Niamh noted very astutely in my writeup from the IDA show yesterday that I've never really explained what IDA is, exactly. Whoops! Sorry about that! Here's a quick rundown of what the world of intercollegiate dressage is all about:
IDA stands for the Intercollegiate Dressage Association. It's a coed, national organization open to undergraduate and graduate students at participating colleges and universities in the United States. While significantly smaller than the other main intercollegiate riding association (IHSA, or the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, which does hunt seat equitation), IDA still boasts over 50 teams from different schools across the country.
There are four levels of competition offered. From lowest to highest, they are: Intro (can be asked to do Intro tests A and B), Lower Training (Intro C and Training 1), Upper Training (Training 2 and 3), and First (any First level test). Riders are placed into different levels based on their previous showing experience before joining IDA. There is a set form for determining level placement that takes a wide variety of disciplines into account from eventing to pony club to jumpers to dressage. For example, I was placed into First level because I had shown Intermediate level eventing and was a B level pony clubber. Another girl on our team placed into Upper Training because she had shown Training level USDF shows. Intro is for people with no show experience at all.
A team consists of one rider from each level. A school can field two teams at any given regular season show (though at Stanford we almost never have enough people). Riders who are not on a team are allowed to compete as individuals.
How Shows Work: General Stuff and the Draw
Each geographical area of the US is split into regions. In California we are Region U, which means that Stanford competes against the other California schools with IDA teams. These are currently Cal Poly, UC Davis, and UC Santa Cruz. Each school hosts at least one show a year. The host school will provide the horses and venue (which means that when we go to Cal Poly we all ride Cal Poly's horses; when they come to us, they ride our horses, etc). What horse each rider gets is determined by a random draw system. The horses are sorted into groups of four with one horse per level (so, a group will have a 1st level, UT, LT and Intro horse) and then a team will draw one of these groups. The rider gets an opportunity to watch a parade of all the horses in the competition before she has to get on for her own ride, but it is likely that she will never have ridden the horse before (especially at an away show).
How Shows Work: Warmup and Riding
10 minutes before each rider's ride time, she is given permission to mount her horse and head into the warmup area. During this time a coach can help you and you can do whatever you want (within normal legal USDF rules) to acquaint yourself with your horse and get it as ring-ready as possible. Often I find that the first thing I assess is the general stop and go buttons, then try to figure how tired the horse is (sometimes a horse goes two or three times so by the time you get on it it's pretty cooked), then tailor my warmup from there. Fresh and minimal breaks? Lots of transitions and harder lateral work to try to get some submission installed before show time. Tired and behind the leg? Lots of walk breaks to try to conserve energy with short bursts of trot in between to get a little pop before it's time to go in. Practicing the test movements is the last thing if everything else is cooking along well (though it is good to test the halt etc just to avoid any nasty surprises). After 10 minutes, the steward sends you over and it's show time!
(As you might have deduced, I don't have any pictures of my riding at the last show. Here I am warming up at my first IDA show ever, also at Cal Poly, also on Dancer, but way back in November 2009. How time flies!)
The Scoring: Tests
The tests are scored just like regular dressage tests, though the rider's position mark is changed from a x1 coefficient to a x4 to try to reward good riding over fancy horses (which obviously in this format we don't have much control over). Good IDA judges also tend to reward clean, accurate tests that might be a little plain over flashy ones with bobbles, because again in this format accuracy and smoothness are something a rider can control, and the fanciness of her mount is not.
The Scoring: Team Competition
Each division is ranked and pinned like at a regular horse show. Then, each team member's place is converted into points and added to the team total. The points go like: 1st place - 7 points; 2nd place - 5 points; 3rd place - 4 points; 4th place - 3 points; 5th place - 2 points; and 6th place - 1 point. At the end of the day, the points from the 3 highest placing riders on each team (meaning that there is one drop score) are added up. This team total determines the team placing for the day. Additionally, the team totals add up cumulatively over the season, and the school with the highest season-end total qualifies to go to Nationals.
I think that about covers the basics. If you have any other questions, please let me know!
(IDA is fun!!)