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Local equestrian team to compete at national finals

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cloverThe Clover Grove Farm Interscholastic Equestrian Association Varsity Hunt Seat Team will join the top teams in the country to compete at the National Finals in Lexington, Ky., April 20-24.

IEA was formed to “promote and improve the quality of equestrian competition and instruction available to middle and secondary school students.” The organization consists of over 11,000 members, and more than 1100 teams from 36 states.

On Sunday March 13 the Clover Grove team won top honors at the IEA Zone 3 Finals held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington VA. Zone 3 consists of 98 teams from 5 states. Clover Grove will be one of just 20 qualifying teams to compete at National finals next month.

The Clover Grove IEA team of Staunton, VA has 18 high school and middle school student riders. The regular season competition runs throughout the fall and winter. Teams must accumulate points to qualify for postseason Regional and Zone competition, and be one of the top three Zone teams to move on to the National Finals.

IEA competitions utilize a system where riders travel to a variety of equestrian facilities and compete on horses they have never ridden without any preparation. This requires riders to demonstrate extraordinary skill in riding, horsemanship, and athleticism.

Individuals can also qualify for national finals, and Clover Grove had several members meet that standard as well.  The Clover Grove team is coached by Britni Cash, owner of Clover Grove Farm and coach for the Mary Baldwin College Equestrian Team, and Luanne Leonard, a teacher at Riverheads Elementary School, 1978 winner of the Cacchione Cup and “A” Pony Club graduate.

Leonard said: “We are lucky to have a deep and talented team this year. It was difficult to select just a few members to attend the finals, as it took the effort of the whole team to get to this point. Every rider contributed to our success, and deserves recognition”.

A unique fact about the Clover Grove team is that the riders come together from different barns and trainers to compete in IEA.  Many teams are from school equestrian programs or the same barns, and have the advantage of training and riding together a few days a week.  The Clover Grove team has developed a strong work ethic and training program that focuses on foundational and classic riding techniques.

The Clover Grove high school team traveling to Kentucky consists of: Mackensie Bowles (Robert E. Lee High School), Josie Elliott (Rockbridge County High School), Ann Ashley Daniel (North Cross School), Ethan Maye (Ogburn Online School), Emma Evans (Riverheads High School), Sadie Stott (Robert E. Lee High School), and Chloe Kerschl (Stuart Hall School). Individual qualifiers are Ethan Maye, Anne Ashley Daniel, Sadie Stott and Lauren Daniel (North Cross School).

“Riding on the IEA team is a great experience. We learn a lot from riding new horses at each show and the Clover Grove team is a family. We all root for one another and have a lot fun”, said Emma Evans, team member from Riverheads High School.

The Varsity Clover Grove team also includes: Lauren Secrist (Spotswood High School), Sarah Howard (Stuart Hall School), Shannon Jenkins (Grace Christian School), Kendall Benner (Buffalo Gap High School), Brianne Lefanowicz (Saint Anne’s-Belfield School) and Katie Amirault (Highland High School).

For more information on the Clover Grove IEA team, the Mary Baldwin College Equestrian Team or riding lessons and summer riding camps at Clover Grove Farm contact Britni Cash at 540.256.1568 or visit Clover Grove Farm on Facebook.

A fundraiser for the team will take place Friday April 1 at Jimmy John’s on Statler Boulevard in Staunton from 5:00-9:00 pm.  Additional donations can be made directly to the team’s GoFundMe account at gofundme.com/3durme6k.

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