Dec 12, 2023

Meet the IEL Teams: Go With It Farm’s Area III Young Riders

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff
Go With It Farm's Collins Zgutowicz and L’Avventura, Jake Tessler and Fernhil Focus Maxi, and Madison Zgutowicz and My Valentine. Photo provided by Lauren Zgutowicz

The mission of the USEA Interscholastic Eventing League (IEL) is to foster team camaraderie and provide a supportive community through which students in 5th through 12th grade can pursue their riding interests with like-minded junior eventers. This sentiment rings especially true at Go With It Farm (GWIF) in Sandy Springs, Georgia, where several of the top competitors from the Area III Young Riders IEL Affiliate have created a strong team atmosphere at their grassroots eventing barn. Founder and Program Director of GWIF, Halliea Milner, has worked with several of the kids on the team for most of their riding career and stresses the importance of teamwork in every aspect of their daily training.

“People have come to me and asked, ‘How do you get your teams to work so well together?” Milner said. “It’s because I insist that they do it together. I insist that they are supportive of each other and help one another out, and that’s a huge cornerstone of our program. They want to do well for each other, and that’s not new because they are winning [IEL Team Challenges], that’s how they’ve been brought along.”

Madison Zgutowicz and My Valentine at the Poplar Place April Horse Trials, where the Area III Young Riders won the IEL Team Challenge. Kimberwick Visuals photo

Milner’s recipe to success has shown clear results as several of her students have gone on to represent the Area III Young Riders Affiliate on winning IEL Team Challenge teams throughout the year, including at the Sporting Days Farm March H.T., the Poplar Place April H.T., Stable View Oktoberfest H.T., and the Poplar Place Farm October H.T. Jake Tessler and sisters Madison and Collins Zgutowicz were the main contributors to all four of the Affiliates’ team challenge wins, while fellow barn mates Macyn Wolpert and Raegan Hornfeck have just joined the league.

The Affiliate’s most recent win at Poplar Place in October was with a team comprised of Tessler, Wolpert, and both Zgutowicz sisters. Tessler campaigned his 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Fernhill Maxi Focus (Candillo Z x Stay Focused), to a win at the Preliminary level, and Madison matched his win with a first-place finish in the Novice Junior division on Sidnee Milner’s My Valentine, a 19-year-old Welsh mare. Collins also collected a fantastic result, finishing as reserve champion in the Beginner Novice Junior division on Go With It Farm’s 18-year-old Thoroughbred mare, L’Avventura. Finally, Wolpert rounded out the group’s record weekend with a sixth-place finish in the Starter division on Go With It Farm’s Hallelujah.

“We definitely did a lot better than we thought we would I think,” said Tessler on their results. “Definitely in my case since I won. I don’t usually win my divisions a lot because it gets harder at the upper levels, so that was really special for me. For the rest of the team, they did really well too, so it was definitely a good weekend for our barn. Eventing can feel like a really individual sport, but it always feels like a team competing with my barn mates. We’re all one team.”

Jake Tessler and Fernhill Focus Maxi moved up to Preliminary in July of this year and have seen great success at the level. Liz Crawley Photography photo

As a more recent addition to the GWIF program, Wolpert noted that being a part of the IEL has helped her get to know her barn mates better. When she first joined, she was a bit worried about talking to some of the other kids, but competing together gave her the chance to get more comfortable and make new friendships.

The IEL members aren’t the only ones who are glad to be a part of the program. Madison and Collins' mother, Lauren Zgutowicz, said that “as a parent, I love the IEL because it allows my kids to compete in a team sport dynamic. Like Jake said, eventing can be such an individual sport, but being in a team competition really encourages all of the kids to root for each other.” When they aren't winning challenges, the teammates can regularly be found spending extra time at the barn caring for their horses or cleaning tack together after rides.

Looking to the future, the GWIF riders are hoping to compete in more team challenges and hopefully attending the inaugural IEL Championship at Stable View (Aiken, South Carolina) in 2024. Hornfeck noted that she is especially excited for the Championship, as she has seen Tessler, Madison, and Collins compete in Area Championships and the AEC, and she can’t wait to compete in that kind of atmosphere herself.

Collins Zgutowicz just started competing with L'Avventura in 2023, and she is planning to move up to Novice with the mare next spring. Liz Crawley Photography photo

Milner and GWIF Head Instructor Meg Bowers are also making big plans for the students’ futures. “It’s obnoxious how much time Meg and I spend talking about these kids and their development,” explained Milner. “We collaborate on what we are going to do to project them forward, and we have plans for them for years in advance, and to see how it all unfolds is amazing. These kids have a really incredibly supportive family group, and they’re definitely on the fastest track that we have because of that support.”

The USEA wishes GWIF and the Area III Young Riders Affiliate the best of luck with the 2024 competition season! Would you like to be a part of the Interscholastic Eventing League too? Click here to view the list of current IEL Affiliates to reach out to a representative in your Area for more information about their program. If you don’t see an Affiliate in your Area, consider starting your own! The application to start a new IEL Affiliate can be found here. For any question regarding the USEA IEL, please visit useventing.com/iel or contact USEA Staff Liasion, Kaleigh Collett, at [email protected].

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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