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Team August Heads to Nationals

Hi, everyone! My name is Aly Murphy and I work at the SmartPak store in Natick, MA. I’m a senior in high school and have been riding for ten years with my trainer at August Farm. Three years ago, Team August Farm was established. We compete in interscholastic competitions with other middle school and high school teams in Zone 1. The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) is run very similar to its college counterpart, the Intercollegiate Horseshow Association (IHSA). There are four divisions, Novice, Intermediate and Open and a Beginner on the Flat class. Each division has a flat class and an over fences class. Each rider randomly selects the horse they will be competing. We are allowed to watch the horses warm-up and are given a brief description of each horse. IEA riders are also given the opportunity to school two fences before we course our horse, unlike the IHSA riders who are not given a warm-up at all. In order to qualify for Regionals, each rider must accumulate 15 points in each class throughout the season. We have five horseshows to do so.

Each team must accumulate 12 points to qualify for Regionals. If you make it through Regionals successfully, you compete at Zones, and then hopefully move on to Nationals! We were the only farm to have both our Middle School and High School Teams qualify for Nationals which was very exciting! After our High School Team won Zone Finals, competing at Nationals became a reality. After congratulations, our coaches were quick to tell us that we would seldom see our stirrups in the next couple of weeks. Awesome. And so, on our way back from Zones, our Mothers began to scramble and make plans. Plane tickets were booked, crisp white show shirts were monogrammed and Tailoreds were dry-cleaned. Finally, on Wednesday, April 29, Team August Farm arrived in Painesville, Ohio at Lake Erie College, nervous, excited and in anticipation of the days ahead.

The facility was beautiful, complete with chandeliers, classrooms and a spacious stadium-style indoor arena. We reported to the barn at 5 AM on Friday to watch the horses warm-up over fences. I was in the second class, and picked a chestnut horse named Sporty. He was adorable and had a big stride so I was able to make the lines that a lot of horses were chipping. I didn’t hold him to the base of my trot fence, however, which definitely hurt my score. All in all, I was proud of my course, despite not finishing in the ribbons. Our other point rider ended up placing third, so by the end of the day we were in a top eight position, which was exciting! After my course, the written Horsemanship Test was given. Although optional, about two hundred riders completed the test, which took material from Pony Club Manuals B and C. Later that night we went to the banquet that was given for all of the teams. We were decked out in our purple and black apparel (our farm colors), glow sticks and Mardi Gras beads. All the teams were fighting for the Team Spirit Award which would be given at the end of the horseshow. The dance floor was a mixture of members from different teams dressed in everything from neon spandex to prom dresses.

The next day, the Huntseat classes didn’t compete until after the Western Individual Finals, which were amazing to watch. None of us really knew what we were looking for, but were mesmerized by how responsive the horses were to their riders. After the Western finals came the Parade of Teams. Each team was called out by their Zone and lined up around the arena for an awards ceremony and the National Anthem. I ended up placing 4th in the Horsemanship test for the high school, and two of our middle schoolers placed also. This was a relief, because I think my trainer would have killed me if I didn’t place well- not to mention, Jen, back at the store!

The next class I competed in was the team flat class. There were a total of nineteen riders riding for their teams, and the class was split into two sections. The top eight riders would be called back to ride the next day. My horse was an awesome, big, dark bay packer, lucky me! I was so nervous before my class because I wanted to do well for my team. I got called back, along with four other of our flat riders in the other divisions! That night at our team dinner, we were all anxious for our classes on Sunday. We arrived at the barn bright and early for the last day of the horseshow. Instead of riding first, as I normally do, they saved my class for last, for suspense. All of our riders placed in the top three in their classes! I walked in the ring, nervous as ever, on another big, dark bay cutie. As we were asked to walk, trot and canter to the left, I was surprised at how easy the judges were being on us…well, I thought too soon. The next fifteen minutes of the class we were to drop our stirrups and show the extended canter, sitting trot, posting trot and extended trot. My horse was awesome, but definitely loved the extended canter portion of the class, which I had a hard time getting him back from. The top two girls were tested, and the rest of us were excused. They were given a tricky test involving the counter canter and two changes of lead, which they both performed extremely well on their unfamiliar horses. I ended up getting sixth, which meant one point for the team. The August Farm High School IEA Team won fourth at the IEA Nationals. It was an amazing experience, and I loved every minute. Our team grew much closer that weekend, I’m sad it’s my last year! Good luck next year, August Farm, and congratulations to all the IEA riders and teams that competed at Nationals!

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