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Alfred University Equestrian Program sponsors new youth riding team
2/04/09

ALFRED, NY — Alfred University is sponsoring an Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) team, giving several area youngsters a chance to compete in the horse show ring.

The Alfred University IEA Team, formed in December, is made up of 25 middle school and high school students from area school districts. Team members practice weekends at Alfred University’s Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center, which is located in the Town of Alfred, about five minutes south of the AU campus.

According to Nancy Kohler, director of the Alfred University Equestrian Program, the AU IEA Team competes in English and Western disciplines, just as the University’s varsity equestrian team does. AU students enrolled in the Equestrian Studies program’s Methods of Teaching class serve as IEA team instructors. The student instructors, most of whom are members or former members of the AU varsity equestrian team, are assisted by Kohler and other members of the equestrian program staff.

Kohler said the University decided to form its own IEA program after two teams from the Syracuse area hosted an IEA show at the Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center in November. Eight middle school and eight high school teams from the Syracuse, Rochester, Erie, PA, and Pittsburgh, PA, areas brought 130 riders to the show. The event was such a success that officials with the AU Equestrian Program pursued developing a local team.

“We decided over break to see if there was interest in this area in forming an IEA team,” Kohler said. “We contacted local horse owners, riding facilities and 4-H clubs and got a huge response.”

Interest was so great, that the 25 available spots in the team filled almost immediately, Kohler noted. “We had to turn people away once we got to 25. It was more of a response than we anticipated.”

The AU IEA program has four different teams — Middle School English and Western and High School English and Western — consisting of students from area schools districts including Dansville, Canisteo-Greenwood, Wellsville, Genesee Valley, Alfred-Almond, Avoca, Arkport, Cuba-Rushford, Scio, Hornell and Canaseraga. Some students compete in both English and Western.

Kohler said each member of the team has some prior riding experience.

“Some have taken lessons and some own their own horses,” she said. “None are real beginners. They’ve all ridden to some extent.”

The IEA shows are similar to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) shows at which Alfred University’s varsity team competes. Youngsters ride in events based on their ability — from beginner and novice to advanced and open — and they ride horses provided by the host team.

The AU IEA Team will compete in its first show this weekend, at The Grier School in Tyrone, PA. The Western show will be held Saturday, Feb. 7, and the English show on Sunday, Feb. 8. The team will host its own shows at the Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center on Sunday, Feb. 15 (English) and Saturday, Feb. 21 (Western), before traveling to Cazenovia College for an English show on Sunday, Feb. 22.
Kohler expects well over 100 riders from 10 teams to compete in the AU-hosted shows this month.
Sponsoring an IEA team benefits the University, Kohler pointed out.

“It’s great for recruiting, “ she said. Youngsters from other IEA teams, many of whom want to join a team in college, are exposed to AU when they compete here. “Kids are looking or an IHSA team to join when they go off to college. When they compete here, they see our facility and they see our horses.”

Kohler said she is encouraging stable operators in the area to begin their own IEA teams in order to accommodate the number of interested youngsters. She said AU would make its facilities available to other clubs to use for practice and/or shows.
AU will continue to sponsor a team, she said, but won’t expand membership beyond 25. IEA competition ends when the school year ends, but the team will continue to practice throughout the summer, Kohler said. The Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center will host four or more shows next academic year (2009-10), with the AU IEA Team serving as host or co-host of each show.

When AU IEA Team members graduate from high school in June, it will create openings on the team.
Kohler said anyone interested in joining the team for the 2009-10 year should call the AU Equestrian Center at 607-587-9012.