FOREST EDGE FARM COMPLETES SWEEP OF IEA ZONE 8 COMPETITION
By Erin Gibbs
With eight riders ranging in age from 12 to 18 years old, and from beginner to advanced — Forest Edge Farm (FEF) Equestrian team made a clean sweep of wins in both the individual and team competitions at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Zone 8 final competition held at Norris Penrose Event Center on March 4-5, 2017. The team of one boy and 7 girls at FEF from Colorado Springs, CO. is coached by Karen Catov-Goodell and assisted by Rachel Pring. The decisive victories qualified FEF High School and Middle School riders for both team and individual spots at the IEA National Finals, to be held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, VA on April 20-23, 2017.
FEF beat more than a dozen other school teams and a dozen individual riders in each class from Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado over two days of tough competition and testing. Individual riders must finish first or second in their class in order to secure a spot at Nationals. Teams must also finish first or second overall to qualify for Nationals and it’s unusual for one team to qualify both age groups of riders. IEA riders are judged on their ability to ride “any” horse and become skilled “catch” riders, having to draw a horse from a hat and with limited practice — ride the horse over a course of jumps or on in a group without jumps (on the flat) and demonstrate a mastery of equitation.
Advanced Varsity rider and team mentor Taylor Valencia led the way with first place finishes in all of her team and individual classes. “We were prepared for this competition by putting in long hours both on-and-off the horses. This sport isn’t just about the ability to ride different types of horses, there’s also a huge mental piece too. You must be cool headed and trust your skills,” says Valencia.
Prepping for the team’s first national competition will include “mock” competitions, riding a variety of horses and studying the IEA rules book and testing questions that may be asked of the riders. “We plan to train hard in preparation for nationals and importantly, gain experience through this process,” adds Valencia. “I personally hope to do my best and start the team off strong. Dominic (Gibbs) told me that I started the winning streak and I hope to do the same at Nationals! We are a close and supportive group — I’m very excited to go to Nationals with my team!”
“Everyone worked very hard all season to qualify for Regionals, then Zones and now Nationals. It’s a long, tough road to get this far, and it takes exemplary focus and confidence,” says Coach Karen Catov-Goodell. The total team is comprised of 16 total riders, of which 8 qualified to represent FEF at Zones, and now Nationals. Catov-Goodell highlighted Junior Varsity rider, Natalie Driessen who puts in extra hours helping with barn chores at FEF. She cleaned 20+ stalls and fed 30 horses prior to riding both Saturday and Sunday, and after the long days of competition, she went back to the barn to feed and water the horses again for dinner. Natalie was FEF’s nominee for the Sportsmanship award and recognition at Zone Finals.
For all the riders except Taylor Valencia, the trip to Virginia will be their first IEA National Finals, where Olympic Gold Medalist and renowned horsewomen Melanie Smith Taylor and top judge, trainer and rider Rachel Kennedy will judge. Now a high school senior, Valencia’s first experience at Nationals was in the 2’ Varsity Intermedia Over Fences division. As a sophomore, she competed as an individual and was Reserve Champion in the 2’6” Varsity Open Over Fences division. This earned her spot to compete in the Hunt Seat Championship Class where she finished 10th. The 2017 National Finals will see 22 teams from around the country and 22 competitors per division for individual awards.
Rider parent, Kimberly Hak said, “I love the way IEA challenges the kids. IEA provides an opportunity for our young riders to participate in a team event that allows them to exhibit their riding skills as an individual, but also to share knowledge and support as a team.
For Zones, we were well prepared by our trainer Karen Catov-Goodell as she had all the team riders lesson together and (in) each lesson the riders rode different horses. The team learned strengths and worked through difficulties together. They shared learning experiences on the different horses and were well prepared for different types of horses they might draw.
Hak’s daughter Hailey along with fellow 8th grader Dominic Gibbs chimed in, “We are so thankful for this opportunity — and grateful to our parents for supporting all the hours, cost and driving it takes! Riding horses is an incurable disease!”
High School Team riders included: Taylor Valencia, Natalie Driessen and Aliah Char. Middle School Team riders included: Dominic Gibbs,Tess Golobic, Hailey Hak, MacKenna Moss and Amanda Walsh. Individual riders included: Dominic Gibbs, Hailey Hak and Taylor Valencia.
Pictures courtesy of Karen Catov-Goodell