Rivalries dissolve and Pirates, Loggers, Bearcats, Tigers (of both Napavine and Centralia), Cardinals, Riverhawks and Vikings become one in the equestrian world.
Under the umbrella of the W.F. West High School Equestrian Team, students from across Lewis County competed over the weekend in a variety of events on horseback at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds in Elma.
The first district meet of the season, they were matched against other collective teams hailing from Tumwater, Hockinson, Washougal, Elma and Hazen. Out of three district meets, each athlete's total scores will be combined and the top three or top 10% of performers (whichever is higher), will qualify for state in each event.
The highest point of the weekend, according to Head Coach Adam Kasper, was the drill team on Saturday night. With horses and riders adorned in their best dress, teams ride in a pattern set to music and screaming crowds. Parents describe it as “the football of the equestrian world.”
And the W.F. West team won it.
“As far as the biggest accomplishment, that’s kind of a tough one because they’re all good,” Kasper said.
The team’s first meet of the season was postponed due to weather, but will also be held in Elma beginning on March 30. Around 100 athletes from all the schools compete, Kasper said, with specific events ranging from groups of 15 to 65 performers.
Events are categorized into performance equitation, which includes dressage and the drill team, Western gaming, such as barrel racing, and cow events with roping and sorting of calves. There’s also cow daubing, which is a tennis ball on the end of a wooden stick, covered in mustard. The rider is required to tap the ball to the cow, marking it with the mustard. Suffice it to say, all these events are better understood when seen in person than when explained with words.
“We had several kids who had first-place placings and almost all of them placed at least in the top ten (of various events),” Kasper said. “These kids work hard. We practice a minimum of three nights a week and sometimes it goes into four. They all did amazingly well.”
He added the teams, even between rivals, show “great sportsmanship, great enthusiasm,” and are helpful to one another. Beyond the rivalries severed between Lewis County programs, the athletes become friends with students from across Southwest Washington, Kasper said.
Programs event lend horses when necessary, and the overseeing Washington High School Equestrian Team district board includes coaches from each program.
“Being the advisor, head coach, over the years, has been a very rewarding experience. It’s a labor of love. This is the greatest program,” Kasper said.
At age 81, he plans to retire as head coach at the end of the year, making way for Lea Elder, who was on W.F. West’s first equestrian team in 2006.
There are a total of 18 different individual events, including both performance and speed events. Lewis County athletes placed in the top five of 16 of the 18 events.
Top five placements include:
Allie Sutich: Second place in steer daubing
Jesnee Journee: Second place in breakaway roping; First in driving
Josey Majors: Fourth place in barrels
Shaylie Flanery: Fourth place in individual flags
Jeznee Journee: Second place in pole bending
Josey Majors: Fifth place in pole bending
Cyndle Haller: Second place in figure 8
Madison Smith: First place in keyhole
Isabel Thompson: Third place in trail; Third place in huntseat
Navea Dunn: First in jumping; Second place in driving
Katelyn Dipo: Fourth place in working rancher
Kylee Smith: Third place in in-hand trail
Charlotte Barber: Fifth place in in-hand trail
Maizy Samuelson: First place in dressage
Liberty: Third place in working rancher
Savanna: Second place in reining