The North Louisiana Equestrian IEA Riding Team captured second place recently in the International Equestrian Association Zone 7 competition in Denton, Texas.
It was the first time for the team, comprised of riders from a number of area high schools, to finish in the top two at the competition, which attracts the best equestrians from Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Alabama.
Additionally, former Airline student Casey Tonnies, who now attends the Louisiana School for Math, Science and Art in Natchitoches, won an individual title and will advance to nationals April 20-23 in Lexington, Kentucky.
“This was a huge honor for our team and for Casey,” coach Katie Andersen said. “Since Casey goes to school in Natchitoches, she can’t ride as often as she’d like, so when she’s here, she has to work twice as hard. She is the first of our riders to advance to nationals.”
Most of the team members practice at the Double Rainbow arena in Haughton.
Team members who competed at the Diamond T Arena in Denton were Loyola senior Caitlin Covington, Caddo Magnet freshman Daisy Kallenberg, West Monroe sophomore Paige Parks, Loyola junior Mary Katherine Easterwood, Parkway sophomore Carmen Vandagriff, Caddo Magnet junior Peyton Hall, Airline junior Anna Wheeler and Texas Exploration Academy seventh grader Brett Youssi.
The high school team finished Reserve Champion out of 12 teams from Zone 7.
“The teamwork was key because in this format, the ribbons (points) of the last place rider are just as important as the first place,” Andersen said. “Our kids became closer, became friends, during the season.”
Tonnies finished first in the IEA Varsity Intermediate Over Fences at the 2-foot height.
The IEA format is different from normal equestrian competitions in that riders don’t know which horse they will compete on until they are drawn from a pool.
“That’s the beauty of the format. When it’s your turn, you may get on the horse and enter the practice area,” Andersen said. “Once on, you get two, and only two, warm-up jumps. Then you enter the show ring and complete your course.”
A course consists of about nine jumps and the horse is not part of the judging — only the rider.
The local contingent qualified for Zones by compiling at least 21 points in riding competitions that began in September. They were one of just four teams from the region to qualify to compete against approximately 200 riders at the Zone event. There were both a team and individual competitions. North Louisiana Equestrian has 17 riders, including middle schoolers, with at least one member from Ruston.
Andersen has been riding for more than 30 years and was a competitive equestrian for 10 years. She has been teaching at Double Rainbow for 11 years.
Several members of the Hidden Acres Equestrian Center in Stonewall also advanced to Zone 7. Some team members include Ashley Bergeron, Kate McGauly, Lindsey McGeorge, Alexandra Prymek and Carmelle Walker.