Mansfield equestriennes blaze a trail for Texas at national competition

Posted Monday, May. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Tegan Weaver rinsed off her 4-year-old thoroughbred Bayley after a ride at Fieldstone Park equestrian facility in a rural corner of Mansfield on a hot Saturday afternoon.

Weaver, who just completed her freshman year at Arlington Grace Prep, has a strong rapport with Bayley and the other horses at Fieldstone Park. But as a competitor in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, Weaver has to be prepared to ride a horse she’s never been on before.

Despite only being in their first season in IEA, Weaver and Presleigh Wiley, her Fieldstone Park teammate and best friend, advanced to last month’s 2013 IEA Hunt Seat National Finals in Syracuse, NY. Weaver finished third overall in intermediate varsity two-foot fence.

“It’s really hard because it’s outside of what they normally do,” said Candice Reece, Fieldstone Park head instructor. “When they have to draw a random horse, they have to draw more on their knowledge of how to ride instead of muscle memory. They have to figure out the horse and what makes each horse tick. … It really tests the girls’ knowledge of how to ride.”

Not only did Weaver and Wiley, an eight-grader at Linda Jobe Middle School, show off their knowledge of how to ride, they also showed off how skilled equestrian riders are in Texas. The 2012-2013 season was the first in which Zone 7, which comprises the states of Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, has been a part of the IEA. Wiley and Weaver became the first two competitors from the Lonestar State to make it to nationals.

“It’s hasn’t sunk in,” Weaver said. “I’m still realizing it.”

The duo made it to nationals by winning at regionals in Tyler. Weaver competed in varsity two-foot while Wiley won the junior varsity flat competition. Berths in regionals are determined by accruing points at up to four meets during the season.

“I like the team aspect of IEA, but knowing the horse is easier; you can kind of predict,” Wiley said.

At nationals, both riders drew horses that were a bit challenging to ride. Weaver, who prefers thoroughbreds, randomly drew a quarter horse while Wiley was saddle with a western pony. The secret to successfully riding an unfamiliar horse, the pair said, was to compare each of the horses at the meet to ones they knew from Fieldstone Park.

“It’s not how do they ride that horse, but how do they ride overall as an individual and how do they compare to other kids who are riding,” Reece said.

Reece, who hopes Fieldstone Park qualifies for nationals as a team next season, said the advantage of IEA is that it matches the way competition is done in the NCAA ranks. Horses are also randomly matched with riders at college meets.

“IEA keeps it a level playing field,” Wiley said.

Weaver and Wiley are already looking forward to the next IEA season. But over the summer the duo plans to keep busy with other competitions, such as eventing. Eventing describes an equestrian competition that combines jumping, cross country and drosage. And the friends plan to spend much of every day riding the various horses at Fieldstone Park and hanging out at the facility.

There’s comfort, after all, in familiarity.

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