Counties from across the state send their top exhibitors in the intermediate and senior divisions to compete at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup during September. Pictured are Clallam County’s 4-H members Ava Hairell and Banjo, left, Taylor Maughan with Ru and Katelynn Sharpe with Sophie. (photo by Katie Newton)

Counties from across the state send their top exhibitors in the intermediate and senior divisions to compete at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup during September. Pictured are Clallam County’s 4-H members Ava Hairell and Banjo, left, Taylor Maughan with Ru and Katelynn Sharpe with Sophie. (photo by Katie Newton)

HORSEPLAY: The 3 amigos of Neon Riders 4-H compete at state

THE THREE AMIGOS from Neon Riders 4-H club were excited they got to go together to compete at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup last weekend. In order to earn a spot at the fair, they had to place on top in their age categories: intermediate (ages 9 to 13) and senior (ages 14 to 18) 4-H horse division showing at the Clallam County. At state, they competed against the best riders from across the state.

Ava Hairell and her horse Banjo rode in several classes at state. Their highlights include: second place in Western Dressage, a high scoring blue ribbon in Western Equitation and a red ribbon in Huntseat Equitation. A nine-year member of Neon Riders 4-H, she’s now a high school graduate and in her second year of Running Start at Peninsula College. Upon completion this year she’ll have her AA degree.

She feels a twinge of sadness as this was her last year in 4-H because she’s now “aged out” (members are age 18 and younger). In 4-H, she said, she’s met “a lot of good friends and long-lasting friendships who’ve created a lot of good vibes together, and not just the kids in my club, but with their parents as well.”

At state, she said, “it was super fun to compete at a higher level and against new people. I also got to hang out with my two best friends every day.”

Her best friends are Taylor Maughan and Katelynn Sharpe.

Sharpe competed in dressage on her horse Sophie. This year, she was ecstatic to receive a high scoring blue ribbons in English dressage, English dressage equitation, plus blue in Showmanship.

“State was a lot of fun, and I got to meet a lot of cool people,” she said. “This was my third year going and going with Ava and Taylor made it a lot more fun than previous years.”

Maughan competed on Ru. They performed well in classes at state, but their highest three ranks were 1st place in Reining, 1st place in Western Discipline Rail and 3rd place in Western Dressage.

She said going from competing against a smaller group of riders in Clallam County to the state fair was a “big change.” The best part? Competing there “with my two best friends in my own hometown.” She said what made the experience “the best” was because she has to “travel three hours from my home” to be in 4-H with them.

Say what? I asked if Sequim was her hometown why is she traveling so far to be here?

“I live in Puyallup, but my parents aren’t really big into horses, so I’ve always done it through my grandma, Kathy Emery, who lives in Sequim,” she said.

As I started writing this, I remembered featuring Taylor, then 12, before. I looked it up and she was in my Aug. 26, 2018, column for winning the Grand Championship costume competition at the Clallam County Fair. Her horse was wearing a costume with movable wings that was based on the “Game of Thrones” character, Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons. It was designed by her father Eric Maughan and made with love by him and her mother Autumn Maughan.

In the article, I quoted Kathy Emery as saying she thinks 4-H is a good learning experience for everybody. “Everyone is so supportive and the kids all get along well,” she said. “4-H teaches kids a lot of neat things and makes showing horses affordable. Shows from other organizations are so expensive we can’t afford to participate, but we can show in 4-H because it’s affordable.”

Belonging to a 4-H club can build character, confidence and good sportsmanship. Members learn first-hand the work and joy involved in caring for their horse — feeding, grooving, grooming, hoof care and picking up manure — along with record keeping and the rewards of doing well at shows (blue, red and white ribbons or awarded according to how well a task is performed).

In 4-H for seven years, Taylor said at first her parents and grandmother would meet in Silverdale every other weekend, during school vacations and summers so she could be with her horse. Getting her driver’s license last year, she said, has made the trek easier on everyone.

She said being able to show her best friends her home in Puyallup, “was really cool. I’ve always said I have two hometowns, two very special places to live.”

Clallam County used to have multiple 4-H horse clubs, with some specializing in a specific riding discipline, such as western games, or riding English.

Currently it only has one, Neon Riders, which is under the long-time leadership of the wonderful Katie Salomon-Newton. She is a long-term Sequim High School equestrian team coach. She certainly deserves a lot of allocates for all the good leadership and examples she’s given to a great many of our youths.

The start of a new school is also the start of a new year for 4-H clubs. Hopefully I’m helping to inspire parents, grandparents, uncles and cool aunts (like I was for my niece) to get the youths in their lives to join a 4-H club now so they can working on perfecting their skills for next summer’s Clallam County or Jefferson County fairs.

They are a great many types of 4-H Clubs, too.

For more information in Clallam County, contact Melanie Greer at WSU Clallam County extension office at or Neon Riders leaders Holly Hairell,, or Katie Salmon-Newton at 360-775-0350 or

“We need more members!” Jefferson Country 4-H Leader Bethel Moore said with enthusiasm. Jefferson County used to have a couple strong 4-H clubs. Now there’s one meeting under the banner 4-H horse clubs. Moore, the owner of Chimacum Tack, encourages parents to get their kids involved because it “helps provide kids a sense of purpose, responsibility, life skills and dedication toward reaching goals.”

In Jefferson County, contact the WSU 4-H coordinator Sarah Pederson at 360-379-5610 ext. 208, or 4-H horse leaders Bethel Moore at 360-301-1547 or Trena Brown at 360-301-5497.

Incidentally, don’t let the lack of owning a horse stop you from joining 4-H.

Leaders are often able to find a horse to use through a lease, or helping to provide for the horse’s feed. And if you own a youth-friendly, trained horse you’d like to offer the use of, then please do contact the group leaders.

Sequim High School’s equestrian team is also entering a new year. The link for the Washington High School Equestrian Team student application is https://static1.square 54b9b3b737b1b1530/t/614cb8a69e216c24fdbd65d5/1632417958621/Athlete-Registration-Form.pdf.

Coach Katie Newton shared that former Sequim team member (and superstar) Ady Crosby is now in training to take over as its new head coach. After 10 wonderful years, Katie said it’s time for her to think about handing over the reins to someone younger at the end of this season.

I look forward to supporting Crosby in the upcoming years as the equestrian team coach!


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

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

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