Ellie Mayberry, from Roberts School, is just 11 years old, but in her first year of qualifying for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, she won local and regional competitions, qualifying for the national finals at Syracuse's State Fairgrounds this weekend.
The applause and cheers were thunderous, from family, classmates, stablemates and their parents, and friends in the horse community looking on, as she won her class.
She was competing in Future Beginner on the Flat, and had to maneuver around other riders, and walk, trot and canter (slow gallop) a horse she had just met, just minutes before entering the show ring with the other competitors in her class.
Ellie rode a black and white horse, Moonlight, in the first round of competition Friday evening, and a brown and white horse, Deambiance for the finals on Saturday evening. Riding them was the luck of the draw, but Ellie's own horse, MooseTracks, is also a black and white, so it looked like a good omen!
The IEA riding program includes Hunt Seat, Western and Saddleseat divisions. Students from 6th to 12th grade are eligible to join teams in their communities Riders do not need to own their own horses. This year, 8020 students participated nationwide, in 889 teams, starting with team practice then going to shows with neighboring teams, then on to regional and zone compettions. Just 351, from across the country, came to the State Fairgrounds to compete.
The process starts again in the fall, with team signups. In 2014, the IEA National Finals move to Big E, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Ellie and her teammates are already planning on packing their bags!