During the week, riders competed in Hunt Seat Equitation Over Fences and Equitation on the Flat, as well as Western Reining and Horsemanship classes. The IEA format requires that riders compete in unfamiliar tack on unfamiliar mounts; therefore, they draw their horses the day of competition and enter the arena after a brief, if any, warm-up.
In the individual competition, Kayla Lott, grade 12, who rides for Elvenstar, Moorpark, California, was named the 2016 Leading Hunt Seat Rider, winning the Varsity Open Championship class. Ellexxah Maxwell, grade 9, who rides for Autumn Rose Farm Equestrian Team, Plain City, Ohio, was named the Leading Western Rider. Meghan Moran, grade 11, from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, was awarded Leading Crossover Rider, meaning that she was the highest placing rider that competed at National Finals in both the Hunt Seat and Western disciplines.
The Champion of the Upper School Hunt Seat Team Competition was North Gate Equestrian Team from Sudbury, Massachusetts in Zone 1. In the Middle School Hunt Seat Competition, North Gate also took home First Place ribbons and prizes. The Champion Upper School Western Team Competition came down to one class to determine the winner. Autumn Rose Farm Equestrian Team from Plain City, Ohio in Zone 5 took home the win. In the Middle School competition, KM Equestrian from Findlay, Ohio, in Zone 5 were named Champion. The Hunt Seat Team Spirit Award went to Woodside Farm from Stanford, California and the Western Team Spirit Award was granted to Last Lap Ranch from Maryville, Tennessee.
The IEA holds the trait of good sportsmanship in the highest regard - both for riders and coaches. For the Hunt Seat, Mehdi Kazmi of Old Homestead Farm from Rocky Point, North Carolina, in Zone 3, took home the second annual Coach Sportsmanship Award. Since Mehdi was unable to travel to Kentucky, members of the Old Homestead Farm Team accepted the award on his behalf. Roger and Sandra Elder from Last Lap Ranch in Maryville, Tennessee in Zone 4 received the award among all Western Coaches. Sarah Doss from Chatham Hall in Chatham, Virginia was awarded the Victor Hugo-Vidal Sportsmanship Award and Caroline Gute from Dublin, Ohio, who rides for Autumn Rose Farm Equestrian Team, took home the NRHA 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 test - a Horseman's Knowledge Test for the Western riders, and a Holy Innocents' Horsemanship Test for the Hunt Seat riders. Kate Baugh, grade 11, who rides for Rocky Mountain Wranglers, Berthoud, Colorado, was the overall winner for the Western test, and Ariana Chinoporos, grade 11, from North Gate Equestrian Team, Sudbury, Massachusetts was the highest scoring hunt seat rider.
Since its creation, the IEA has relied on the support from its many volunteers to assist in the success of the organization. The inaugural Volunteer of the Show Award, sponsored by Braveheart Farm at North Gate in Sudbury, Massachusetts was awarded to Hannah Keough, grade 9, Burton, Ohio, and AJ Hivnor, grade 9, Painesville, Ohio, for their hard work at this year's National Finals.
The 9th Annual Timothy J. Boone Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Nancy Arledge, coach of West Licking District, Pataskala, Ohio, for her long-time contribution to the IEA and equestrian sport.
The IEA is committed to the wellness of the horses in all competitions. To recognize the quality of the horses donated for the five-day event, "Thomas" (provided by Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio) was named Outstanding IEA Hunt Seat Horse, and "Kesha" (provided by Jewell Reining in Conyers, Georgia) took home the NRHA Outstanding Western Horse title.
"It was the best IEA National Finals to date!", said Roxane Lawrence, IEA Co-Founder and Executive Director when asked about the competition. "Seeing hunt seat and western riders and coaches cheering each other on and learning by watching each other compete is really the heart of the IEA mission. We were so fortunate to have a wonderful facility and the support of so many generous sponsors to make it all possible!"
Founded in 2002, the IEA has more than 12,500 members across the United States. The IEA was organized to promote and improve the quality of equestrian competition and instruction available to middle and secondary school students and is open to public and private schools and barn teams. Its purpose is to set minimum standards for competition, provide information concerning the creation and development of school associated equestrian sport programs, to generally promote the common interests of safe riding instruction and competition and education on matters related to equestrian competition at the middle and secondary school levels. There is no need for any rider to own a horse because the IEA provides a mount and tack to each rider at every event, including the National Finals. For more information, please view the IEA website at: www.rideiea.org