Come Ride with Us! The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Hits the Catskill Region.
by Nikki Alvin-Smith

ABC Dream Team

Many regional barn owners are currently developing teams to compete at the IEA and there are lots of opportunities for all school age kids to get involved in equestrian sport. New York is part of Region 2 and currently fields over forty teams but there is currently only one team ( ABC Dream Team, see more information below on this team), participating from the Greater Catskill area. This is set to change as more people step up to help grow the youth equestrians in the region. You do not have to own a horse to participate and IEA offer classes in Western, Hunt Seat and Saddle Seat.

Founded in 2002, the IEA has more than 8,000 middle and high school student-riders across the United States. The IEA was organized to promote and improve the quality of equestrian competition and instruction available to middle and secondary school students. Its purpose is to set minimum standards for competition, provide information concerning the creation and development of school associated equestrian sport programs, to generally promote the common interests of safe riding instruction and competition and education on matters related to equestrian competition at the middle and secondary school levels.

How to get started? Let's look at a relatively new team to the arena, the ABC Dream Team coached by Lisa Burdick.

"We officially have three teams in the group. Upper school Hunt Seat (9th grade to 12th grade), Middle School Hunt seat (6th grade to 8th grade) and Upper School Western team. This is a total of 10 members. We are the smallest team in our region. They have fund raised to pay for their memberships and competitions. This has been a very long and on going process. They competed (both Hunt Seat teams) in their very first competition in November at way farm, just outside of Rochester. All but two of the team members picked up points towards regionals. It was a very long and difficult day for them.

One member drew a ride that after the first practice fence that bucked, launched, her off and was given a re- ride in under five minutes and finished third in her class. A middle school rider also had a very bad draw. Her horse tried to buck her off repeatedly and then ran away with her. She still managed to finish her course; I am still not sure how she did that and placed sixth in her class of 11, because she choose not to take the re ride. One of the Intermediate Varsity riders won her over fences class. The Western Team attends their first show in March in West Virginia. Then they return to Alfred in April for a quadruple show. Which means they have a morning show followed by an evening show over two days. They also recently held a fund raiser/ clinic with James McDonald at Mill Street Farm.

This gave them the opportunity to learn as well as ride different horses than they normally practice on. These kids are always practicing indoors and outdoors no matter what the weather may shell out. I can honestly say that this group of kids does this for the love of riding. The whole point of the IEA is to promote the equestrian competitions as a sport. It adds camaraderie to what is normally an individual task. These kids whole-heartedly support each other and are crushed when they feel that they have let the team down, which none of them actually have, it is just their perception of the moment," explained Lisa Burdick.

When asked what kind of experience a prospective team rider needs to have Burdick explained,

"All of the kids on this team have ridden with me through all kinds of horse activities. Some of them I have taken from the beginning of their riding until now, others have just begun their riding careers or are recovering from bad experiences elsewhere. I have always encouraged the kids that ride with me to try something new with horses and stress safety. It is also important to me that they try other trainers as well. For two reasons, first it is always good to have your abilities as a trainer/coach to be reaffirmed by others and secondly when we stop learning about our abilities as riders is when I truly believe it is time to give it up. I continue to learn from the horses and from others who are well versed in their seats, if I stop learning anytime soon, I am done! I teach lessons at several facilities (on a limited basis) and have my own stable for lessons, breeding and training as well," stated Lisa Burdick.

In addressing organization and fund raising for the team Burdick explained the team are currently raising funds through on-line donations at
and parents are very active organizing events to help fund the expenses.

And there is the bite. What expenses can you expect if you sign your horse crazy kid up for this program and if you want to start one as a trainer what should you expect? There are other organizations for these age groups such as Pony Club and 4H, and the Pony Club does charge a fee for memebrship. While 4H grew out of the farm/agricultural program and is apparent at every State Fair in the country offering a variety of disciplines, the Pony Club has a long standing reputation for producing top notch equestrians in the English riding disciplines.

Another IEA team Itaska Show Stables (ISS), based in Whitney Point, New York now in its second year and coached by Veda Tupy joins us to explain more about the IEA.

"ISS IEA team is in its second year, It was found in 2012 by myself with 3 members, we currently have 5 members.  We show in zone 2 region 3.  To show on our team you must be currently riding with myself or another reputable Hunt Seat trainer (this is someone in good standing with the U.S.E.F) or riding regularly at ISS.  Members must also attended a monthly practice at ISS with my self.  Members who wish to jump must lesson at least 2x per week and meet the requirements set forth by the IEA. We are small team and all practices and shows are paid for out of pocket by the team members. Team Practices are $35.00 and a show is between $80.00 and $120.00 for everything.

As set forth by the IEA we are required to co-host 2 horse shows per year, we are happy to do this and provide horses for said shows.  Members must be willing and able to help groom and handle horses at the shows we are co-hosting. We look forward to continuing to grow as a team and someday host our own show, " stated Veda Tupy.

As with many IEA trainers/organizers Veda Tupy brings her wealth of experience working with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) to the interscholastic level.

"I am a long time equestrian professional based here in Whitney Point.  After a 9 year run as coach of the Binghamton University Equestrian Team I took my knowledge of the way the IHSA runs and started Binghamton’s first and only IEA team.  I currently teach a wild range of clients, from local shows to competing young warmblood sporthorses for Page Brook Farms at the USEF level, " states Tupy.

However we found another Binghamton team at Oakwood Manor, Binghamton. This farm is owned and operated by Mike and Nicky Kurty.
Citing this IEA program as a unique opportunity for local riders, Nicky Kurty explained the benefits of joining the team to include reduced lesson prices as well as additional horse related lessons and experiences such as bandaging legs, wound care, new foal care, and ground work. 
" The team has a wonderful family atmosphere with lots of laughing and fun included along side some great learning opportunities!  Competing in shows is optional, but riders who choose to compete will have the unique experience of showing using a format similar to that of the IHSA which is utilized by our Cornell University Western Equestrian Team. The unique aspect of the competitions is that none of the riders will supply their own horses or tack. Instead, the host team arranges for the horses and equipment, so riders are all competing on horses they have never ridden before! This makes a fun and unique challenge," says Kurty.

What can you actually expect to learn as a member of an IEA team? From Kurty's perspective: "Aside from developing your horsemanship skills, we will also work a lot on your ability to quickly asses the needs of an unfamiliar horse to be able to present that horse at his or her best.  Also, riders who compete in the top two levels may choose to compete in Western reining, as well. If you have never ridden a reining horse, this is something you should definitely try! Individuals in grades 6 - 12 can compete, but anyone is welcome to join and practice with us. You may join the team at any time during the year.

Brand new to the IEA program is Whisper Wind Farm trainer Val McCloskey who has set up a team and plans to start competing Fall 2014. McCloskey is also an experienced trainer who has earned her Bronze and Silver dressage medals with the United States Dressage Federation and is accredited through the Certified Horsemanship Association ( CHA) where she has earned her Master Instructor certification. Also an IHSA coach she cross trains all disciplines.

The Whisper Wind team is based off her farm in Westmoreland, New York and currently has nine members.

New teams are currently popping up everywhere as this IEA continues to grow and the black hole for teams in the Southern Tier and Catskill Region disappears. Whether the relative newcomer IEA will catch up to the level of the IHSA is another question.

While the goals of the programs are similar, it is apparent that safety needs be addressed. Riders don't need to travel hours and hours with their families and trainers to arrive to bucking horses. Who is grading the standard of horses provided? How active are the IEA chairpersons in orchestrating controls for team safety. Obviously checking the credentials of trainers, the safety and functionality of the host barns should be priorities. But the quality and training of the horses so that newcomers to the horse world stay safe and have a fun and productive experience is paramount.

As a parent it is often difficult to be able to evaluate the training techniques and training and soundness of the horses, especially if that parent has no prior horse experience. Catskill Horse reached out to IEA to address these questions but to date has received no response.

"School level riders are often new to the world of horses and are very often less experienced than their college counterparts, " one parent told us. " You don't just point and shoot your horse over a fence. While your kid may get great training at home, the standards should be the same wherever you go. As a parent I'd like to know what is in place to evaluate the safety."

Starting a new team also brings more than just possible new business to your barn. The IEA does require you to host two competitions a year, which can be onerous for both insurance costs and your ability to provide enough horses and supervision. Additionally school children already have a lot on their plates, especially as they hit High School. Their parents naturally also have to measure their time running car pools far and wide.

As the IEA continues to grow it will be interesting to see how it pans out. Competitive sport is healthy for our children and the opportunity to travel and get out and about for competition is one to be embraced in our youngsters.

Here is a brief list of some of the local New York teams currently available and all welcome your contact. For more information you can also visit the IEA website at and Catskill Horse welcomes your letters and comments on this program. We'd love to hear from you so please drop us an email.

Oakwood Manor Equestrian Team (UW OME)
Discipline: Western
Binghamton, NY
Nicole Kurty

ABC Dream Team (UX ABC)
Disciplines: Hunt Seat, Western
Bloomville, NY
Lisa Burdick

Itaska Show Stable (UH ITA)
Discipline: Hunt Seat
Whitney Point, NY
Veda Tupy

Whisper Wind Equestrian
6101 Skinner Road,
Rome NY 13440
(315) 335-3557
Val McCloskey

Discipline: Hunt Seat
East Syracuse, NY
Nicolle Madonna

ShowTime Equestrian (MX SHT)
Disciplines: Hunt Seat, Western
Homer, NY
Anna Supp

Gale's Equine Facility (UH GAL)
Discipline: Hunt Seat
Horseheads, NY
Gale Wolfe

Greystone Stables (UH GRY)
Discipline: Hunt Seat
New Hampton, NY
Jody Moraski

Lucky C Stables (UH LUC)
Discipline: Hunt Seat
New Paltz, NY
Jessica Ansalmo

Emerald City Equestrian Team (MH ECE)
Discipline: Hunt Seat
Skaneateles, NY
Meg Maloney

Gardnertown Farm (UH GAR)
Discipline: Hunt Seat
Newburgh, NY
Susie Bagnato

Stoneybrook Equestrian Team (MH STB)
Discipline: Hunt Seat
Newfield, NY
Elizabeth Bowen

Dutchess Equestrian Team (UH DEQ)
Discipline: Hunt Seat
Rhinebeck, NY
Kimberly Eidle

Heritage Stables NY (MH HST)
Discipline: Hunt Seat
Skaneateles, NY
Michael McGowan

Echo Farm Show Team (UH EFS)
Discipline: Hunt Seat
South Salem, NY
Callie Bauer