Despite snow flurries and biting winds at the start of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Hunt Seat National Finals in Syracuse, NY, the level of competition was certainly heated as nearly 400 riders vied for national titles in the Toyota Coliseum on the New York State Fairgrounds. From April 20-22, riders in grades 6-12 from across the United States showed outstanding poise, professionalism, sportsmanship and equestrian ability as they competed in both individual and team classes in over fences and on the flat to determine the winners. The finalists represented 162 teams from a total of 10,933 eligible hunt seat riders and 1,451 teams from 10 zones. Individuals and teams participated in multiple competitions during regular season shows, regional finals and zone finals to qualify for the National Finals competition.
Rising to the top of this year’s National Finals was 2018 Leading Hunt Seat Rider, Tomiko McGovern from Lucky C Stables (Zone 2) in New Paltz, New York. McGovern kicked off her winning streak by making the callbacks and going on to win the USHJA Varsity Open on the Flat Individual Final on day one of National Finals. On day two, McGovern came back to win a very competitive Varsity Open Championship class of 12 of the best IEA riders in the nation to take the crown of Varsity Open Champion and 2018 Leading Hunt Seat Rider. Barely stopping to catch her breath, she then showed in the first team class of the morning on day three only to make the callbacks and go on to win the Varsity Open on the Flat Team Final. Then, along with her teammates from Lucky C Stables, they accumulated more than double the points of the next closest team to sweep the title of Upper School Team Champions. McGovern received $2,100 in Scholarship money from IEA as well as a host of awards and prizes from generous sponsors as well as opportunities for further competition and training with the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) and the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA). In addition to all this success, it was revealed during the Parade of Teams that McGovern was the only rider present at National Finals that had qualified six out of seven possible years. McGovern and her teammates are coached by Jessica Anselmo and Susan Clark.
Placing in the Reserve Champion slot for Upper School Team was Empress Equestrian Team (Zone 5) from Columbus, Ohio coached by Jamie Mills. The Middle School Team Championship was won by Parkview Equestrian Team (Zone 2) from Central Islip, New York coached by Yvonne Burns and Marlene McCabe. Reserve Champion Middle School Team went to Carriage Hill Farms (Zone 4) from Delray Beach, Florida and coached by Tricia Carron and Andrea Wrzosek.
The IEA holds the trait of good sportsmanship in the highest regard – both for riders and coaches. Allison Applegett from Sid Griffith Equestrian Club (Zone 5) in Hilliard, Ohio took home the 4th Annual Coach Sportsmanship Award. Madison Kniss from Sharkey Equestrian Team in Snoqualmie, Washington (Zone 9) was awarded the Victor Hugo-Vidal Sportsmanship Award.
Each year at IEA National Finals, the United States Pony Clubs, Inc. (USPC) presents a non-riding competition in the form of a written test and a hands-on practicum for a select group of finalists. The Holy Innocents Episcopal School Horsemanship Test Upper School winner was Sadie Stott from Clover Grove Equestrian Team in Fishersville, Virginia (Zone 3). Middle School winner went to Matt Tracy of Briarwood Farm Equestrian Team in Ringoes, New Jersey (Zone 11).
Since its creation, the IEA has relied on the support from its many volunteers to assist in the success of the organization. The Volunteer of the Show award was presented to Hailey Johnson from Chatham Hall in Chatham, Virginia. In addition to Johnson’s excellent service as a volunteer during National Finals, she also serves as the Zone 3 IEA Youth Board representative.
The 11th Annual Timothy J. Boone Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Amanda Garner from Dahlonega, Georgia (Zone 4). Garner is an IEA Steward, owner of Epiphany Farm, and author of “A Parent’s Guide to the IEA.” She serves as the Secretary of the IEA Board of Directors and as the Warm-Up Supervisor for National Finals.
The IEA is committed to the wellness of the horses in all competitions. To recognize the quality of the horses donated for the three-day event, “Twister” (provided by Cazenovia College) was named Champion Outstanding IEA Hunt Seat Horse and “Swell” (provided by Lessa Walker Stable) was named Best Turned-Out Horse.
“The outstanding quality of the horses brought to this show by our horse providers and their willingness to share these fine animals with our riders continues to be among the best we have seen at any IEA Nationals,” said Roxane Durant, IEA Co-Founder and Executive Director. “We realize the amount of work involved in hauling and caring for horses at a National Finals, especially in less than ideal weather conditions, and we know that our kids appreciated the opportunity to ride such quality mounts.”
Horses for National Finals were graciously provided by: Alfred University, Cazenovia College, CNY EQ, Fairway Farm, Galemont Farms, Grier School, Huntington Meadows, Lucky C Stables, Morrisville State College, North Country Horses, RGB/CNY, TAPS/North Riding, Leesa Walker Stables, and Whistler Ridge.
In addition to horse providers, IEA could not conduct National Finals without the generosity of a multitude of affiliates and sponsors who provide monetary and donated support for our riders. The following organizations and businesses played a key role in the 2018 Hunt Seat National Finals: United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA), United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA), National Collegiate Horse Shows Association (NCEA), United States Pony Club (USPC), Alfred University, BarnManager, Benefab by Sore No-More Equine Products, Bridgewater College, Bridleplates, C4 Belts, Cazenovia College, Certified Horsemanship Association, Delaware Valley University, Emory & Henry College, Equestrian Team Apparel, Equi in Style, Equine Journal, Fluff Monkey, Galemont Farm LLC, Grier School, Hollins University, Inkstables LLC, LM Boots, Meredith Manor, Midway University, Morrisville State College, Randolph College, Rauschenback Tack Shop, Redingote Equestrian, R.J. Classics, Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), Shires Equestrian, St. Andrew’s College, Sweet Briar College, The Hunting Horn, The Mindful Equestrian, The Show Kid, The Show Trunk II, Tredstep Ireland, Tucker Tweed Equestrian, University at Albany SUNY, University of Nebraska High School, Sewanee University of the South, Whistler Ridge.
Hunt Seat Finals photographer Ron Schwane