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Judges Announced for National IEA Finals



Rachel Kennedy, Melanie Smith Taylor, Chele McGauly and Gretchen Mathes



Columbus, OH – April 14, 2017 – In just one week, the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) will kick off the 2017 Hunt Seat National Finals at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, VA. Nearly 400 of the nation’s leading IEA Middle School and High School equestrians will converge in Lexington on Friday, April 21 through Sunday, April 23 to compete for top honors. The student riders, in grades 6-12, will travel from across the United States to participate in this competition. Riders will compete in Hunt Seat Equitation classes over fences and on the flat throughout the weekend.


Judging each of the team and individual Hunt Seat classes will be Rachel Kennedy from Brookeville, Maryland and Melanie Smith Taylor from Germanton, Tennessee. Kennedy began riding at the age of three outside of Philadelphia at Jack Trainor’s Here and There Farm. Following a successful junior career, she rode to seven AHSA Horse of the Year titles along with numerous state titles as a professional. In 1995, Kennedy moved to Maryland and started her own business - ESP Farm. She has trained and shown numerous hunters and jumpers to championships and Grand Prix wins on the on the USEF “AA” Circuit at shows such as the Winter Equestrian Festival, NAJYRC, Capital Challenge, Devon, Ocala, Washington International, Upperville, Vermont Summer Festival, and Fairfield.


A USEF Licensed Hunter and Equitation judge since 1995, Kennedy judges a number of horse shows each year and has officiated at such shows as the Winter Equestrian Festival, Kentucky Horse Shows, Hampton Classic, The Legacy Cup, Indio, Del Mar, Menlo, Pebble Beach, Fairfield and Saratoga. She has also officiated at the USEF Pony Finals, USEF Junior Hunter Finals and the USHJA Hunterdon Cup Equitation Finals. In 2015 Kennedy judged the West Coast CET Finals. She has served on the Board of Directors of the MHSA and PHSA, and is currently a member of the USHJA Zone III Jumper Committee.


Melanie Smith Taylor brings a wealth of experience to the IEA National Finals. Taylor became one of only two riders to ever win the Triple Crown of Show Jumping—the American Invitational, the International Jumping Derby, and the American Gold Cup—and the only person to win all three on the same horse. After winning the World Cup Final in 1982, she was named the US Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year and inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Two years later, she capped off her show-jumping career with a team gold medal in the Los Angeles Olympic Games.


Today, Taylor serves the horse world as a clinician, a television broadcaster for major events, including the Olympics and World Championships, and a recognized judge for hunters, jumpers and hunter seat equitation.  She is also the author of Riding With Life, a comprehensive training guide detailing her unique program for setting horse and rider up for success.


Following the Hunt Seat National Finals on June 30 through July 2 in Oklahoma City, OK, will be the 2017 IEA Western National Finals at Oklahoma State Fair Park. Nearly 200 of the nation’s leading middle school and high school western equestrians will have their chance to compete in team and individual competitions in western horsemanship and reining.    


Judging the IEA Western Nationals will be Chele McGauly from Elm Grove, Louisiana and Gretchen Mathes from Harwinton, Connecticut. McGauly is the owner/operator of Three Rivers Performance Horses in Elm Grove, LA and has been a professional horse trainer for over 35 years. She has shown horses to numerous wins at all levels and has successfully coached students at many levels as well. McGauly holds judge’s cards with the American Quarter Horse Association, American Paint Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association, National Reined Cow Horse Association and The National Snaffle Bit Association. She has judged all over the world including AQHA World Championships, Youth World Championships, NRHA Futurity, Australian Nationals, European Nationals and the NRCHA Derby.


Gretchen Mathes will join McGauly in Oklahoma City. Mathes is the owner and manager of Powder Brook Farm, a large training facility located in Harwinton, Connecticut. She has been training, showing and raising Champion Quarter Horses at Powder Brook for 46 years.  Mathes has coached World and Congress Champions in both Youth and Amateur classes.  Mathes holds judge’s cards with AQHA, NRHA, NSBA, WCHA and has judged at every major show in the country. In 2007, she was named AQHA Horsewoman of the Year by the Professional Horseman’s Committee.  Mathes also serves on the Nominations and Credential Committee for AQHA and as the AQHA Director from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and is President of CQHA. 

"These four judges bring an admirable level of expertise to the IEA Finals", says IEA Executive Director, Roxane Durant. "Our riders will appreciate what an honor it is to show in front of them."



Celebrating its 15th Anniversary, the IEA has more than 13,500 middle and high school student-riders 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. There is no need for a rider to own a horse because the IEA supplies a mount and tack to each equestrian for competitions.  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. The IEA is open to public schools, private schools, and barn teams.

More than 500 estimated, qualified riders will compete, both as teams and as individuals, for national championship titles in over fences, under saddle, horsemanship and reining classes throughout the three days in Lexington, VA and three days in Oklahoma City, OK.   To learn more about the IEA and the 2017 IEA National Finals, please visit