April 25, 2019 – Columbus, Ohio – The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Board of Directors recently approved the expansion of membership to include 4th and 5th grade riders in the middle-school division of Hunt Seat, Western and Dressage beginning with upcoming 2019-2020 season. For the past 17 seasons, IEA has been offered only to riders in grades 6 –12. Membership enrollment for the new season will open this June and be available year-round.

With this significant change, the Board also recently approved the addition of a walk-trot class option for beginning riders in both middle school and high school. The recently adopted rule change, which will take effect beginning with the 2019-2020 Season, states that "the walk-trot (or walk-jog) classes are open to riders in upper school and middle school who meet the criteria for a walk/trot/canter or walk/jog/lope class, but are not yet ready to compete on an unfamiliar horse at a canter/lope. These riders should be able to perform IEA tests 1-6 and may have participated in camp shows and in-house farm shows. Individual points will be tracked in the walk-trot classes for post season qualification; however, no team points will be awarded during regular or post season shows. New and existing teams will have the option to include 4th and 5th grade riders and/or walk-trot (jog) level riders, but it will not be a requirement. As with previous IEA seasons, coaches must refer to placement criteria outlined in the IEA rulebook to determine what level (walk-trot, beginner, novice, intermediate, or open) each of their riders is capable of performing.

The Board of Directors is also considering options for horse usage to accommodate the addition of these new age and ability levels. These and other changes will be published in the IEA rulebook prior to the beginning of next season.

Additionally, a new rule was approved stating that at all times while mounted, Western riders in grades 4 and 5 as well as middle and upper school riders competing in the Beginner Division must wear a harnessed and fully fastened protective ASTM-SEI approved safety helmet for equestrian use. The IEA will follow the guidelines of United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) in the matter of what constitutes a safety helmet. Western riders competing in the Novice, Intermediate and Open divisions will have the option of competing in Western hats or safety helmets as long as they follow all local/state guidelines and laws pertaining to safety helmets. Troxel Helmets has recently become an Official Helmet of the IEA and will be providing helmet certificates at both IEA National Finals as well as helmet safety education.

The IEA Board of Directors also approved a new Western Split Proposal for 2019-2020 post-season competition. The proposal came through the IEA Western Committee who spent months reviewing comments and suggestions from the Western membership. The result is based on equitable and mathematical reflection of IEA member distribution. If a Western Region has less than 10% of the overall Western Membership, they would get one slot to go directly from Regional Finals to National Finals. If a Western Region has between 10-20% of the overall Western Membership, they would get two slots to go directly from Regional Finals to National Finals. This approved proposal eliminates the need for a Semi-Finals competition as riders and teams go directly from Regional Finals to Nationals. Additionally, any two contiguous Western Regions could join together to pool their slots if preferable, which would be decided by Region Presidents and approved by the Zone Administrator.

The chart below details how the Western post-season allotments would be assigned for 2020, keeping in mind that allotments would be reviewed each year for changes in membership numbers.

REGION SLOTS TO NATIONALS*
Region 1 1
Region 2 2
Region 4 2
Region 5-1 2
Region 5-2 2
Region 7 1
Region 8 1
Region 11 2

*(Based on 2018-2019 Membership Numbers)

The result of this proposal means that there would be 13 riders in Individual Classes and 13 riders in Team Classes at National Finals.

"The elimination of the current Semi-Finals format allows for the expansion of each of the Western Regional Finals to be a more elaborate event, says IEA Western Zone Administrator, Tammy Braham. "Our desire is to make our Regional level shows a bigger celebration for our riders."

"We appreciate the work done by the Western Committee and the Rules & Ethics Committee this past year, says IEA Executive Director, Roxane Durant. "There are exciting new changes coming to IEA next season and significant thought and discussions about safety, horse use, and scheduling have been happening all season. Several Western Regions have been successfully hosting informal walk-trot classes for younger riders using the draw-based IEA format outside of IEA shows for several years now. We are excited about formalizing those opportunities and allowing more youth-riders to participate in equestrian sport."

The 2019-2020 IEA season membership application process for new and returning teams will open in early June 2019 with competitions beginning September 1, 2019.