Photo and story by Tina Higgins / Contributing writer
Participants and horse fanatics alike were walking, trotting and cantering to MTSU’s Tennessee Livestock Center on Saturday and Sunday to observe middle and high school students compete for their shot in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association regional competition.
IEA is an organization that hosts different horse showing competitions for grades 6-12.
This weekend, student equestrians saddled up to compete in the last season show prior to the regional competition. The results of this show affected the participant’s status for the regional competition, which takes place later this month.
The unique aspect of this competition is that none of the riders compete with their own horses. They are given a horse in which they have never met prior to competing, and depending on the specific area of their competition, they only have a certain amount of time to warm up together.
“This is my first year doing IEA,” said Nori Bergman, a middle school competitor. “Every horse is different, but you have to remember to breathe … A competition is just like a lesson but with different people and a different horse.”
Along with a physical competition, participants can volunteer to take an exam which tests their knowledge on horse care, called “horsemanship.” Individuals are given the opportunity of a $1000 scholarship, pending their results at regionals.
Merissa Newton, the president of CF Topflight, a Murfreesboro equestrian team for young riders, has observed IEA competitions for several years.
“The biggest thing that I love about IEA is that in a sport that is typically individual, it gives riders … a team experience and a team environment,” Newton said. “Everyone is cheering on their peers.”
The regional competition for IEA will be at the Tennessee Livestock Center in Murfreesboro on Feb. 23.
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