Nov 17, 2023

Interscholastic Eventing Competition Heats Up in 2023

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff
Josie Buller, member of the winning Area II Developing Riders team at the MCTA H.T. at Shawan Downs, navigates the Novice cross-country course with her partner, Let Me Lead. GRC Photography photo

As the curtains on the 2023 competition season begins to close, the USEA Interscholastic Eventing League (IEL) is looking back on a successful year of Interscholastic Team Challenges with bright eyes as the inaugural IEL Championship approaches in 2024. The IEL, which will soon be open to USEA Members in the extended age range of 5th through 12th grade, has had a strong summer and fall season of team challenges that brought eventers from across the Areas together to compete and no doubt gave them invaluable experience as they prepare for the first ever program Championship at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina, next spring.

Picking up where we left off earlier this year, the MCTA Horse Trials at Shawan Downs (Cockeysville, Maryland) took place on June 3 and saw a showdown of two major Area II IEL Affiliates: the Area II Developing Riders and Full Moon Farm.

In the end, it was the Area II Developing Riders that came out on top, but not without any adversity. Team member Bailey Kent unfortunately did not complete the event, so the team incurred a drop score of 1,000 points. With that, the remaining three team members had little room for error. Marina Cassou and Castleturvin Mungo, Beatrice Cassou’s 14-year-old Connemara gelding, showed up in a big way by collecting the lowest finishing score of the team and earning reserve champion in the Training Rider division. Emily Paniccia and Sarah Greenway’s Corona With Lime (Budweiser x Bold and Classy), the 22-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, and Josie Buller and her 6-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Let Me Lead, also received top-10 placings in the Beginner Novice and Novice Rider divisions, respectively, to seal their team win. The Full Moon Farm team of Carla Lindsay, Natalie Opauski, Julia Zetlmeisl and Kelsey Klein finished as reserve champions.

When asked about her experience at the event, Buller explained, "I joined the IEL Team Challenge upon encouragement from my trainer [Fylicia Barr], as she thought it would be a great opportunity and tons of fun. She was right! The venue was great, and I had a ton of fun that day." Buller and "Lee" used the MCTA Horse Trials as a move up to their first event at the Novice level, and despite two lost shoes throughout the day, the pair had a blast competing in the team challenge.

The next team challenge held in the heat of the East Coast summer was the Maryland Horse Trials (MDHT) at Loch Moy Farm (Adamstown, Maryland) in mid-July. Carolyn Mackintosh and the team at Loch Moy have been long-time supporters of the IEL and Intercollegiate Eventing programs, and that was evident when 10 IEL teams came to compete. The Area II Developing Riders, Area IV Young Riders, Full Moon Farm, Good Counsel Eventing, Iron Bridge Hunt and Pony Club, and East Coast Eventers Affiliates all fielded one, if not multiple, teams at the MDHT challenge.

The Area IV Young Riders team, comprised of a trio of sisters and a fellow Young Rider from their home Area, came out victorious at the end of the event. Besting their closest competitors by more than 15 points, Sylvia Byars, Iselin Byars, Theodora "Teddy" Byars and Rebecca Roth all completed the event with sub-40 scores, with Iselin and Teddy also logging double clear jumping rounds on their way to victory.

"That was a really great event for all of us," said Sylvia as she recounted the weekend. "It was kind of crazy because we all won over that weekend! I went Saturday, and I won my division. Then, I had stay home and help at the farm when my sisters went on Sunday, and I was like 'It would be totally crazy if they won, too.' Then I got a call that Teddy had just won, and then Iselin won!"

Sylvia Byars and CSF Dassett Decoy into the water on the Modified cross-country course at MDHT. Erin Gilmore Photography photo

Sylvia topped the Modified Rider division on the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding CSF Dassett Decoy (Flipper D’Elle x CSF Doorn Cruise), Iselin won the Junior Novice on the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Bloomfield Pocket Money (Financial Reward x GlenAyer Katie), and Teddy was champion in the Junior Training division on the 7-year-old Connemara gelding HH Gunsmoke (Gunsmoke x Marshwood’s Summer Keavey). Not far behind them was Roth and Chapter Two (More than Ready x Winds of March), the 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, who secured the Reserve Champion ribbon in the Open Intermediate division.

Another benefit of the sisters all besting their competitors was that they "all got our qualifications for the AEC at Loch Moy," Teddy noted. Not long after, the Byars family packed their bags and headed to Kentucky for the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds. "It was all of our first times competing at the AEC, and it was a great learning experience."

Theodora Byars and HH Gunsmoke competed in the Junior Training division at the MDHT as part of the Area IV Young Riders IEL team. Erin Gilmore Photography photo

Three top-placings and one runner up are hard to beat, but the Area II Developing Riders Team D held their own to finish in second place for the challenge. The team comprised of Macie Brock, Emma Makovitch, Hannah Norman, and Chloe Pluene also logged three double clear performances on their way to being crowned Reserve Champion team. The competition at the MDHT was tight, creating a real glimpse at what could be to come at Stable View next spring.

The following week, several teams traveled down the road to the Full Moon Farm Horse Trials in Finskburg, MD on July 23. This IEL Team Challenge saw powerhouse affiliates Area II Developing Riders and East Coast Eventers join forces on a scramble team that would eventually bring home the win. All of the members of this scramble team placed in the top-three of their respective divisions, which gave them a final cumulative score that was almost 25 points lower than the second place team.

Alicia Jonsdottir anchored the team with two mounts: her own 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Cullinaghmor Pepper (Lancelot x Miss Lord), who finished in second place in the Open Beginner Novice division, and her 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Remember Clement (Papa Clem x Window Kitty), who took home third place in the Modified/Training. London Roberts-Shipway and A Kodak Moment (Alyten x Something Brazen), Christine Vorobieff’s 18-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, were Reserve Champion in the Novice Rider division. Raegan Nalls and Hot and Spicy – Allspice competed in the Starter division, which will become a USEA-recognized level for the 2024 season, and also brought home reserve champion.

The home team, Full Moon Farm Team C comprised of Abigail Baummer, Sophia Lancelotta, Zoey Bucior and Kelsey Klein, finished in second place in the team challenge. Three out of the four members of the team competed in the Starter division, showing great promise for participation in the newly recognized level in the IEL in the coming years.

Iselin Byars and Bloomfield Pocket Money won the Junior Novice division at the Maryland Horses Trials at Loch Moy Farm in July. Erin Gilmore Photo

The IEL headed West to Area VIII for the next team Challenge at Cobblestone Farms in Dexter, Michigan. Sarah Alexander, and her own 7-year-old Warmblood gelding Lambursco W (Ustinov x Gunanita), from the Area II Developing Riders joined forces with three members of the Area IV Young Riders to take home the win. Ella Scherer and Sueno de Oro, Cindy Scherer’s 12-year-old Andalusian gelding, received the highest individual placing of the team when they secured second place out of 21 starters in the Beginner Novice Rider division. Rehgan Weber and her 6-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Noah also placed in the top-6 in a large Open Beginner Novice division. Finally, Area IV’s Grace Conroy and Quietly Charismatic (The Quietman x Iverness Steeped in Blue), her 7-year-old Irish Draught, helped the team secure their win.

In August, Fair Hill International hosted their second IEL Team Challenge of the year that received great participation. The Good Counsel Eventing Team seized the opportunity to secure their first team challenge of the year in Elkton, Maryland. Carlin Keefe rode two horses in the Preliminary division to contribute to the team’s winning performance. Rumsey Keefe’s Point Nemo (Songandaprayer x Woodnot), the 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, finished in second place with Carlin, and Altorac Farm LLC’s Mr Candyman (Canto x Montara), the 16-year-old Holsteiner gelding, took home seventh place. Emma Hayes and Where’d It Go (Yankee Gentleman x Pocketbook Passion), her 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, sealed the team’s win with a fourth-place finish in the Training division.

The Reserve Champion title went to a scramble team of riders from the Area II Developing Riders and Iron Bridge Hunt & Pony Club Affiliates. Another team with only three members and lacking the advantage of a drop score, Emma Whitaker, Kendal Fansler and Riley Callahan held their own to take home second place.

Payton Meyers and Pop of Class helped Full Moon Farm take home the win at the Waredaca Farm H.T. in August. GRC Photography photo

The final IEL Team Challenge before school was back in session in many parts of the East Coast was the Waredaca Farm Horse Trial in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The Full Moon Farm team edged out close competitors on the Iron Bridge Hunt & Pony Club and Good Counsel Eventing scramble team to be crowned champions. All three scores on the Full Moon Farm team that contributed to the win added nothing to their dressage scores over the course of competition. Payton Myers and Pop of Class (Officer Rocket x Just Christina), her 5-year-old Thoroughbred mare, won the Novice Horse division on a score of 27.2. Carla Lindsay and her 12-year-old Paint mare Take Note logged a fifth-place finish in the Novice Rider division, while teammates Emma Bomse and G2B Riverview Cruise, the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Steady Cruise, took seventh place in the division. Kelsey Klein and Forever Faithful Fella, her 8-year-old Gypsy Vanner gelding, rounded out the winning team.

Carlin Keefe and her two mounts, Point Nemo and Mr. Candyman, saw success again as members of the Reserve Champion IEL team. Keefe teamed up with fellow Good Counsel Eventing Team member Emerson Kalsey and Isabelle Strouble from the Iron Bridge Hunt and Pony Club to bring home the second-place title.

The Area IV Young Riders logged their third champion title at the Heritage Park Horse Trials in Olate, Kansas, in September. The small but mighty team of Lily Podmolik, Sophia Lieberman, and Ashlynn Riley all competed at Beginner Novice on the way to their win. Lieberman and her 8-year-old Mustang gelding, Bear Necessities, won the Junior division, while Podmolik and Jessie Howes’ 17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Blade Runner followed close behind in fourth place. Ashlynn Riley and Max, Nicholas Staples’ 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding, elected to compete in the open division and brought home third place out of 18 starters.

IEL Area III Young Riders team members pose for a photo after another successful day at a recent event at Poplar Place Farm. From left to right: Jake Tessler, Macyn Wolpert, Collins Zgutowicz, and Madison Zgutowicz. Photo provided by Lauren Zgutowicz.

At the end of September, a familiar team from our first report logged another win at the Stable View Oktoberfest 2/3/4* and Horse Trials in Aiken, South Carolina. Madison Zgutowicz, Collins Zgutowicz, and Jake Tessler of Area III Young Riders reigned supreme after impressive performance across the levels. It was red ribbons all around for the team of three, with Tessler and Fernhill Focus Maxi (Candillo Z x Stay Focused), his 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, finishing in second place in the Preliminary Rider division, Madison and Sidnee Milner’s 19-year-old Welsh mare My Valentine taking Reserve Champion in the Novice Rider division, and her sister Collins securing second on L’Avventura (Weshaan x Louie Louise), Halliea Milner’s 18-year-old Thoroughbred mare, in the Junior Beginner Novice division.

The final IEL Team Challenges of 2023 just wrapped up over the last few weeks at the Waredaca Classic Three-Day Event & Horse Trial, the Virginia Horse Center Eventing Fall H.T. (Lexington, Virginia) and the Full Moon Farm Horse Trials (Finksburg, Maryland) last weekend. Click here to view the full results of all IEL Team Challenges hosted this year, which will be updated as the final events results are reported.

Are you interested in joining the Interscholastic Eventing League? View the list of current IEL Affiliates and reach out to an Affiliate representative in your Area to learn more. If you would like to start a team 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 existed 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 Affiliates will be welcome and encouraged to enter to compete at the 2024 USEA Interscholastic Eventing League Championship at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina, on May 4-5, 2024. There’s no better time than now to start preparing for this exciting opportunity! Click here to view the list of venues that hosted team challenges this year, and stay tuned for the 2024 schedule, which is coming soon! If you are interested in staying up-to-date on all things IEL Championship, click here to join Stable View’s WhatsApp group dedicated to information on the championships.

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 7-12th grade and provide a supportive community through which students can continue to pursue their riding interests. A group of junior members in the 7th-12th grade who share a common bond, such as the same barn, school, Pony Club, or other connection, register with the USEA as an interscholastic team. Click here to learn more about the Interscholastic Eventing League.

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