Sequim High School’s Washington State High School Equestrian Team prepares for their competition meets weekly at Freedom Farm’s indoor arena. Farm owners Mary Gallagher and Jerry Schmidt generously offer an evening to practice inside to the Port Angeles team, too. The Sequim team, from left, are Khelea Cloetens, Grace Niemeyer, Keri Tucker, Miranda Williams, Abby Garcia, Yana Hoesel, Abbi Priest, Lilly Thomas and Chloe VanProyen. (Katie Newton)

Sequim High School’s Washington State High School Equestrian Team prepares for their competition meets weekly at Freedom Farm’s indoor arena. Farm owners Mary Gallagher and Jerry Schmidt generously offer an evening to practice inside to the Port Angeles team, too. The Sequim team, from left, are Khelea Cloetens, Grace Niemeyer, Keri Tucker, Miranda Williams, Abby Garcia, Yana Hoesel, Abbi Priest, Lilly Thomas and Chloe VanProyen. (Katie Newton)

HORSEPLAY: Port Angeles, Sequim high school equestrian teams begin season

AND THEY’RE OFF. That’s right, our local high school equestrian teams just competed at their first of three Washington State High School Equestrian Team qualifying meets in Elma.

There were more than 90 competitors who formed 10 teams from the District 4 circuit that includes schools from as high up the coast as Bellingham on down to Vancouver, Wash.

Thankfully, the weather was relativity warm and sunny for the three-day competition so nobody — including the accompanying relatives and bystanders — had to deal with freezing toes and fingers while waiting for events.

I include that bit of info because I have attended more than one meet where it was bitter cold — and even snowed — so I’m very happy it was good weather for members of both the Sequim and Port Angeles teams.

Sequim’s longtime coach Katie Newton is back and once again helping this year’s team members Khelea Cloetens, Grace Niemeyer, Keri Tucker, Miranda Williams, Abby Garcia, Yana Hoesel, Abbi Priest, Lilly Thomas and Chloe VanProyen.

Port Angeles’ former longtime coach Tina Van Ausdale stepped aside to let Olivia “Liv” Dietzman take over the reins for this year’s members, Cassi Ann Moore, Zoe Thompson, Abigail Hjelmeseth, Madison Carlson, Kyle Tennyson, Ben Robertson, Natalie Blankenship and Emma Albright.

Dietzman hails from Michigan. There, she coached a high school equestrian team before her husband, an active duty Coast Guard members, was transferred to Port Angeles, where he’s now stationed onboard the Active.

She said she went to one of the local dentists wearing her old beat-up (and well-loved) cowboy boots and her hygienist suggested she meet VanAusdale. They met, hit it off and Dietzman became last year’s assistant coach.

Dietzman works fulltime at Angeles Clinic For Animals and describes herself as “a mom to four corgis, two cats and two horses.” Since moving here she’s been doing “a lot of trail riding in the backcountry and recently has gotten into cow sorting.”

I’d like to thank Dietzman for her enthusiasm and stepping in to coach Port Angeles, and Newton, for continuing to bring her awesome dedication and coaching to Sequim’s team. Newton also holds a fulltime job. She teaches fifth through eighth grades in language, arts and history, and composes the yearbook at Olympic Christian School.

I think most of us who have been involved with children and sports have witnessed adults yelling at, or haranguing, the coach when they feel their child isn’t being used on the team the way they should be.

It can sometimes be a delicate line the coaches have to walk putting someone of lesser experience, but who needs or desires the experience, on a team.

I myself had a difficult time appreciating the value of giving other high-schoolers the experience years ago when my niece was in her first year on the Sequim WAHSET team.

My niece was one of the top riders, so when it came time to put together a drill team I thought only the best rider/horse match should be competing on it.

As I recall it was a rather large team that year. Enough for a 10- to 12-member drill team, plus two alternates. Terri Winters was the coach. And I love Winters.

She’s a wonderful person and was a good coach. She also had a keen appreciation for giving everyone who desired one an opportunity to compete on the team.

Well, one of the alternates had been at every practice, whereas my niece had not.

Now Winters was choosing to put a loyal and dedicated alternate to ride in the event instead of my niece. I wasn’t happy.

When I questioned Winters she patiently explained everyone was going to get the opportunity to perform at a competition.

I chafed at the idea she would put someone on the team who wasn’t as adept as my niece was at maneuvering her horse through the drill team’s synchronized moves.

Didn’t she want the Sequim team to win?

I didn’t yell at her, but I did walk away silently fuming.

It turned out to be a moot point. At some point during the three-day meet the alternate’s horse came up lame.

Then Winters approached me to ask if the alternate could ride my niece’s horse Lacey in the event.

My reply? “No way! Your horse is lame so my niece goes in.”

The drill team’s performance that night was beautiful; incredibly good in my eyes.

Although there were times I let other members of the team use Lacey, and later Indy, in truth, I’m just not that nice of a person to loan a horse out if it meant my family member wouldn’t be able to participate.

The point I’m really trying to make is that while Winters’ decision to put the alternate in upset me, I accepted it and walked away from her rather than yelling at her.

I respected she was the coach, and while I disagreed, I knew it was her right to decide.

While it’s a rare occurrence for adults to get verbally abusive to equestrian coaches, I would remind all to please realize the coaches are volunteers who have dedicated hours of their personal time, and a lot of their own money (such as gas and travel expenses), to give these horse-loving youths the experience of being part of an equestrian team.

The majority of our area schools don’t have a team. So please respect coaches, and try to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

Results:

• Jumping: Niemeyer, first place.

• Dressage: Niemeyer, seventh place; Tucker, 15th place.

• Showmanship: Thomas, ninth place; Tennyson and Blankenship, tied for 11th place; Cloetens, 18th place.

• Driving: Thomas, fourth place; Cloetens, seventh place.

• In-hand obstacle relay team: Moore/Blankenship/Robertson/Tennyson, fifth place; Priest/ Cloetens/ Thomas/Tucker, seventh place.

• In hand trail: Thomas, fourth place; Cloetens, eighth place; VanProyen, ninth place.

• Breakaway roping: Hoesel, first place; Moore, second place.

• Team cow sorting: Hoesel/Niemeyer, second place; Moore/Zoe Thompson, fifth place; Hjelmeseth/Carlson, eighth place; Williams/Tucker, 11th place; Thomas/Priest, 15th place.

• Huntseat: Robertson, 10th place, Hjelmeseth, 13th place.

• Stockseat: Blankenship, fourth place, Hjelmeseth, fifth place.

• Reining: Moore, second place; Blankenship, eight place.

• Working rancher: Blankenship, third place; Robertson, fourth place; Tucker, ninth place; Thompson, 11th place; Tennyson, 13th place.

• Trail: Tucker, fourth place; Blankenship sixth place; Robertson and Hjelmeseth tied for ninth place; Tennyson, 12th place.

 Working pairs: Moore/Robertson and Hjelmeset/Carlson tied for ninth place; Priest/Yana Hoesel 11th place; Tucker/VanProyen, 16th place.

• Poles: Moore, first place.

• Figure eight: Albright, first place; Hoesel, seventh place; Hjelmeseth, 13th place; Carlson, 14th place.

• Flags: Albright, first place; Hoesel, second place; Tucker, 14th place.

• Keyhole: Williams, second place; Priest, eighth place.

 Barrels: Moore, third place; Thompson, sixth place, Albright, 15th place; Hoesel, 16th place.

• Team Canadian flag race: Hjelmeseth/Carlson/Albright/Moore, first place; Hoesel/Williams/Niemeyer/Tucker, third place.

• Two-man birangle: Moore/Thompson, first place; Hjelmeseth/Carlson, ninth place; Hoesel/Niemeyer, 14th place; Williams/VanProyen, 19th place.

• Drill team (freestyle fours): Moore/ Hjelmeseth/ Carlson/Thompson, second place; Priest/Williams, Niemeyer/Hoesel, third place; Niemeyer/Williams, seventh place.

Sequim also has Abby Garcia on the team as a non-competitor.

She is new to horses, with a horse that’s newly trained in the basics. Both of them are learning all they can.

________

Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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