Mount Holyoke College Equestrian Center in South Hadley, Massachusetts and their dressage team will host more than 100 riders from more than 20 colleges and universities throughout the United States at the Intercollegiate Dressage Association’s 12th annual National Championship on April 27 and 28.
Four-member teams and individuals in each of the IDA’s four divisions–Introductory Level, Lower Training Level, Upper Training Level and First Level–are chosen from the approximately 600 student riders representing 55 colleges and universities across 9 regions of the US and Canada. Qualifying points are earned in IDA sanctioned competitions held throughout the academic year within each region.
Unlike traditional dressage competition where riders bring their own horses, IDA shows require the host school to provide the horses and tack, and riders randomly draw the horse they will compete on. This adds an additional element of challenge to the competition as riders are paired with unfamiliar horses, and allowed only ten minutes of warm-up time to establish a relationship before entering the show ring.
This shared “element of surprise” brings a sense of team spirit to the sport of dressage not found anywhere else. “There is such camaraderie among the riders and the coaches,” says Lisa Moosmueller-Terry, vice president of the IDA and Virginia Intermont College’s dressage coach. “The competition is intense, but there is still such a sense of support from the other teams. We all applaud one another and are happy when the ribbons are well-distributed among riders from all of the regions.”
The IDA began in 1995 as an informal competition among a small group of colleges and secondary schools in the northeast. Michelle Hoffman, a Mount Holyoke student, conceived of the IDA concept and drew up the guidelines for calculation of team points, which, for the most part, are still used today.
Mount Holyoke College, Johnson and Wales University, Ethel Walker School, Williston Northampton School, Stoneleigh Burnham School and Savannah College of Art and Design were among the first school-sponsored programs seeking to develop dressage as a “team” sport. As the rapid international growth of dressage inspired greater development within college and secondary school riding programs there was increased interest in a more formal, national organization dedicated to increasing interest and participation in competitive dressage at the college and secondary school level.
In the spring of 2001, representatives from numerous colleges and secondary schools met at the first eastern region finals at Virginia Intermont College. They approved by-laws, elected officers and created the structure for the organization that exists today. In 2003, the IDA became a college-only organization. Mount Holyoke College hosted the IDA National Finals in 2008, and is excited for their return again in 2013. Among the numerous sponsors for the event are Custom Saddlery, Nutrena Feeds, Perri’s Leather, RevitaVet, Vespucci, Moxie, Dressage Today, the US Equestrian Federation, Westfield Whips, and Dover Saddlery.