Delaware resident Jeff Geiger’s middle-school IEA team has made history in its first year of competition.
It is “the first middle school team in our region to qualify for regionals in their first year of competition,” said Lynne Lammers, mother of two team members. The team then proceeded to qualify for zones and nationals. “We never thought we’d make it to regionals,” she said. “So to make it all the way to nationals has been absolutely huge.”
An IEA team is a part of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association. This program is unique because it does not require participants to own their own horses. Rather, horses are provided for the competitions and are randomly assigned to participants.
“It’s very randomized,” explained coach Ryan Geiger. “It’s very much pressure on the rider to be able to ride and adjust to that horse on the fly.”
To prepare his team to ride horses they have never met before, Jeff Geiger tries to expose his team to many different horses during practices.
“Jeff pretty much just tells us to go saddle up this horse and go,” said Kylee Williams. Team members said it can be intimidating to ride random horses, but that doing so has improved their faith in their riding ability.
“I’ve learned to trust Jeff’s word,” said Lainie Hilaman.
“He says a lot, he’s not going to put us on something we can’t handle,” added Jane Boyer.
The national competition will be held in Oklahoma City. To cover the expenses of the trip, the team — made up primarily of Delaware County youth — has turned to local and even national sponsors. “It was really cool to see everyone come together and support us,” said team member Keegan Lammers.
Geiger’s high school IEA team did not qualify for nationals this year, but that fact does not seem to have decreased the excitement they feel for the middle-school team. “Here, we all support each other and I find that very cool,” said Riley Geiger, a member of the high school team.
“We call each other sisters and we really are,” added Keegan Lammers.
It is evident that the members of the team are all great friends.“It’s been really fun to see us shine as a team,” said Keegan Lammers. “We want to help each other as much as we can.”
Jeff Geiger decided to start the team because “I thought in this area that there was maybe a need for the kids that would like to experience the horses but don’t necessarily own one.”
The team will leave for Oklahoma today or Tuesday. On Wednesday, they will see the facility where they will be competing, along with the Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. “I think it’s pretty important that we educate the kids and they get to see things they wouldn’t usually see,” said Geiger.
Geiger said he focuses on teaching life lessons along with riding lessons. “The lessons that I teach are something that they’ll come to appreciate,” he said. “If they work hard enough, they can accomplish anything.”