COVID provides opportunity for some local equestrians

Zemi FarmJulia Barown of Cooperstown Equestrian Park competes in an Interscholastic Equestrian Association Region 2 Regional Dressage competition.

 In a year when COVID-19 canceled high school athletic competition, two local equestrians switched playing fields and qualified for a national dressage competition.

Lauren Rosa of Delhi and Julia Barown of Milford took first place in their divisions at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Region 2 Regional event. They will advance to the IEA national event May 15 and 16 at the Fairgrounds Showplex in Hamburg.

“I’m upset about high school sports not happening,” Barown said. “But I’m happy with the way horse show season is working out and I’ll definitely do it in the next couple years and hopefully the schedule and everything will work out.”

“I’m really excited about competing in the nationals,” she said.

Both Rosa and Barown compete in individual dressage competition, where riders perform classic riding maneuvers from memory, based on techniques derived from Greek battlefields, according to the IEA website. The riders’ horses are randomly selected before competition and they have two minutes of coaching to familiarize themselves before they are expected to guide their horses in a rhythmic manner designated by on-course letter cues.

Zemi Farm has 10 riders from Cooperstown, Milford and Delaware Academy on its dressage team, eight of whom competed in the regional event. In IEA Dressage competition, riders are separated by grade, four through eight for middle school and nine through 12 for high school. From there, unlike many athletic competitions, riders compete based on skill level instead of age group.

“I have not ever had enough kids that could participate because it usually occurs during the school year,” Zemi Farms equestrian coach Cody Moore said. “This year because of COVID, none of the school sports were happening, so all my kids that would normally be doing school sports couldn’t do it.”

Typically, the IEA dressage season begins in September and continues through April, but with COVID-19, this year’s events began in August. Moore said that to ensure safety, IEA events have been held outside, riders are only allowed one spectator each and everyone must wear masks at all times.

“It gave the kids something to look forward to that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do, and the only extracurricular that they could do this year,” Moore said.

Moore has owned the Cooperstown Equestrian Park in Hartwick for eight years and has been working with a majority of her riders since before she owned the park. Zemi Farm is home to 20 lesson and boarding horses and Moore offers riding lessons, as well as summer camps in addition to the IEA competition riding team.

A typical practice lasts about an hour and riders work on walking, trotting and cantering techniques, Barown said.

“For nationals, obviously I really hope to win but I don’t really know how that’ll turn out, so I just to have fun with it and I will be happy with the way it turns out,” she continued.

Moore added that she is proud of the entire team and their effort they put in this year and hopes to build on their success moving forward.

Max Lang, staff writer, can be reached at mlang@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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