By Eve van den Bol
Five Cayman dressage riders returned home Monday with lots of first place ribbons won at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Dressage Team show held at Epiphany Farms located about 1.5 hours north of Atlanta, GA. The Cayman riders participated alongside their three American teammates as members of the High Point Farm IEA Dressage Team.
High Point Farm, located just south of Athens, Georgia, is run by Cindy Thaxton and her family. Thaxton is a leading dressage coach who is invited regularly to Grand Cayman by the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation (CIEF) to train local dressage riders.
Assistant Trainer Claire Coman runs the farm's IEA Dressage team, which is in only in its second year. She explains that "IEA is an excellent program as it really tests the kids riding ability and adaptability. To do well, the riders have to be effective and clear with their aids."
Four Caymanian riders make up the entire High Point Farm Middle School team, which was named Champion in their division at the Epiphany show: Kayla Mannisto, Marley Trench, Rosana Stroh and Jenna Superfine. Abbey Swartz is the sole Caymanian on the farm's four-person High School Team, which finished up as the Reserve Champion in their division. Seven teams competed at both the middle and high school levels.
Other highlights include wins by Marley Trench in both her future novice test and dressage seat equitation class, a win by Kayla Mannisto in Future Intermediate Dressage Seat Equitation and a win by Rosanna Stroh in Beginner Dressage Seat Equitation.
The idea to recruit team members from the Cayman Islands came about after the trainers at High Point observed the horsemanship skills of the Cayman riders competing at the Combined Training Test Event they held last Spring. The idea resonated with local riders and their parents, and now the majority of the High Point IEA Dressage Team consist of riders from Cayman.
Founded in 2002, IEA currently has over 13,500 members in 42 states and operates in three disciplines: Hunt Seat, Western and Dressage. IEA Dressage is open to riders in middle and high school who have a minimum of one year of riding experience. Riders compete as both individuals and on teams in dressage test classes and dressage seat equitation classes, and at one of four levels: Beginner, Novice, Intermediate and Open. The regular competition year for IEA starts in September and runs through February. Each rider is limited to competing in a maximum of five IEA shows per season, and if that rider earns enough points during the season, they can qualify for Regional and National Championships.
IEA competition is unique in that no rider needs to own a horse. Instead, the host team provides horses for the competition and riders are assigned to horses based on a random draw. Each rider riding a test has only three minutes to get to know their assigned horse before entering the competition arena. In dressage seat equitation, no warm up time is allowed and the riders compete without any knowledge of the horse. The format of IEA is designed to equalize competition variables and test the horsemanship of the contestants. Said Coman, "the Cayman riders all had a correct concept of dressage position and were able to sit on any horse and adjust to its needs and perform. Big credit has to go to Jessica McTaggart, their coach in Cayman, for their fabulous results this weekend."
The next IEA Dressage show for the Cayman riders on the High Point team will take place in mid-December. For more information about the IEA program, please visit www.rideiea.org. For more information about the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation, please visit www.ciefcay.co.