May 29, 2024

Interscholastic Eventing Takes Center Stage at the Spokane Sport Horse Spring H.T.

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff
IEL competitors gathered Friday evening for a cross-country course walk with Marc Grandia. Photo courtesy of Nikki Keye/Spokane Sport Horse Farm.

The USEA Interscholastic Eventing League (IEL) got a major boost on the West Coast last weekend when the Spokane Sport Horse Spring H.T. hosted a total of 43 fifth through 12th grader competitors in their first ever IEL Team Challenge at the venue in Spokane, Washington. Eleven teams made up of junior USEA members from Area VII and parts of western Canada went head-to-head competing in the Starter through Preliminary levels to contribute to their team’s final rankings.

In the end, it was the Inland Northwest Eventers Team #1, led by Level IV ECP Coach, Karen O’Neal, who came out victorious. Close on their heels was Team Chaos #1 in the reserve champion position and the Powerpff Girls Scramble team that closed out the top 3.

The USEA IEL was created in 2020 with the mission to bring together junior riders with a common interest and provide a supportive community through which students can continue to pursue their eventing interests. The team at Spokane Sport Horse Farm (SSHF) took this mission to heart by hosting a mandatory ice cream social with all the IEL Team Challenge competitors before the start of the competition, giving the teams an excellent opportunity to mix and mingle before the weekend got underway. At the social, IEL competitors enjoyed sweet treats with friends while completing a fun arts and craft project, which encouraged each team to make signs to us when cheering on their fellow competitors the rest of the weekend.

Teams got creative at the Friday's ice cream social, crafting homemade signs to cheer on their fellow competitors during the rest of the weekend. Photo courtesy of Nikki Keye/Spokane Sport Horse Farm

After 35 ice cream bars were consumed and 20 sheets of poster board were decorated, the kids gathered for a group photo, then headed out onto the cross-country course for a special walk led by local professional, Marc Grandia. Not only is Grandia an experienced competitor at the CCI4*/Advanced level and an Eventing “R” Course Designer, but he is also the ECP Coach for the Powerpuff Girls IEL Club, giving him a unique perspective as he assisted the students in their cross-country planning. At the end of the evening, the organizers handed out over 100 carrots and 50 swag bags with candy and goodies for the IEL competitors and their horses.

Marc Grandia and The Powerpuff Girls IEL Club. Photo courtesy of Nikki Keye/Spokane Sport Horse Farm.

In addition to hosting the kick-off event, Christel Carlson, event organizer of the Spokane Sport Horse Spring H.T., also provided ribbons to be awarded to the top-three teams in the challenge. Nikki Keye, who led the volunteer efforts for organizing the IEL Team Challenge, gave great praise to Carlson and her team at SSHF for their support of this new initiative.

“At first, organizing our first IEL Team Challenge in the Northwest seemed a little overwhelming,” explained Keye. “However, we turned to technology for assistance. Setting up a GroupMe chat enabled parents and riders to ask questions, while being able to provide updates and scoring throughout the weekend. By hosting the ‘meet up’ on Friday, we allowed the riders riders to socialize and have fun, along with course walk led by Marc Grandia. We have amazing event organizers and venues in Area VII. Spokane was a great first event as Christel and her team are always so supportive to our YR membership.”

Members of the Inland Northwest Eventers IEL Club pose with their team gear! Photo courtesy of Nikki Keye/Spokane Sport Horse Farm

As mentioned, the team that came out victorious at this exciting inaugural challenge was the Inland Northwest Eventers #1, which included riders McLaine Mangum, Abigail Popa, Olivia Keye, and Sarah Buehler. Mangum and her own 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Grantstown Mr. Big (Mr. Big Cat x Hollthill Grandpas Pet), and Buehler and Roxanne Moore’s 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Orion’s Shining Star, anchored the winning team, with both pairs adding nothing their dressage scores and finishing on scores of 31 and 28.1, respectively. After calculating their scaled scores based on their level of competition, both riders claimed sub-27 scores to be added to their final team ranking. Olivia and her own 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Chromatic Flyer, contributed the final score to the team’s win after going clean over cross-country and adding three rails in show jumping to their final score.

“It was so fun getting to spend time with my teammates at the social and throughout the competition,” said Mangum recounting her experience at Spokane. “We are a bit unique, because the girls on our team are spaced out from Washington state all the way to Kalispell, Montana, so I got to talk to some new people I’d never met before and form new friendships. This was only my second Modified [event] with my horse, so to finish double clear in fifth place was so exciting. Spokane did such a good job putting this challenge together rather last minute, and I want to give thanks to the team parents that helped make it happen.”

The reserve champion honors went to Team Chaos #1, which was made up of Flynn Patinkin, Anna Patinkin, Tegan Barte, and Nicole Manning. Team Chaos, based out of Vaughn, Washington, is comprised of students under the tutelage of Anni Grandia-Dodson of Grand Farms. Finally, Grandia’s Powerpuff Girls Scramble Team of Simone Clark, Ella Eisenbarth, Masha Maykova, and Alyssa Dournova took home the third-place ribbons.

The USEA thanks the team at Spokane Sport Horse Spring H.T., Christina Gray, and Nikki Keye for supporting the IEL! Are you interested in hosting an IEL Team Challenge? Learn more about hosting in the Organizers Guide here, and contact staff liaison Kaleigh Collett at [email protected] to sign up.

Don’t see an IEL Team Challenge near you? Please contact your local USEA Horse Trial organizers to express interest and ask if they are willing to host an IEL Team Challenge at their event.

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, 2024. 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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