Jun 14, 2024

Check in with the Team Challenge Champions of the USEA Interscholastic Eventing League

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff | Press Release
Olivia Miller, McKenzie Spain, and Olivia Pratt of Curragh Equestrian sporting their ribbons from winning the Meadowcreek Park IEL Team Challenge in April. Photo courtesy of Kristin Miller.

2024 has already been a pivotal year for the USEA Interscholastic Eventing League (IEL) with the introduction of the USEA IEL Championship, which saw 42 competitors join forces to create 12 teams that went head-to-head at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina, early last month.

While it was the Go With It Farm (GWIF) Groupies from Area III that came out victorious at the program’s first championship, they are not the only club that has taken home top honors at IEL competitions this year. Since January, nine IEL Team Challenges have taken place at events across Areas II, III, IV, V, and VII, and congratulations are in order for several IEL Clubs that bested their competitors at each event.

The season kicked off at the host site for the 2024 Championship at the Stable View Aiken Opener H.T. in January. The Willow South Eventing Club, led by coach Tawn Edwards of Johns Creek, Georgia, claimed to top-two spots with team members Gemma Ciccarelli, Emma Horton, and Carolyn Rice leading the victorious Willow South Team A, while Molly McLaughlin, Alexandra Multz, and Shyla Harter came together to claim reserve champion as part of Willow South Team C. Team A put in a nearly faultless performance with just one rail in show jumping added to their cumulative team score after each competitors dressage tests.

Ciccarelli and Heather Sinclair’s 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Knockmeal Corners Liberty (Coroner x Knockmeal Realt), delivered the lowest final score for the team with a 31.4 in the Beginner Novice Rider division, which they won. Horton and Grace Ambrose’s 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Forever Saul, and Carolyn Rice with her own 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Fernhill Carnlea Apache (Je T’aime Flamenco x Cruzalong), each turned in double clear performances in Beginner Novice divisions to help their team to the win.

(from left) Sophia Stolley, Claire Allen, and Sutton Wetcher with their IEL Team Challenge first place ribbons at Southern Pines H.T. I. Photo courtesy of the East Coast Eventers Club (top right) Raegan Nalls, who would contribute to a win at Waredaca H.T. later in the season. Maya Kuntz Photography (bottom right) Sutton Wetcher and NSF Vivi My Love. Photo courtesy of the East Coast Eventers Club

The next event on the IEL Team Challenge Calendar occurred on March 9-10 at neighboring North Carolina event, Southern Pines H.T., in Raeford, North Carolina. Five teams logged competitive scores throughout the weekend, but it would be the East Coast Eventers IEL Club that would come out on top after two days of competition.

Sophia Stolley and Briana Stolley’s 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare, BWE Stopping Waves (Nonstop x Caprice 5), not only anchored the teams’ winning weekend by logging two double clear jumping rounds and completing on her dressage score of 30.0 in the Modified Rider division, but she also earned the lowest finishing score of any IEL competitor at the event.

Fellow Modified competitor Claire Allen and her own 15-year-old Thoroughbred mare Crazy Choice (Philanthropist x Hasta Pronto) added just a bit of time on cross-country to finish close on Stolley’s heels with a score of 34.6. Finally, Sutton Wetcher and her 5-year-old Thoroughbred mare, NSF Vivi My Love (Astern x Mary’s Angel), finished in the top-six of the Junior Novice division to seal the team’s win. Separated by less than 10 points was the runner-up scramble team from Area II Developing Riders (A2DR) and Deep Purple Eventing represented by Ava Wehrs, Madeline DeMeirsman, and Scarlett Knull.

In April, IEL Clubs started the final countdown to the inaugural USEA Interscholastic Eventing Championship by competing in the F.E.N.C.E. H.T. in Landrum, South Carolina, and the Longleaf Pine H.T. in Raeford, Nort Carolina, on the weekend of April 13-14. In Area III, four of the future championship teams from the A2DR, Aiken County Pony Club, River Mist Eventing Team, and Willow South Eventing IEL Clubs, fought for the top spot, and again, Willow South Eventing claimed victory.

Madeline Brechtel and Fernhill Sinatra contributed to Willow South Team 1's win at F.E.N.C.E. H.T. Liz Crawley Photography photo

This time, it was the Willow South Team 1 comprised of Molly McLaughlin, Emma Horton, and Madeline Brechtel who earned bragging rights. After stepping up to the Preliminary level with longtime partner Top L’Amour WV (Harley VDL x Eneve WV) in March, McLaughlin and the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding gave a nearly flawless performance to add just one time fault on cross-country to their score and finish as reserve champions of the Preliminary Rider division.

Horton and Forever Saul gave their team another double clear completion to finish with a score of 38.2 in the Beginner Novice Rider division. Brechtel and Shyla and Nancy Harter’s 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Fernhill Sinatra (Condios x Bing Qing m2s), completed their first event as new partners in the Starter division. It was River Mist Evenitng Team’s Aubrey Sabatino, Molly Hennelly, Hadiya Yarbou, and Kaarthik Sribalusu who would take home the reserve champion title at this event.

Anna Erickson and Unmarked Bills, Carly Sues and EHF Casiro Royale, Katie Spross and Pudding, and Lillian Oakley and Hidden's Clover, winners of the Longleaf Pine H.T. IEL Team Challenge. Brant Gamma photos

On the same weekend in Area II, the Hidden K Stables team of Carly Sues, Anna Erickson, Lillian Oakley, and Katie Spross topped the A2DR/Deep Purple Eventing Scramble of Ava Wehrs, Katie Wood, Kallan Klear, and Madeline DeMeirsman to earn the champion title at Longleaf Pine H.T. Challenge. Sues, Erikson, and Oakley all competed in the Training Rider divisions, with just one rail being added to their dressage scores between the three competitors, while Spross logged a completion in the Beginner Novice Rider division.

At the end of the month, Meadowcreek Park in Kosse, Texas, hosted a very popular central challenge with six teams made up of members from the AR Eventing, Bradley Equestrian Team, Curragh Equestrian Center, Horselife Farm, and RB Riding IEL clubs participating. In the end, it was the Curragh Equestrian team of Sarah Jackson, Olivia Pratt, Olivia Miller, and McKenzie Spain who took the win. Jackson and her own 10-year-old Oldenburg mare, WHF Wangari (Withages x Hannah), were the only pair on the team to finish on their dressage score of 33.6 in the Junior Novice B division, which they won over 12 other competitors.

Pratt and her own 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Ardeo San Diego (Kroongraaf x Juan De La), finished in the top-3 of their Junior Training division, just adding two-seconds in time penalties to their dressage score. Finally, Miller and her 14-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse mare by Carrington, 50 Shades of Envy, and Spain and her 18-year-old Thoroughbred mare Addison Grey (Never Been Better x Merry Phantom), each added one rail in stadium to their finishing scores in the Junior Novice divisions.

Olivia Miller and 50 Shades of Envy, Olivia Pratt and Ardeo San Diego, Sarah Jackson and WHF Wangari, and the team of Miller, Spain, and Pratt at the Meadowcreek Park H.T. Photos courtesy of Troy Roane Photo and Curragh Equestrian

RB Riding Team 2, which included Sophia Street, Hanna Enderlin, Caroline Ballotta, and Mia Holstien, finished in a close second place with just over five points separating them from the winners. All four teammates competed in the Junior Novice division, with Ballotta and her own 20-year-old Zweibrucker mare Abendgold (Win the Gold x Arabella) logging the only fault-free round of the weekend for the team.

While the 2024 IEL Champion was crowned in Aiken, another IEL Team Challenge was taking place at the Waredaca H.T. (Laytonsville, Maryland) for competitors that couldn’t make the trip to the capstone event at Stable View. Out of eight participating teams, it would be the East Coast Eventers team of Brynn Miller, Mia Valdez, and Raegan Nalls who would win the challenge by a substantial margin over Tabot Run Team 1.

Mia Valdez and Midas Aiko contributed to the East Coast Eventers team challenge win at the Waredaca H.T. Lindsay Berreth for Maya Kuntze Photography

After adding one rail in stadium, Miller and Colleen Rutledge’s 15-year-old Thoroughbred stallion Clever Deception (Medaglia D’Oro x Masked Wolf) logged the lowest finishing score for the team to win the Novice Rider division on a score of 39.3. Valdez and Lauren Gash’s 16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Midas Aiko (Cactus Ridge x Vicky Cahill) also brought home the win in their Open Modified division out of nine starters, just adding time on cross-country to their dressage score. While Nalls competed two horses for the East Coast Eventers, it would be her 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Are You Ready Freddy? (Tiznow x High Button Shoes) who would contribute to the team’s total after finishing third in their Training Rider division.

The Talbot Run Team 1 of Ella Norman, Hannah Norman, and Angelina Rosenthal took home the reserve champion title at Waredaca. Norman and Chloe Pleune’s 19-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Indiana Jones (Woodman x Buckeye Gal) won their Starter division to anchor the team’s triumph.

As previously reported last week, Spokane Sport Horse Spring H.T. hosted their first IEL Team Challenge on May 16-19 in Spokane, Washington, with a whooping 11 teams signing up to compete. It was the Inland Northwest Eventers Team #1, led by Level IV ECP coach Karen O’Neal, who came out victorious over Team Chaos #1 in the reserve champion position. Members from the PowerPuff Girls, Pullman Eventing, Leading Edge Team, Teeny Bops, and Legacy Farm and Stables IEL Clubs also participated in the challenge. Read the full challenge recap here.

The Inland Northwest Eventers IEL Club members that competed at the Spokane Sport Horse Spring H.T. Photo courtesy of Nikki Keye

That weekend, team challenge competition also took place in Wheeler, Wisconsin, at the Otter Creek Spring H.T. where The Leaping Legends team of Ava Linder, Sofie Goodlund, Laney Wallace, and Rachel Frische claimed victory. Linder and her own 10-year-old Thoroughbred mare Midnight Flight (Wingman x Midnight Blue) won the Junior Training division on their dressage score to turn in the best performance for their team. Goodlund and Mark Ward’s 16-year-old Irish Draught Horse mare Juniper (Hang on Johnny x Winnie) also logged a faultless weekend to win their Junior Novice division.

Rounding out the team scores was Wallace and her own 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Elio (Denman x Ithinkihadthatine) who top home second place in the Junior Beginner Novice division after adding one rail in stadium to their dressage score.

The Windenoak team of Alexandra Gryzybowski, Cambria Konkle, Adilyn Cartwright, and Sienna Scherer went on to claim the reserve champion title in the challenge. Less than 10 points behind the leaders, it was a standout performance by Grzybowski and her own 12-year-old Rheinland Pfalz-Saar gelding Varsity Blues (I’m A Saint/Very Good x Joule) that led the team to the runner-up spot.

Isabella Craft and WallE's World, Marina Cassou and Castleturvin Mungo, and Leeci Rowsell and Lexx of the winning A2 Developing Riders team from the Fair Hill International May Recognized IEL Team Challenge. (from left) Amy Dragoo Photo, photo courtesy of Marina Cassou, and photo courtesy of Virginia Rowsell

Rounding out the spring season, it was the A2 Developing Riders team of Leeci Rowsell, Marina Cassou, and Isabella Craft who won the Fair Hill International May Recognized Event (Elkton, Maryland) team challenge. Rowsell and John Strangfeld’s 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Lexx provided the only faultless score of the weekend, winning the Junior Training division on her dressage score of 28.3. Marina and Beatrice Cassou’s 15-year-old Connemara gelding Castleturvin Mungo added just one rail to their final score to finish in the top-5 of the Open Training division. Finally, Isabella and Thomas Craft’s 16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding WallE’s World added some time on cross-country to finish in the top-5 of her Junior Training division, and logged the final finishing score for the winning team. It was the East Coast Eventers/A2DR Scramble team of Shannon Zupan, Ashley Zupan, Madison Yates, and Nicola Villarino that took second place.

Are you interested in joining the Interscholastic Eventing League? View the list of current IEL Clubs here and reach out to a club representative in your Area to learn more. If you would like to start a new IEL Club in your area, follow instructions on the IEL homepage and contact staff liaison Kaleigh Collett at [email protected] if you have any questions.

The IEL would not be possible without the support of the amazing students that compete and the event organizers that graciously offer team challenges at their events. If you are an event organizer that is interested in supporting the IEL in 2024, consider hosting a team challenge! Adding a team challenge to your existing USEA-recognized event is seamless, and the USEA staff is here to help you get started. Learn more about what it takes to host an IEL Team Challenge here, and contact Kaleigh Collett at [email protected] to sign up.

Don’t forget, all IEL Clubs will be welcome and encouraged to enter to compete at the 2025 USEA Interscholastic Eventing League Championship at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina, on May 3-4. There’s no better time than now to start preparing for this exciting opportunity! Click here to view the list of venues that will host IEL Team Challenges this year. To stay up-to-date on the 2025 IEL Championship, join Stable View’s WhatsApp group here.

To learn more about the IEL, visit useventing.com/iel.

About the USEA Interscholastic Eventing League (IEL)

In August 2020, the USEA Board of Governors approved the creation of the USEA Interscholastic Eventing League (IEL) as an official program of the USEA. The mission of IEL is to unite junior riders who are in the 5th—12th grade and provide a supportive community through which students can continue to pursue their riding interests. A group of junior members in the 5th—12th grade who share a common bond, such as the same barn, school, Pony Club, or other connection, can register with the USEA as an IEL Affiliate. The USEA Board of Governors recently approved an inaugural IEL Championship to kick-off in 2024 at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina, which will be held in conjunction with the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships on May 4-5. Click here to learn more about the Interscholastic Eventing League.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, Horse & Country, Kerrits, Nunn Finer, Sidelines, U.S. Equestrian, WeRideTogether, and World Equestrian Brands for sponsoring the USEA Interscholastic Eventing League.

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Weekend Quick Links: July 13-14

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered!

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