Staff Report

Alexa Fritsch, a high school junior at Foundation Christian Academy in Valrico, has earned her way to Nationals in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) competition. IEA is a national organization with over 12,500 members that provides an opportunity for high school and middle school equestrian athletes to join a riding team and compete in a format that is similar to the collegiate equestrian competition structure.

Not many high schools have equestrian programs, so the IEA provides an opportunity for riders to compete as part of a team at local, regional, zone and national levels. Alexa has been riding for over eight years and trains at Sleepy Oaks Farm in Plant City with trainer Julie Castonguay Iglesias. IEA follows the collegiate riding format where the horses are supplied by the sponsoring venue and each student draws a horse. The rider is not familiar with the horse and has to quickly adjust to the horse and compete immediately upon mounting the horse. This format can be challenging but provides an incredible opportunity for the riders to test their skills and ride many different horses.

“Going to IEA Nationals has been on my bucket list for a while and knowing I finally accomplished this goal is exciting.  I kept an open mind about the horses I was riding and no matter what happened I always came out with a smile,” said Alexa.

Alexa competes in the Hunter division which judges a rider’s equitation, which includes how well you are able to work with the horse and the rider’s position and skill level. The competition in this division includes jumping and flat classes. Alexa earned her way to Regionals in Florida and placed 2nd earning her way to Zone finals for the second year in a row. The top two competitors in each division at Regionals earn their way to Zone 4 finals which includes seven southern states.

Alexa traveled to Tryon, NC in March to compete in Zone 4 finals. She finished in the top 3 in her division at Zone finals which qualified her for Nationals which were held at the Lexington Equestrian Center in Lexington, Virginia from April 21–23.

IEA competition is a terrific way for high school equestrian athletes to compete on a team and have an opportunity to see what riding in college could be like.