WESTFIELD NJ — A 14-year-old Westfield equestrian recently won in her division at the Regional Championship in the 2019-20 Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) competition.  

The IEA was designed to promote equestrian sports to middle and high school students, according to the association’s Facebook page. Claire Flagg has participated in IEA competitions since 2017 and is a member of the True Heart Equestrian Team.

“I was about 6 when I started riding, and I started showing when I was around 9 years old,” said Flagg. “I have always liked horses since I was little and just got into it.”

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The IEA season takes place from September through April. Within this season, riders have the opportunity to compete in at most five competitions, Flagg said. Their placement in these competitions contribute points to their overall score. Equestrians must receive at least 18 points in order to qualify and participate at the regional level.

Flagg qualified for this year’s regional competition and won the championship in her division participating in a walk, trot and canter.

“She earned the highest points throughout the season out of all teams in region 7,” said her mother, Andrea Kesckes.

Flagg would have proceeded and moved forward to compete at the zone level, and possibly would have advanced to the national competition. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, her season was canceled.  

“I am kind of sad that there are no more shows this year,” said Flagg. “But I think it’s for the better.”

In 2017, as a middle school equestrian, Flagg participated in the zone level competition. “I get really nervous the night before [a competition] but as I’m about to get on [my horse] I get kind of excited and feel confident,” she said.

Asked what her favorite aspect of horseback riding is, Flagg said, she loves all aspects of the sport.

A freshman at the Union County Academy for Allied Health Sciences, she practices horseback riding throughout the year.

Flagg said she is still training with her own privately leased horse while practicing safe social distancing measures. She is continuing to prepare for next season and said that she hopes to compete at nationals.

Annika Vesuna is a freshman at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.