The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Zone 8 Finals were held in sunny Arizona this past weekend. Colorado was well-represented and many riders and teams will move on to Nationals in April.

By HH Contributor Kristina McCombie

Queen Creek, Ariz. – The weather couldn’t have been better for the IEA Zone 8 Finals show at the beautiful Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Center in Queen Creek, AZ. The two day show held on March 2nd and 3rd was home to the most competitive riding in IEA Zone 8 this year.

On Saturday, the top 12 riders from each class competed for the top spot earning the coveted blue ribbon and a trip to IEA Nationals in Harrisburg, PA next month. The day began with Open Fences, and taking the blue was Colorado’s own Nicole Davis from Fall River Farm aboard Alaska. The judges, Sharon Stewart-Wells and Carrie Dahmer commented that Nicole “outrode her competitors by executing a smart plan that allowed her to show off her horse, and her skills.”

Nicole Davis, Kristina MCCombie & Jill Pelzel

Davis not only earned her ticket to Nationals with her Open Fences win, she was also awarded the High Point Open Rider Award, which earned her an automatic bid to compete in a championship class at Nationals to represent the top rider in Zone 8. “I’m beyond excited and honored to be representing Colorado at Nationals because it is a great experience and a fun way to ride different types of horses” Davis said. Davis trains with Jill Pelzel at Fall River Farm in Ft. Lupton.

Nicole Davis & Alaska

Other individual riders from Colorado moving on to Harrisburg are Brooke Dasheill (Fountain Valley School), Stephany McConnell (Little Town), Sophie Olsen (Front Range Equestrian), Aeden Mooney (Capall Glenn), and Anna Zingler (In Stride). McConnell also won the Challenge of the Regions.

Amanda Walsh

Anna Zingler In Stride

On Sunday, the top 12 teams in the Zone (two from each region) went head to head to earn enough points to take the top place, automatically earning their team a bid to Nationals. From Colorado, high school teams were In Stride, Fountain Valley School, Millbrook Equestrian, Cornerstone Farm, Capall Glen, Forest Edge Farm, Little Town, and LillyWood Show Stables. Colorado’s middle school teams were Front Range Equestrian, Little Town, Berthod Equestrians, Hunter Run Farm, In Stride, TUF Legacy, and Mile High Equestrian. Both the high school and middle school team competitions were competitive – switching leaders multiple times during the day. Each class seemed to bring another team ahead, and both competitions came down to the final class.

Fountain Valley School, from Colorado Springs, took top honors in the high school competition earning themselves and coach Ann Hanna a direct flight to Pennsylvania. With a win in Open Flat, and consistent ribbons across the day, Fountain Valley nudged out an Arizona team to earn the Championship.

Lizzie Haghig

In the middle school competition, the competition also stayed hot. When the dust settled after the final class, Longmont’s own Cornerstone Farm (coach Jen Shannon) took home top honors. Helping her team take the top prize was Amaya Bellfield, who won the final class of the show to secure the win. When asked about her victory, Bellfield said, “I’m very excited to go to Nationals with the team, and to compete with the best of the best and hopefully bring the championship home to Colorado!”

Fountain Valley School

Cornerstone Champion

Other notable Colorado award winners were Tori Weed (Cornerstone Farm) who won top honors in the Claire Davis Horsemanship Test, where riders test their skills and knowledge on a written test open to all competitors. Cornerstone’s own Maggie Klau also earned the Sportsmanship award for the weekend, earning herself a beautiful plate and lots of team hugs. This was Klau’s last show, and her emotions surrounding the ending of her IEA career were evident. “The parents, riders, coaches and staff who I’ve gotten to know the last six years through IEA have inspired me everyday to work harder and be a better version, and for that I’m so grateful, and humbled to have been recognized with this award,” Klau reflected.

Sportsmanship Winner Maggie Klau

This show would not have been possible without the amazing organizational skills of the Zone President, Kathy Johnson, who in addition to being the president also coaches her own team in Scottsdale. The horses were all provided by Arizona teams, and there wasn’t a bad draw in the bunch. Horse of the day on Saturday was Ritz, and on Sunday was Bravo.

Amaya Bellfield of Cornerstone

The Interscholastic Equestrian Association is open to riders in grades 6-12. Teams are found all across the front range and mountain regions. To find out more, or get your student involved, visit

Pictures copyright Michael Placenti. Available to order at