The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) has a mission of introducing students (primarily ages 9 through 19) to equestrian sports. IEA was established in the spring of 2002 and now has over 14,500 members in 46 states across North America.
The IEA supports three disciplines: Hunt Seat, Western, and Dressage. There is no need for any rider to own a horse because competition horses are provided at each venue to the contestant.
Sports Destination Management: This is a big year for IEA.
Roxane Durant: Yes, it is. We are gearing up for our 20th anniversary finals.
SDM: How did you manage things during the pandemic?
Durant: We were able to put on our nationals last year by observing specific rules and restrictions; everything came off well. This year, we’ll do our National Finals with all disciplines – hunt seat, western and dressage – in one location, the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg. Interestingly enough, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association will follow our event, so we are able to share a lot of costs in collaboration with their event. We also like that location because there are a lot of barns in the area, and we could get a good supply of horses.
SDM: How many people attend, both riders and family?
Durant: For Nationals, probably 1,000 riders will attend. Each will bring one or more parents, plus a coach and maybe some family members, so I’d say between 4,000 and 5,000 in all.
SDM: What are you most looking forward to about Nationals this year?
Durant: Our riders will get the opportunity to see riders in other disciplines. I think that will really be a good experience for them. Hunt Seat riders can see reining, for example. I think you come away from watching something like that with knowledge you can put in your back pocket and use another time. There’s always something to learn, and a true horseman will save the things she or he sees until they’re needed.
SDM: What is the breakdown on the number of riders in different disciplines?
Durant: At our Finals event, it will be about 50 percent Hunt Seat riders, 25 percent Western and 25 percent Dressage. But within our overall membership, I’d say 80 percent is hunt Seat, 10 percent is Dressage and 10 percent is Western riding.
SDM: Is Hunt Seat just more popular?
Durant: Well, I’d say it’s better established. It was the first discipline we offered. The great thing, though, is that Western riding is really coming into its own, thanks to shows like Yellowstone and 1883 – there are shots of top-level riders demonstrating things, and that has made people very interested. And our Dressage program is only a couple of years old but is growing rapidly across the country.
SDM: You mentioned earlier that you chose the Pennsylvania location for your Nationals because of the number of horse barns. What other considerations do you have?
Durant: Obviously, the horse pool comes first because borrowing and renting horses is the biggest expense by far. After that, we look for other groups or associations in the area. For instance, for last year’s Western event in Texas, we partnered with the American Paint Horse Association. It was a great opportunity for our kids to be part of a much bigger event.
After that, we’re looking for the logistical considerations: a location with hotels, something that is easily accessible and has plenty of restaurants. One absolutely enormous part of our work is sponsorships; we are a nonprofit and we couldn’t do what we do without our sponsors. They are incredibly important to us and we’re always looking for a way to give them as much credit as possible.