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Evermore Farm Interscholastic Equestrian teams place in top four at finals
The Evermore Farm Interscholastic Equestrian Association Future and Varsity equestrian teams both placed in the top four out of 36 teams recently at the IEA Zone Finals held at the Olympic Horse Park in Conyers. - photo by HOLLI DEAL BRAGG/staff
        Middle and high school age students have been doing a bit more than horsing around at a Brooklet equestrian facility.  The Evermore Farm Interscholastic Equestrian Association Future and Varsity equestrian teams both placed in the top four out of 36 teams recently at the IEA Zone Finals held at the Olympic Horse Park in Conyers.
        The Future team, consisting of middle school students from throughout the area,  placed first overall and secured a spot at IEA National Hunt Seat Finals to be held in West Springfield, Mass. this weekend. The show begins today and will end Sunday.
        The Varsity team, comprised of high school age students from the area, place fourth overall at the Zone Finals show, said Katie Thomas, spokesperson for Evermore Farms.
         The students took fences with ease Wednesday as from owner Eleanor Ellis coached them. While they were mounted on familiar horses then, they will be riding strange horses this weekend at the show. That's how the IEA shows work, Ellis said.
        The riders are judged on equitation, which is their riding skills, she said. The challenge of riding a strange horse helps display the rider's skills. The horses are not judged.
        "The IEA is a national equestrian organization whose mission is to introduce students enrolled in both public and private school to equestrian sports," Thomas said. "Students who are 11 through 19 years of age are eligible to ride and show horses at both the local and national level."
        Ellis said being a member of the IEA team helps students find opportunities to show that they may not otherwise experience. Often transportation issues prevent students from showing, but being on the IEA teams enables them to travel with the team horses and ride other horses at shows.
        Travel time may be reduced in  the near future, she said, adding that more shows are planned for locations closer to the area. Shows have been hosted at Evermore Farms in the past, but most other shows have been hours away, often leading to overnight stays. Having more shows closer to home will be a benefit, she said.
        Thomas said another goal of  IEA competitions is "to prepare middle and high school students for an opportunity to show at the collegiate level in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) sponsored competitions. "  Evermore Farm is also home to the Georgia Southern University IHSA equestrian team.
        "The National Finals in Massachusetts will not only include a competitive aspect but also give students an opportunity to participate in a college fair that introduces riders to universities and college with successful equestrian programs," she said.
        This is  the Evermore Farms teams' first year competing in the IEA shows, and both Ellis and coach Elise Wolpert are "thrilled with their riders' performances," Thomas said.
        “We are looking forward to the opportunity to compete at a national level and feel our riders are up to the challenge,”  Ellis said.
        Wolpert agreed. “Our riders have gained valuable equestrian skills and knowledge from the IEA competitions and we are excited to experience National Finals.”
        The Evermore Farms IEA Future team includes Caroline Farr, Jessica Beardon and Taylor Fordham of Southeast Bulloch Middle School; Lydia Woods, Trinity Christian Academy; Taylor Henderson, Bulloch Academy; Lauren Thompson, Effingham Middle School; and Olivia Rigdon, Emanuel County Middle School.
         Only four team members can compete at the National Finals. Fordham, Henderson, Rigdon, and Thompson will be representing the Evermore Farm Future team.
        Rigdon, Fordham and Henderson also qualified for individual championship classes at the Nationals.
        The Varsity Team consists of students in high school. The team that qualified for zones and finished fourth included Audrey LoBue, and Ellie Bryant, both of the Charter Conservatory for Arts and Technology; Sarah Brown and Kaylee Shepard of Bulloch Academy; and Theresa Woods of Trinity Christian Academy. Amelia Akins of Bulloch  Academy and Summer Townsend also both represented Evermore Farm at this important even, Thomas said.
        Riders in the IEA shows may show in both English Huntseat equitation and Western equitation, Ellis said.

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