By Jan Westmark-Allan
Lia Screnci has the best of both worlds when it comes to school and riding – because she gets to do both! Horse showing is encouraged at American Heritage School in Boca/Delray, Florida, where Lia is a 10th grade student. The American Heritage Equestrian Program gives students the chance to compete in a variety of disciplines – hunters, jumpers, polo, short stirrup, dressage, reining and more.
“I like American Heritage because it’s a really nice atmosphere, the students and faculty are great, and it offers a little bit of everything. From sports, to the arts, to academics, it’s just an all-around fantastic school. The riding program is great because I have my five core classes in the morning (math, science, English, history and foreign language), and then after lunch I get to leave and do something I love that counts for all of my elective credits. On Fridays if I have to miss school for a horse show, it counts as a school activity, which doesn’t count against me or get marked as an absence because it is part of the riding program. It’s awesome,” Lia said.
The “awesome” riding program kicked into high gear last year, when Lia’s mother, Cindy Screnci, who has an extensive equestrian background and owns an equestrian apparel company, became the Director of the Equestrian Program. “We have created a program where you don’t have to choose horses or school. The students can get the full middle and high school experience and train at the same time,” Cindy said. “They don’t have to be isolated because they are horse kids. They can go to the prom and to a horse show. We have also started an Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Team.”
The students in the American Heritage Equestrian Program attend school in the morning, and then after lunch head to their individual barns and trainers. The school doesn’t have a facility, but encourages students to ride with area trainers and even transports them to their farms. Sidelines caught up with Lia, 16, who rides with Alan Korotkin at Castlewood Farm in Wellington, Florida, to find out more about being a student at American Heritage, about her riding career and goals for the future.
The American Heritage riding program is growing, are you excited about the growth?
Yes! The riding program started last year when I was in 9th grade and we started with only three in the individual program. Throughout the first quarter my mom built up the program and by the time we started the IEA season in November (we started late), we had about seven riders. This year the program has grown a lot, we have eight kids in the individual program and our IEA team had 11 riders. We already have about 16 riders committed to the program next year. It keeps getting bigger and bigger.
How does the American Heritage Equestrian Program work?
Their are two separate programs. I ride individually with Alan Korotkin, but I am also on the American Heritage IEA team, where I am team captain for the high school team. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 1:30 we have a designated equestrian school bus that takes all the riders in the program to their own separate barns. The equestrian program counts for all of my Physical Education credits that are required for high school students to graduate, the same as taking a tennis class or PE at school would. For IEA, we have a middle school and a high school team. We have practice once every couple of weeks with Castlewood (they are the official team coaches) and the IEA show season starts in September. We go to shows and ride for points both individually and as a team, with the goal to qualify for Zones, then Regionals and then Nationals. The school recognizes us just like any other sports team at the school, like football and basketball.
How long have you trained with Alan at Castlewood?
I have been with Alan and Castlewood Farm since I was in 6th grade. I like that he’s very kind and has a lot of confidence in me. He’s very straightforward with his training, he tells you exactly what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it and improve your ride. I love training with him. I just moved up during WEF this year to the Low Junior Jumpers.
Do you have your own horse?
Yes! I have bay Dutch Warmblood jumper named Volado. I’ve had him for a little under a year now, and I love him so much. He’s like a giant teddy bear!
What are your riding goals?
My riding goals are to eventually advance to the grand prix, and I would love to compete in the FEI Young Riders Championship. This past WEF I had the opportunity to do my first night class under the lights; I competed in the FTI Great Charity Challenge on a team with Morgane Qualls and grand prix rider Lauren Hough, it was a blast!
What are your personal goals?
I would love to attend college in either New York or California. I have a passion for film and photography and I would really like to major in Film Production.
What do you like to do when you aren’t riding?
I love taking pictures when I’m not showing. I actually work for a horse show photographer in Wellington, Anne Gittins. I also love to read, I always have a book on me! Other than that, schoolwork and preparing for SAT’s next year take up the rest of my time.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is when people text and drive. I’m constantly telling people not to while we’re in the car, it’s so unsafe!
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
I would love to travel to Italy, it seems like such a beautiful place. My dad’s whole side of the family is Italian, so I would love to see the place where a large part of my family came from!
For more information on American Heritage and their Equestrian Program, visit their website at www.ahschool.com and click on Boca/Delray.