First-of-its-kind horse competition kicks off this weekend near Sleepy Eye

First-of-its-kind horse competition kicks off this weekend near Sleepy Eye

SLEEPY EYE, Minn. (KEYC) - One local family farm has teamed up with a national youth organization to host Minnesota’s first horse-riding competition for kids who don’t have their own majestic steed.

“There’s no other youth organization in this state that actually has this type of competition," said Jennifer Eaton, a membership marketing coordinator for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA).

The IEA is a nonprofit organization that gives youth in grades 4-12 the opportunity to compete in team and individual horse riding competitions - commonly called equestrian competitions.

“We actually designed this based on the way kids ride in college," said Eaton. "So the original goal was to provide competition opportunities for kids that didn’t have their own horses and to prepare them for a competition in college.”

The competition unfolding at Sapphire Equestrian Farm outside Sleepy Eye is the first youth-oriented show to take place in Minnesota.

The Lemarr family moved to Minnesota from Virginia where they built Sapphire Equestrian Farm. The farm teaches riding classes and this year they got to host the qualifying horse show. The riders who qualify from this horse show will get to go out east and represent the region at larger horse shows at the national level.

“I’ve always grown up around horses, but I was never blessed to have farm," said Clara Lemarr. "So my family wanted to move out here closer to our other family that lives here and we wanted to build up a farm that we could call ours.”

The IEA has roughly 14,000 members with multiple teams in 37 states across the country.

“The kids in our organization earn scholarships on local and national levels," Eaton said. "It’s a really fantastic way for kids to be able to be exposed to horses without really having to own their own horses. So if this is something people are interested in they should definitely reach out.”

The competition at Sapphire Equestrian Farms runs Friday through Sunday.

“This competition I think a lot of them are going to be building a lot of confidence. Some of them are really nervous for their first show, but I’m hoping that after the show they’re going to realize that they can do what they put their mind to and have a lot more confidence in what they do.”

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