By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(April 26, 2019) Two Worcester County teens will participate in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Nationals at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, this weekend.
Olivia Brown,16, a sophomore at Stephen Decatur High School, was the highest point earner in the Open Division in Zone 3 of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association to advance to the national finals. She will compete in the Varsity Open Championship.
Zone 3 encompasses North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
“To receive high point rider in this zone is an amazing accomplishment, particularly for such a young rider,” Coach Hilary Gibbons-Neff, who trains Brown with her teammates at Little Clovelly-C-Line Stables in Easton, said.
She competes in the Open Varsity Division with other high school riders.
“I got into horses when I was 5 years old,” Brown said. “It’s been a passion of mine ever since.”
Brown rides every day whether it’s her own horse or someone else’s and has never missed an opportunity to be at the barn, she said.
“It’s an honor to go to the national championships but at the same time, I look at it as just another show where you go in the ring and focus on the course and do the best you can,” Brown said. “It’s all about how much time you put into your riding … not all about the colors of the ribbons.”
Brown works daily with her trainer, Marianne Roth, in Bishopville at Endeavor Farm. She will compete against each high point rider from all 11 zones in the country.
Also performing during the finals is Lilly Paquette, 13, of Ocean City. Paquette is one of 22 youth in the country to qualify for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Nationals in the Future Novice Over Fences Class.
The top riders in the region competed at Garrison Forrest School on Feb. 16 to earn a spot at the Zone 3 Finals, at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, March 30-31.
Paquette finished first in her class during the regional finals and came in second at zone finals. The top two in each class moved on to the next level. She competed against 18 other riders at both regional and zone finals.
“When I was in Pre-K, my class took a trip to Autumn Grove Stables in Berlin and I loved it so I asked my mom if I could start taking lessons,” Paquette said.
The Stephen Decatur Middle School seventh grader has been riding horses at Autumn Grove ever since.
“I’m really excited and a little nervous to represent the Autumn Grove Stables Equestrian Team at IEA Nationals,” Paquette said. “I’m also looking forward to watching all of the others riders that will be there. I would like to thank my coaches, Kristy Naughton and Kirstin Marzbanian, for all of their time and effort that they put into preparing me for this weekend.”
Paquette has been riding at Autumn Grove Stables and trained by Kristie and Katie Naughton since she was 5 years old.
The two equestrians actually know each other through Autumn Grove Stables.
“It’s really cool that Olivia Brown will be competing at nationals too,” Paquette said. “I have always looked up to Olivia and admired her riding.”
Both riders will begin their nationals’ journey today. The event runs through Sunday.