By Amanda Grabowski

Mallory Little, a high school student at Ellicottville Central School, has literally been riding horses all of her life.

Her grandfather, Jim Little, of the Crosspatch Ranch in Little Valley, took her for her first ride when she was less than a week old.

After years of practice and competition, Mallory, 15, will now compete in the National Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) competition to be held June 15 and 16 at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City, Okla. Mallory rides a the Varsity Intermediate Level.

Mallory began weekly practice and lessons in horsemanship and reining in September 2018 at Homestead Stables in Gerry, with coaches Heater Payne and Breanna Gibson. Her team name is Western New York Equestrian and is in Zone 1 Region 2 of the IEA.

During the regular season shows, she earned enough points to qualify for regional competitions held at the Houghton College Equestrian Center, finishing the season sixth in the region for horsemanship.

At regional competitions, she had to place in the top three and after achieving third place in reining, she qualified for semifinals at the Ohio State Fair Grounds in Columbus.

Mallory went on to place sixth in the semi-final competitions April 14, which qualifies her for the National competitions.

Mallory’s proud parents are Michelle (Kirk A. Liskow) Little and Jess Little. Her grandparents are Jim and Dolly Little of the Crosspatch Ranch.

A unique aspect of the IEA competitions at both the local and national level is that none of the riders supply their own horses or tack. Instead, the host team arranges for the horses and equipment.

Since the horse is new to the rider, the scores are based upon horsemanship and equitation. The IEA set guidelines to allow for the unique format of riding an unfamiliar horse.

The IEA is an affiliate of the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA), the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) and the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.

IEA coaches aim to develop understanding and appreciation of equestrian sports through organized student competitions and additional equine educational opportunities.

Students have the opportunity to earn scholarships toward their college education through awards in competition and through sportsmanship activities.

A non-profit organization, the IEA has grown both geometrically and geographically each year since it was established in 2002. Beginning with just 200 participants, the IEA now has over 13,500 members in 42 states across North America.