team out of Hilliard, Ohio (Zone H5) and coached by Maureen Fagan and Kara Zarr. Reserve Varsity Open Championship rider went to Willow Wright who rides for Five Peaks Farm (Zone H2) out of Bedford, New York and coached by Missy Wright and Emma Walter.

The following ten other outstanding Varsity Open Riders were among the top 12 out of 1,112 Open Riders this season.

  • 3rd Place – Hayley Hewitt – New Canaan Mounted Troop (Zone H1)
  • 4th Place – Braelyn Webb – Sharkey Farm (Zone H9)
  • 5th Place – Isabel Henick – Sagamore Hill Stables (Zone H2)
  • 6th Place – Lillian Muzzy – Chestnut Hills (Zone H10)
  • 7th Place – Faith Schuttemeyer – Sporthorse Intl (Zone H4)
  • 8th Place – Isabelle Malick – Forest Edge Farm (Zone H8)
  • 9th Place – Anna Gresham
  • 10th Place – Addison Haskins – Gwyn Meadows Farm (Zone H11)
  • 11th Place – Aubrey Phillips – Flying Change Farm (Zone H7)
  • 12th Place – Kelly Kiser – Foxtail Farm (Zone H3)
Click on the image to watch a video recap of the IHSA Varsity Open Championship Class. Video by IEA Rider and Video Intern, Katie Plastid.

In the Dressage Arena, Upper School Team Riders wowed the crowd with first-rate riding. Dressage is IEA’s newest discipline – this being only the 4th year Dressage has held an official National Finals. Twelve Upper School teams volleyed for points to claim the championship titles and once again the team that could not be beat, RCR Farms (Zone D5), walked away with their 2nd National Championship win of the weekend as the Upper School Champion Dressage Team. Reserve Dressage Upper School honors went to Grier School (Zone D2) coached by Chrystal Wood.

The remaining top 8 Dressage Upper School teams were as follows:

  • 3rd Place – White Rock (Zone D6)
  • 4th Place – Talbot Run (Zone D3)
  • 5th Place – RGB Equestrian (Zone D1)
  • 6th Place – Spruce Valley Stables/Certainty Sales (Zone D1)
  • 7th Place – Duzan Equestrian Team (Zone D4)
  • 8th Place – Scottsdale Equestrian Team (Zone D5)
Dressage Upper School Team Champions – RCR FarmsCoached by Jennifer Brinkman-Ayers, Renae Coates, and Hayley Reeves. Team riders include: Devyn De Hondol, Pemberley Wright, Kirsten Cox, and Megan SellierPhoto by Winslow Photography

Saturday evening’s festivities ended with two special events – the Eat, Drink & Be Giving charity dinner benefitting the IEA National Founders Scholarship Fund for adult supporters held at the beautiful Legends restaurant in Tryon Village and a wildly successful IEA Prom held in the Tryon ballroom. The inaugural IEA Prom was sponsored by Grier School and the Arabian Horse Association. More than 300 IEA riders dressed in full prom gear enjoyed a buffet-style dinner, drinks and dancing for several hours. The evening was a great way for both adults and youth to get out of show/barn clothing, dress up and enjoy each other’s company amid the gorgeous mountains and expansive facility overlooking the Grand Prix arena and Tryon Village. It was another evening of youthful joy and celebration with excellent weather conditions.

Day Four – Sunday, April 28, 2024

The final day of IEA National Finals wrapped up with competition for the Hunt Middle School Teams and Upper School Dressage Individual competitions. Not to be undone by their older teammates, 18 Middle School Hunt Seat Teams showed every bit of the same confidence, skill, and determination to bring home a winning title. In the end, it was Walnut Creek Farm from Zone H3 and coached by Sarah Klassett to take home the top prize with a 9-point lead over the Reserve Champion team – Foxtail Farm also from Zone 3 and coached by Dana Kiser. This was the 2nd year in a row that IEA Zone 3 grabbed the top two spots in the Middle School Team competition. Walnut Creek Farm also was the recipient of the other JET Award for Middle School and will have their name engraved on the new perpetual trophy.

Hunt Seat Middle School Team Champions – Walnut Creek FarmCoached by Sarah Klassett. Team riders include: Avery Klassett, Eliza Huegerich and Olivia TumblinPhoto by Winslow Photography

The remaining top 8 Hunt Seat Middle School teams were as follows:

  • 3rd Place – Evermore Farm (Zone H4)
  • 4th Place – Sagamore Hill Stables (Zone H2)
  • 5th Place – Forest Hill Farm CO (Zone H8)
  • 6th Place – Elite Stables Team (Zone H5)
  • 7th Place – Farmstead Equestrian Team (Zone H2)
  • 8th Place – Topline Equestrian TN – (Zone H4)

In the Dressage arena, Upper School riders volleyed for Individual National Titles among the 12 of the top riders in the nation. All eyes were on the Varsity Open Dressage Test class where the highest level of IEA Dressage riders impressed the judges with their precision and skill. Top notch horses and top notch riders made for close scoring and exciting classes throughout the day.

The highest placing rider in the Varsity Open Dressage Test class and the Varsity Open Dressage Seat Equitation class becomes the IEA Leading Dressage Rider. This year that high honor went to Alexis Forster from RGB Equestrian (Zone D1) who took home Reserve Championships in both of those individual classes to claim the designation.

Adult IEA Dressage Rider, Anne Richardson (Hold Your Horses – Zone D4) stepping into the ringPhoto by Winslow Photography

Sunday’s show at National Finals was also a monumental day in IEA history, with the first ever Adult IEA classes held in both the Hunt Seat and Dressage Arenas. Closing out the 2nd year of the IEA Adult Pilot Program were the top 6 adult riders in each of the 3 Adult classes offered in the program.

During the 2022-2023 season, IEA rolled out an Adult Pilot Program for amateur riders ages 21 and older to participate in the IEA draw-based format. Like their younger teammates, IEA Adult riders must join a team, have a coach, and participate in IEA shows offering Adult classes. Hunt Seat Adult riders compete in Equitation on the flat Walk-Trot or Walk-Trot-Canter and also over fences classes in 2′ and x-rails. Dressage Adult riders compete in both Dressage Test Classes and Dressage Seat Equitation Classes in Walk-Trot and Walk-Trot-Canter. Nearly 250 Adult IEA Riders participated during the 2023-2024 Season.

IEA Dressage Administrator and Adult Pilot Program Coordinator, Emily David got in on the action of participating in adult classes this season and landed herself a spot at Hunt Seat National Finals – Photo by Winslow Photography

As is tradition, not only did riders receive class awards, but the IEA also presents a long list of special awards including coach and rider sportsmanship awards, horse of the show awards, team spirit and stall decorating awards, Volunteer of the show, and more. Here are some of the final show awards presented during the 2024 IEA National Finals:

Tack Stall Decorating Contest – “Let the Games Begin” was this year’s theme.
Bankshire United Dressage Team (Zone D3) with a Horseopoly theme – Coached by Jenny O’Handly

Hunt Seat End of Show Awards

Outstanding Over Fences Horse of the Show

  • Shilo provided by Top Call

Outstanding Flat Horse of the Show

  • Tink provided by Mount Pisgah

Nancy Kohler Cunningham Stewards Choice Horse

  • Lithos provided by Long Creek
  • Award Sponsored by The Show Trunk II

Outstanding Thoroughbred Horse

  • Ben provided by Breakaway Farm
  • Award sponsored by Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP)

Hunt Seat Coach Sportsmanship Award

  • Katelyn Blackwell from Long Creek
  • Award sponsored by Katie Schaaf

Hunt Seat Rider Sportsmanship Award

  • Gabby Frederick from Sharkey Farm

Hunt Seat Team Spirit Award

  • Everything Little Farm

Hunt Seat Volunteer of the Show

  • Rebecca Gray from The Authentic LLC Team
Hunt Seat Coach Sportsmanship Award Winner – Katelyn Blackwell – Photo by Winslow Photography

Dressage End of Show Awards

Khozmo provided by Grier School checks out his awards for winning Arabian Horse of the Show, sponsored by the Arabian Horse Association – Photo by Winslow Photography

Outstanding Dressage Test Horse of the Show

  • Fernhill Disco provided by Emory & Henry College

Outstanding Dressage Seat Equitation Horse of the Show

  • Cody provided by High Point Farm

Most Valuable Paint (MVP)

  • Dakota provided by Bankshire United
  • Award sponsored by the American Paint Horse Association (APHA)

Outstanding Thoroughbred Horse

  • Lucy provided by Talbot Run
  • Award sponsored by Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP)

Best Arabian Horse

  • Khozmo provided by Grier School
  • Award sponsored by Arabian Horse Association (AHA)

Dressage Coach Sportsmanship Award

  • Lisa Powers from Powerhouse Dressage

Dressage Rider Sportsmanship Award

  • Emma Baldwin from Powerhouse Dressage

Dressage Team Spirit Award

  • Talbot Run

Dressage Volunteer of the Show

  • Vicki Powers from Powerhouse Dressage