By Chris Bavender
Four members of the Zionsville Equestrian Middle School team traveled to Syracuse, N.Y. in late April for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Nationals. The team of Emma Repenning, Sadie Penix, Casey Burns and Annie Yorgen placed third out of 18 teams.
“This was an amazing accomplishment for our team. We show throughout the season in a very competitive region. Making it out of our Regionals was incredible,” coach Emily Ahlfeld said. “Once you get into the postseason the competition continues to grow. To be able to finish third in a field of 18 teams was truly incredible.”
IEA is different from a regular horse show in that riders “draw” a horse prior to competing, which creates the challenge of riding a horse they aren’t familiar with and adjusting to the horse.
Team member Emma Repenning, 15, said the competition was “an amazing opportunity to compete with some of the best girls in the nation.”
“I proved to myself I’ve come a long way in my riding and can make it even when it’s hard,” she said. “I owe a huge thank you to coach Emily, who is such a great coach, loves our team so much and supports us in so many ways throughout whole season.”
For Penix, 12, the competition was “surreal.”
“It was such an honor and privilege to be surrounded by people who love this sport with the same level of passion I have,” she said. “Getting the chance to represent Zionsville was incredible, and it was all I’d imagined and more.”
Casey Burns, 12, who has been riding since age 3, placed second in the competition, earning five points for the team.
“It’s crazy that people come from all over the United States to compete,” Burns said. “I never thought I’d make it to nationals, so it was definitely a dream come true.”
“It was such an honor to be able to ride and represent the team at nationals. It was one of my greatest experiences and I’ll remember it forever,” Annie Yorgen said. “It was an awesome learning experience and I’ve made so many friends along the way.”
The team was formed four years ago at Sierra Woods Farm in Zionsville. It practices once a month, and all riders are required to take weekly lessons at a Hunter/Jumper barn.
“Riding takes a lot of hard work and focus. It’s a different challenge every time you get on a horse,” Ahlfeld said. “The team allows the girls to share their love of horses with each other and to support each other throughout the season.”
For more, visit sierrawoods.com.