PLYMOUTH - Riley Babb has been riding since the age of eight. Now eight years later, he is a champion equestrian.
Riley, who is a freshman at Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, is the son of Gary and Jill Babb of Plymouth. He has been a member of the IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) Equestrian Team at TerryAllen Farms in Terryville for four years.
He is now the reigning IEA Hunt Seat National Finals Champion for the Varsity Intermediate 2’ Over Fences class (which involves two-foot high jumps), having won at the IEA National Finals held in April at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. Hunt seat is a form of English riding, based on the tradition of fox hunting.
IEA is made up of two teams: Middle School and High School. Samantha Borkoski of Terryville has coached the TerryAllen Farms IEA team for the past 13 years. The teams start their new year in August with weekly practices.
Although Riley has a favorite horse named Shamrock at TerryAllen Farms, which he rides in other competitions, at IEA shows they assign you a horse you’ve never ridden before, which makes it more challenging, his mother Jill Babb explained.
Riley’s goal was to accumulate at least 18 points at five regular IEA shows held between October and January, Babb said. He was then able to compete at Regionals, which were held at TerryAllen Farms in February, where he placed first.
This enabled him to move on to the Zones competition in March held at the Big E in Springfield, Mass. He again won the class at Zones which qualified him to compete at National Finals in Syracuse.
At Finals, Riley rode in a class of 18 riders and the top three were called back to be retested on a different horse, Babb said. “As the announcer stated, ‘these are the best of the best in the United States!’”
The IEA posted statistics showing that 1,876 riders throughout the U.S. competed in this class to qualify for Finals, and Riley made it to top of the class, she said.
All of Riley’s hard work, dedication, and hours of riding and lessons have gotten him to this accomplishment, Borkoski said, noting that she is very proud to be his coach and the coach of the TerryAllen Team.
Borkoski added that she is very proud of all of her riders and their accomplishments this past season and looks forward to the upcoming IEA season.
“I took my first lesson ever and it was with Sam,” Riley said. “It goes to show you how far one person can bring you in a semi-short period of time when they are so great at what they do! Thank you, Sam. I couldn’t have done it without you!”
“I am so lucky to have this opportunity thanks to my parents, my good friend Abby Krudwig, and all my other teammates,” he said.
Riley added that he is looking forward to the 2018-19 IEA year.
Babb said Riley attends Wamogo for its agricultural program. “They do have a riding team there but they ride Western and he does English jumping, it’s different,” she said.
He hasn’t decided yet what he wants to study in college, “but it will be definitely be something with horses,” she added.
Riley’s love of animals extends beyond horses. His mother said last year the family went to Virginia for another riding competition and he wanted to get some ducks while they were there but he had to settle for hamsters.
So this year in Syracuse Riley visited a pet store and decided he really wanted a rabbit. “I said if you win you can get a rabbit,” she said. “He won and we waited till we got home to get the rabbit, which is named Tina.”
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.