Dec 26, 2023

New Kids on the Block – First Leaderboard Champions Crowned for the USEA Interscholastic Eventing League

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff
Beginner Novice Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year Emma Whitaker and HSH Golden Boy. Photo courtesy of Emma Whitaker

The USEA Interscholastic Eventing League (IEL) introduced individual leaderboards for members of the program in 2023, and the first class of champions were crowned at the Awards Dinner during the 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in St. Louis, Missouri! The IEL was created in 2020 for 7th through 12th graders with the mission of bringing together junior riders with a common interest and providing a supportive community through which they can continue to pursue their riding interests. Now open to the extended age range of 5th through 12th graders for 2024, the program encourages team camaraderie and gives junior members a chance to compete in a team atmosphere. The USEA celebrates the first class of year-end IEL Champions!

Beginner Novice Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year: Emma Whitaker

The first leaderboard champion for the IEL is Emma Whitaker of Clarksville, Maryland, a member of the Iron Bridge Hounds Pony Club (IBHPC) IEL Affiliate. Whitaker competed Hedgerow Farm’s 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, HSH Golden Boy (Eastern Hero x Princess Boo), and their 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare, Rebstar (Rebel Mountain x Diamond Harbour), at the Beginner Novice level on her way to topping the IEL leaderboard.

As a member of the IBHPC Affiliate, Whitaker and HSH Golden Boy contributed to two IBHPC team challenge wins: the first at the Waredaca Classic Three-Day Event & H.T (Laytonsville, Maryland) IEL Team Challenge where she won the Beginner Novice Three-Day division on her dressage score of 26.0, and the second at the Full Moon Farm H.T. (Finksburg, Maryland) where she won the Beginner Novice Rider C division, again completing on her dressage score. Whitaker also helped the Area 2 Developing Riders/IBHPC Scramble Teams at the May Virginia Horse Center Eventing (Lexington, Virginia) and the Fair Hill International August Recognized H.T. (Elkton, Maryland) tp seal a second-place finish in each IEL Team Challenge on Rebstar and HSH Golden Boy, respectively. Throughout the season, Whitaker competed on teams at five IEL Team Challenges and collected four champion titles individually at Beginner Novice level at recognized events.

Novice Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year: Kendal Fansler

Novice Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year, Kendal Fansler, and Delilah's Boy. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo


Fellow IBHPC teammate, Kendal Fansler of Clarksville, Maryland, was also crowned champion in her division this year. Fansler competed Hedgrow Farms’ 13-year-old Connemara gelding, Delilah’s Boy, their 9-year-old Connemara mare, Elderglen’s Charlotte (Wildwood Hearne Topgun x Balmullo’s Jezebele), and their 19-year-old Andalusian gelding, Curioso (Nishkito x Bright Easy Jet), at the Novice level in 2023 to propel her to the IEL Champion title.

Fansler collected an impressive seven wins at the Novice level at recognized events throughout the year between her three mounts, including first-place in the 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships (Lexington, Kentucky) Novice Junior, 15 & Under, division on Delilah’s Boy, finishing on her dressage score of 28.3 to best a field of 21 competitors. Fansler was a member of six IBHPC teams at IEL Team Challenges, including the winning teams at the Waredaca Classic Three-Day Event & H.T. and the Full Moon Farm H.T. At the Waredaca Classic Three-Day Event, Fansler and Delilah’s Boy came in fifth place in the Novice Three-Day Event division and at Full Moon, the pair was Reserve Champion in the Novice Rider division.

Training Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year: Leeci Rowsell

Training Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year, Leeci Rowsell and Man of Conviction. USEA/Megan DeLisle photo


Leeci Rowsell of Long Valley, New Jersey, secured the Training IEL Rider of the Year as a member of the Area II Developing Riders Affiliate. Rowsell competed Caty Nolan’s 19-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Man of Conviction (Civilisation x Red Regal), at Training for all of 2023, and stepped-up John Strangfeld’s 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Lexx, to the level in September.

Rowsell competed at two IEL Team Challenges in 2023, where her team ended up on the podium in both appearances. As a member of the Area II Developing Riders (A2DR) teams, Rowsell and Man of Conviction claimed Reserve Champion by finishing on their dressage score in the Training Rider division at the Plantation Field May H.T. (Unionville, Pennsylvania) to help A2DR win the IEL Team Challenge.

Later in the season, Rowsell and Lexx would also claim second place individually in the Junior Training Rider division at the Virginia Horse Center Eventing Fall H.T. shortly after moving up to the level to help their A2DR get third place in the team challenge. At that same event, Rowsell had a 1-2 finish when Man of Conviction won the Junior Training Rider division on a score of 34.4. Rowsell and her two mounts would finish 2023 with three wins and seven additional podium finishes at the Training level in recognized competition.

Modified Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year: Claire Allen

Modified Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year, Claire Allen and Crazy Choice. Erin Gilmore Photography photo


The East Coast Eventers added their Affiliate to the history books when Claire Allen of Hume, Virginia, won the Modified IEL Rider of the Year title. Allen spent all of 2023 campaigning her own 14-year-old Thoroughbred mare, Crazy Choice (Philanthropist x Hasta Pronto). The pair started the year at the Training level and had a strong move up to Modified in May, where they would go on to place in the top-3 at three out of their four appearances at the level.

Allen and Crazy Choice also completed their first international competitions as a pair in 2023, placing fourth at The Maryland International and Horse Trials (Adamstown, Maryland) in the CCI1*-S and third at the Virgnia Horse Center Eventing Fall H.T. in the CCI1*-L.

Allen and Crazy Choice were a part of three East Coast Eventers teams at IEL Team Challenges this year. Their best team result came at the Waredaca H.T. in May where the team won the challenge, and Allen came in fifth individually in the Training Rider division with Crazy Choice in their final run at the level before moving up to Modified. The pair also contributed to a Reserve Champion finish for the East Coast Eventers at the Virginia Horse Center Fall event where they finished on their dressage score of 30.7 in the CCI1*-L.

Preliminary Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year: Carlin Keefe

Preliminary Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year, Carlin Keefe. USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo


Carlin Keefe of Sandy Spring, Maryland, had a great 2023 competition season competing Altorac Farm LLC’s 16-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Mr. Candyman (Canto x Montara), and her mother Rumsey Keefe’s 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Point Nemo (Songandaprayer x Wood Not), at Preliminary. An active member of the Good Counsel Eventing Team (GCET) Affiliate, Keefe successfully campaigned both of her mounts at recognized events throughout the year to secure seven podium finishes at Preliminary, four completions at the CCI2*-S, and two completions at the CCI2*-L level.

Individually, Keefe’s best event of the year came at the Area II Championship at The Maryland Horse Trials in October. Keefe competed both horses in the Preliminary Championships, where Point Nemo went on to win the division on his dressage score of 26.6, and Mr. Candyman just added one rail to his final score claim third place. Keefe competed on teams at five IEL Challenges throughout the season, and her top team results came at the Fair Hill International May and August Horse Trials.

In May, Keefe rode Mr. Candyman to a ninth place finish and Point Nemo to a 10th place finish in the Preliminary Rider division to help secure Reserve Champion for GCET in the challenge. Then in August, Keefe bested her May results when she claimed Reserve Champion on Point Nemo and seventh place on Mr. Candyman in the Preliminary Rider division to help GCET win the challenge at that event.

Intermediate Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year: Kiera Kenny

Intermediate Interscholastic Eventing League Rider of the Year, Kiera Kenny, and FE Black Ice. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo


The Area II Developing Riders Affiliate claimed the final IEL year-end win at the Intermediate level with Kiera Kenny of Williston, Florida. Kenny rode her own 13-year-old German Sport Horse gelding, FE Black Ice (Stakkato’s Highlight x Co-Co), to several top placings at the Intermediate/CCI3* level in 2023 on her way to the win.

Kenny and FE Black Ice’s best result came in the Intermediate Rider division at the Ocala Winter II Horse Trials (Ocala, Florida) where the pair won the division by just adding a bit of time to their dressage score to finish on a final score of 35.0. The pair continued on this momentum throughout the season and came back to the Ocala Fall Horse Trials in October to secure second at the event as well.

The USEA congratulates all the Interscholastic members on another successful season! IEL Affiliates, don’t forget to renew your Affiliate membership with the USEA and submit your updated rosters to Jennifer Hardwick at [email protected] prior to Feb. 15, 2024. The IEL Affiliate membership is $75 per year, or complimentary if the group is registered with an ECP certified coach. Also, mark your calendars for the 2024 USEA Interscholastic Eventing Championship at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina, on May 4-5!

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 grades 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, in conjunction with the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships. Click here to learn more about the Interscholastic Eventing League.

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