IEA Program Dear to Lovegrove's Heart
The local equestrian professional scene is welcoming a new face to Moore County — hunter-jumper and equitation trainer Ashley Lovegrove and her Ashmont Stables.
Lovegrove, 25, an avid horseperson since a young age, has been in Southern Pines since the beginning of January after several successful years riding and training in Lynchburg, Va.
Last year, Lovegrove’s boyfriend and business partner, Matt Arrigon, was offered the position of hunt seat coach at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, and Lovegrove decided to make the move with him.
A short time later, top hunter jumper professional Don Sheehan announced his move from Southern Pines to Tennessee. Roisin O’Rahilly’s Greenore Farm, just off Youngs Road, had space open for a new trainer — and Lovegrove happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” she said.
Although Sheehan, a well-known local figure for more than 25 years, left big shoes to fill, the young and energetic Lovegrove has a solid foundation in spearheading an equestrian business.
After graduating Randolph College in Lynchburg and turning professional, Lovegrove made a name for herself in the community, coaching in hunters and equitation to beginners, juniors showing regularly on the A-circuit and adult riders of all levels.
One of Lovegrove’s most prominent accomplishments was starting an Interscholastic Equestrian Association Team in the Lynchburg area. Now she’s hoping to rekindle that fire with an enthusiastic crop of junior riders in Moore County.
The IEA, established in 2002, gives middle and high school students the chance to ride and compete as part of a team without the financial burden usually associated with owning a horse and showing.
“It’s very similar to IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) in college,” Lovegrove said.
The team hosting each show provides the horses — each rider draws a name out of a hat and, after only two warm-up jumps, must compete on that unfamiliar horse. More than 5,000 young riders across the country participate on an IEA hunt seat, dressage or western team.
“It’s something that’s so beneficial to the kids, especially to those who don’t have a lot of money,” Lovegrove said.
Lovegrove’s IEA hunt seat team, under the Ashmont name, has seen multiple riders qualify for and do well at the regional championships, held each February.
Two of Lovegrove’s IEA riders, high school students Claire Schiefer and Brooke Bentley, have high praise for Lovegrove as their IEA coach.
Before starting to ride with Lovegrove as a sophomore, Schiefer had been on a long search for the right trainer. It was only when she took her first lesson with Lovegrove that “everything just clicked,” she said.
“She’s very good at teaching people to do what she knows how to do,” she said.
Bentley said Lovegrove’s commitment to giving her students and horses individual and undivided attention was one of her greatest strengths.
“Ashley can do it all,” she said. “She’s not just a trainer.”
Both Schiefer and Bentley competed in IEA’s open division over courses of 2-foot-6 fences. Schaefer said she loved the challenge of riding different horses at every competition.
“It makes you a much more well-rounded rider,” Schiefer said. “You can ride anything anyone gives you.”
Schiefer, who competed for two years in IEA, is graduating high school this May and will join the freshman class and hunt seat team at St. Andrews in the fall. Bentley, a junior, also hopes to pursue riding in college.
Unlike many collegiate equestrian athletes, Schiefer and Bentley have already racked up mileage riding other teams’ horses. This skill will make the transition to the college equestrian team fairly smooth, Schiefer said.
“I have a lot of experience with both good rides and naughty rides,” she said, laughing.
Over the next few months Lovegrove will focus on spreading the word about IEA and encouraging local juniors to join the Ashmont team, while also expanding her clientele in the Sandhills area.
She’ll be scouting out opportunities on the competition calendar, too, as the spring show season draws near, although she doesn’t yet have concrete plans.
“I’m still feeling things out,” she said.
Those interested in contacting Lovegrove about lessons (she has a school horse available for those who don’t own their own horse), boarding or the IEA team can reach her at ashleylovegrove @gmail.com.
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