Storybook Farm equestrians win national title

The Storybook Farm high school team won its division in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals and the middle school team finished second. The high school team (bottom, from left): Elizabeth Ashcraft, Darby Pease, Lily Winters, Hannah Pressler, Brette Tennison, Natalie Thorpe and coach Alicia Story. The middle school team (top, from left): Anna Bradley Morrow, River Hanckel, Rawleigh Harris, Sophie Mauerhan and mascot Chase Mauerhan.

For the second straight year, riders for Storybook Farm won a championship in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals held in Syracuse, N.Y.

This year, it was the high school team winning the overall title a year after finishing sixth. The middle school team, which won its division last year, claimed a runner-up finish in the 2013 IEA National Finals.

“I couldn’t believe the whole thing,” said coach Alicia Story. “When those kids came out with the high school team winning and the middle school team coming in second, who knew? Who knew?”

The high school team finished with 24 points, seven points ahead of the second-place team. Both teams competed in classes where the horse and rider’s form is judged at a walk, trot and canter, which are called flat classes, and in classes horse and rider are judged on their form over fences.

In the high school division, Brette Tennison won the team varsity open fences competition, and Natalie Thorpe won the team varsity intermediate fences, both earning 7 points. Elizabeth Ashcraft was second in team JV novice fences and earned five points. Hannah Pressler was fourth in team varsity intermediate flat and won three points. Savanna Winters was fifth in team JV beginner flat and earned two points. Darby Pease competed in team varsity open flat, and Ashcraft also competed in team JV novice flat.

The middle school team was the 2013 IEA National Reserve Champions, scoring 14 points, two behind the winning team. Sophie Mauerhan won team future novice flat, and River Hanckel won the team future beginner flat, with both scoring seven points. Anna Bradley Morrow competed in the team future intermediate fences and flat classes. Rawleigh Harris competed in the team future novice fences.

The Storybook Farm teams both qualified for the National Finals by winning the Zone 4 Regionals in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The U.S. is broken into 10 zones, and from those zones 20 teams qualified at the high school level and 20 teams at the middle school level. A total of 350 riders participated in the National Finals.

Other individual highlights included: Addie Ledbetter was the individual JV novice fences reserve champion as well as the highest placing senior in her class and earned a $500 scholarship; Pease was fourth in the individual varsity open flat as well as qualifying to compete in the varsity open championship, where she placed 10th; and Thorpe was sixth in individual intermediate flat.

“The weekend was an overwhelming success for our entire team. We had a pretty even mix of good draws and the more difficult draws. Our riders rode them all very well,” Story said.

“The biggest success in my book was what took place outside of the competition ring. Our riders formed new friendships with riders from other teams as well as displaying good sportsmanship and a tone of team spirit. The many compliments received throughout the weekend about what genuinely nice kids our team has is a true testament to their parents, and to me this is better than any championship ribbon.”

Story said that is what to her is the most important part of the IEA. She said the riders learn teamwork and sportsmanship, and they also learn to have respect, compassion and appreciation for their peers and the horses that make it all possible. “These kids are learning life skills that will serve them well in their future endeavors all while enjoying the equestrian sport they love so much,” Story said. “It can’t get any better than that.”