By Amber Croyle
IEA stands for Interscholastic Equestrian Association. This was something that was created for the young rider, no matter what discipline they ride, hunter, dressage, western, it’s all there. This is a chance for you to shine as a rider, to become known, and to grow as a rider.
My experience with IEA has changed over the years, from hating it to loving it. I have learned that each and every judge likes different things. You have to learn to work with the horse you were given. Working with the team is essential, yet you must be able to hold your own ground when you are put up against them in your classes.
When I first started IEA, I had no experience with the hunters or equitation. I had just moved barns and changed disciplines with my recently purchased horse and knew no one on my team. I came from a eventing background, something that I had done for years, which was where I started my riding career.
I expected hunt seat to be the same, just prettier. I started off in cross-rails, along with the flat class with it. I remember getting to my first show, how early and cold it was, how awkward it was since I barely knew the people on the team. Since it was a crossrail class, it was later in the day, after all the 2’ and 2’6 riders had gone. I watched them all go in, have a perfect round, collect their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd ribbon, and then do the same in their second class. I thought that when I would go in I would have the same results.
So, I drew this little pony for my O/F and a big appaloosa for my flat. As I went to put my helmet on, I couldn’t get my hair net on! I didn’t even know how to use this type of hairnet! So, my still best friend to this day, Sadie, helped me and laughed as I pulled my boots on and went to get my horse.
I went into my O/F and I thought ‘Wow, that was an easy course.’ Anyone who has ever evented or done strictly jumpers, would know that those courses were crazy! And here in hunt seat, it’s just line, diagonal, line! I felt good after my round, and then did my flat. I remember going around the arena thinking ‘Hm. Look at everyone else. I’m totally going to win.’
After the class I sat back and waited for the results for both. They started at 6th, and I waited for my name, then 3rd, still, no name, and then 1st came, still no name.
‘What!?’ I thought. ‘How could I not have placed?’ I was upset while they began to call the jumping, again, 6th, wait a bit, 3rd, still no name, and then 2nd. “ Amber Croyle from Five Star Hunters.” I was called! I got second! So I went to get my ribbon and then my trainer came up, telling me every little thing I had done wrong in my flat, and my O/F. I felt better, knowing I had placed at least once, and now I knew what to work on.
The rest of that season I was always excited for each show. Until I started not placing. I would ALWAYS get a 6th or no place. I wondered how, why, and when I would start placing! I did not even come close to qualifying that year for regionals as an individual. Yet of course, my amazing team did, and I got to tag along.
It seemed as if everyone around me was winning and I was the only one who was failing. I got to ride for O/F and I didn’t do well. We didn’t make it to zones, and I had overall hated the whole season. My favorite part was probably the cool keychain and hats we got. Anyway, I had decided to not to do it the next year, after failing horribly that year.
Fast forward to the next year, 2017. It had come around to that time where you decide if you want to be apart of the IEA team again. Automatically I said absolutely no. My friend Sadie begged me to join, and I refused, not wanting to go through the long show days, where I didn’t even place, what I thought was a waste of my time. I had been thinking about it until the very last day possible to register.
I decided I was going to. My trainer had told me I had improved, and that I would actually be jumping jumps and not cross-rails. What pushed me over the edge and told me to do it was my friends. I thought how I would be missing all of the fun moments we had shared the year before, and I was able to push past the fact that I might not place. I told myself it was going to be fine and that I could accept not winning, and be happy for my friends.
Going into this year’s IEA season I had a positive outlook that I was doing it for the experience and the fun. Not to win, not for ribbons. And that’s gotten me to where I am today.
We head to regionals in a few weeks. As an individual I will go, having known I wouldn’t have been able to attend this amazing experience without having to go through the hardships of what last year had dragged me through. I’m here today proud of who I am as a rider, that a little over a year ago I didn’t know how to ride in hunt seat, and now I get to advance, maybe even go to zones after regionals.
IEA has taught me so much more than just how to ride different horses. I learned that going into something negatively you will not do well. That you have to learn to adjust to your horse that you were given, and let him be the best he can. If you ever have the chance to join an IEA team, don’t let the opportunity pass!