Interscholastic Equestrian League
The Interscholastic Equestrian League is a publicly supported non-profit corporation operating exclusively for charitable and educational purposes, to foster regional and national amateur equestrian sports competition. The primary goals and objectives of the League are: to support and develop athletes for regional and national competition in equestrian sports; to encourage a knowledge of horsemanship; to encourage teamwork in fair and friendly competition; to encourage the development of superior riding skills in young riders; and to take any and all actions that may be considered appropriate to accomplish the foregoing.
The Interscholastic Equestrian League (IEL) is the first U.S. high school riding league created in 1983. It is currently, only one of three in the state of California and one of 7 similar organizations in the U.S. It is a riding sport that allows its membership to ride not only as an individual striving for points, but also as one of a team member from the participating high schools in the county of Los Angeles.
In 1983, the founder of the IEL, Karen Blackman Davis was a private riding coach, and a high school teacher at Crossroads School for the Arts and Sciences. She had noticed during her time teaching that most high school athletes “received the usual attention with the exception of student riders who went unnoticed.” Davis was moved to help these athletes get the recognition that she felt they deserved.
Davis, with the support of a team of parents, riders, teachers, and equine related industry professionals was able to—through donations—set the first show date. To everyone’s amazement, an unexpected number of 40 riders from 9 schools in Los Angeles County registered. Even more impressive was that many trainers from top “A” circuit shows strongly supported the emerging program and brought their riders to participate.
Davis’ vision was a grass-roots effort; she had the ability to group the right people, resources and energy together. “I am proud to know that it was something that has been strong enough to thrive on its own, and even prouder to what it has become and the acceptance that it has received, my greatest hope is that someday it could also become recognized at the level of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).”
–Karen Blackman Davis passed away in 2005.
In 1999, the IEL created articles of incorporation and gained nonprofit status by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—as a 501c3. As a nonprofit, the essence of Davis’ goal continued to grow and for the next 15 years, the board evolved to allow only parents and school representatives —in order to avoid any conflict of interest. Trainers, show ground owners, suppliers and many of the initial board members were faded out. A small group of Board members realized the opportunity and created the mission, but were unable to identify long-term goals. Rather, due to the time commitments needed the “working” board was only available to provide the 4-Show Season to survive.
Around 2002, the IEL was encouraged to provide information digitally and was able to offer its membership its first website posting results, communication, news and information.
In 2009, IEL applied for trademark status; it was granted in 2010. At that time, the membership had grown to 350 riders, represented by an even number of 50 public and private high schools. The IEL had also loosely branched out to both Orange and San Diego County with "chapters" started by board members who had moved their families.
In 2009, the IEL experienced the influx of many new members due to the change in the downward moving economy. Many riders who previously participated in the “A” circuit shows were no longer able to afford their training schedules and chose to participate in the IEL shows as a way to continue riding.
Once becoming a member of the IEL, many riders have continued to enjoy the organization and have shown their support by recruiting new members to strengthen their teams. The membership continues to grow, below are the January Membership Database (2013) statistics (note- parent list has not been updated):
Rider Membership: 562
Trainer Membership: 75
Parent Membership: 323
Board Member: 18
Schools: 73 (35 Public / 38 Private)