READY, SET, GO! Our Clallam high school equestrian teams successfully completed their first of three qualifying meets this year.
This column’s about the Sequim team. My next will be on Port Angeles.
So what does being a member of Washington High School Equestrian Teams, or WAHSET, involve?
They start practicing in November and go through May.
It requires hard work, passion, determination and the drive to get the job done.
Taking care of a horse is an every-day-of-the-week job.
“I tell my kids WAHSET isn’t a sport for sissies,” Sequim coach Terri Winters told me.
“Our meets are in winter, in the snow, wind and rain. We have to practice and show when it’s freezing-cold weather; it can be really tough.
“It’s worth it, though, and these kids forge good lifelong friendships.”
Years ago, my niece was on the Sequim team, so I definitely can attest to how bone-chillingly cold the weather is and the need to stock up on hand warmers (buy enough to share), a small propane heater, stadium seats to help keep your butt warm, wool blankets, hats and mittens, and lots of hot chocolate.
Oh, and bring some things for the kid and her horse, too.
Here’s Terri’s take on participating in each meet:
Before traveling, the packing of the horse trailer and camping gear goes on for days, with long lists to remind us of what to bring.
Typically, we arrive on a Thursday to settle in for three long days of competition.
First, we get the horses settled in their stalls (making sure they have enough shavings to line the floor).
We give them a little hay to snack on and fill their water buckets (done by filling up at the community hose bib and lugging them back to the stall).
Next, we set up the human camping areas (some have motorhomes or campers; some camp in tents and a few stay in hotels).
The riders unload all their horse equipment and carry it to the tack stall. (With winter blankets, saddles, pads, headstalls and grooming equipment, it’s a chore in itself.)
Next, it’s time to saddle up the horses to get about an hour’s practice time in the arena.
It takes about another hour to cool down the horse, groom it, put a blanket on it and put it back into the stall, afterward feeding and watering it.
By then, it’s about 11 p.m. and time for the humans to go to sleep — hopefully.
Wake at 5 a.m., feed horses, clean stalls and then attend the performance rider’s judges meeting at 6 a.m.
The show starts at 7 a.m.
The day entails riding and getting horses ready for their classes, including showmanship, trail, Western, English, jumping and in-hand obstacle relay, or IHOR.
Riders compete in five to seven classes a day, along with watering and feeding their horse in between.
Somehow, the parents manage to feed their kids in between classes.
Drill practice begins when the day’s competition ends, which usually is after 9 p.m.
“We go out as a team to watch the other teams practice drill team to see our competition,” said Terri.
“Our evening ends about 11 p.m. — and it’s only Friday.”
Saturday starts out with dressage at 6 a.m., then goes to working pairs and drill, followed by games, usually at 3 p.m.
Games include pole bending, figure 8 and team events.
The last class of the night, barrel racing, is my favorite and goes until 10 p.m. or even midnight.
Cow events start at 7 a.m. with another judges meeting, then the competition begins with breakaway roping, steer daubing and cow sorting.
Usually (hopefully), the competition is completed by 2 p.m.
Then, it’s time to clean out the stalls, load the equipment, take down the barn decorations, load up the horses and kids, and head for home, exhausted.
Considering the long hours they, too, put in, Terri said, she likes to give a big thank-you to “all the parents for their support and help.”
“Sitting for hours on cold bleachers in cold weather, hauling your kids and horses, plus taking great pictures, you’re all amazing,” she said.
“And to the riders, thanks for putting in the hard work at all the practices and meets, because you are the ones that make this team a success — you’re the best. Thanks, too, to Mary Gallagher at Freedom Farms [in Agnew] for the use of your beautiful arena for our practices.”
Personally, I’d like to thank Terri and all the other coaches for volunteering their own time — and money — to the teams. Without them, these teams and competitions would not exist.
Sequim Equestrian Team: Eilena Sharpe (team captain), Matisen Anders, Kyla Gabriel, Anne Meek, Christina Overby, Justine Roads, Tylar Decker, Brianna Albright, Kelly Anders and Emily Millar.
Winning teams events
■ Pairs — Roads/Overby, first; Sharpe/Gabriel, fourth; K. Anders/M. Anders, 13th.
■ Birangle — Decker/Meek, first; Sharpe/Albright, 10th.
■ Canadian Flags — Meek/Decker/Albright/Sharpe, second.
■ Drill working fours — Sharpe/Decker/Albright/K. Anders, third.
■ IHOR — Sharpe/M. Anders/Overby/Roads, fourth.
■ Cow sorting — M. Anders/K. Anders, sixth.
All the girls had top 15 placings in their various individual events, including:
■ Dressage — Sharpe, ninth; Roads, sixth.
■ Showmanship — Overby, second; Roads, sixth.
■ In-hand trail — K. Anders, second.
■ Trail — Sharpe, second; Overby, fourth; M. Anders, fourth; Roads, eighth; Millar, 12th.
■ Working rancher — Overby, first.
■ Reining — M. Anders, third; Overby, 10th; Millar, 11th.
■ Stock seat — Overby, fourth; M. Anders, fourth; Roads, seventh.
■ Hunt seat — M. Anders, ninth.
■ Hunt seat over fences — Gabriel, eighth.
■ Saddle seat — Gabriel, fourth.
■ Poles — Decker, second; Albright, eighth.
■ Barrels — Decker, second.
■ Figure 8 — Decker, third; Sharpe, 12th.
■ Flags — Albright, 12th.
■ Steer daubing — Meek, second.
■ Breakaway roping — Meek, fifth.
■ Saturday — Sweetheart Horseman’s Ball and Silent Auction, a scholarship fundraiser for the Peninsula Youth Equestrian Foundation.
Music by the Jimmy Hoffman Band starts at 7 p.m. in the exhibition hall at the Clallam County Fairgrounds.
Tickets at the door are $5 per person or $20 for a family of four or more.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Wednesday.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at firstname.lastname@example.org at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.