Equestrians riding high

Equestrian competitors are in it for the long haul. Take the meet staged Feb. 12-14 at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Vancouver. Eatonville High School competed in the weekend-long, early-season event that had riders and their mounts in action sometimes past midnight. Emmalie Hatch, Mackenzie Baker, DarCee Greer, Kennedy Seroshek, Josie Carlton, Heather Padgett, Kenzie Rodewald, Abby Rodewald, Grace Bertram and Sammi Kuhlman all won at least one event for Eatonville. And competition was deep. Most events had 90 riders. Along with Eatonville, schools that entered the Vancouver meet included Bethel, Elma, White River, Yelm, La Center, and Stanwood. The next competition for Eatonville is scheduled for March 17-20 at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds in Elma. It will be another time-intensive weekend for the 51-member team. "Most people do not realize the amount of time, effort, energy and patience that's required to ride and compete," said Karolyn Seroshek, a spokeswoman for the team. Meets are staged in regions (Eatonville is in Region 2) around the state under the auspices of Washington High School Equestrian Teams, an organization that coordinates the regular season and state championship. The commitment starts early in the day and runs late. Riders feed and clean their horses at 5 a.m., in preparation for competition that begins at 7 each day of a meet. In Vancouver, "we competed until 2 a.m. Friday, 11 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday," Seroshek said. "This makes for very long days with very little breaks between events." So consuming is the sport that riders have been known to sleep in the horse stalls. "But," Seroshek said, "the kids are there from start to finish," cheering on not only their teammates but other schools' competitors, as well. Sadness crept into the Eatonville contingent during the Vancouver meet. Rider Julie Clayton's horse, Star, died after after becoming ill at the meet. Clayton's parents took Star home for treatment, but the horse "ended up having other problems and didn't make it past the 48-hour critical period following removal of an impaction," Seroshek said. "These kids form very tight bonds with their animals," she noted, "and losing one of our teammates is tragic and affects not only the owners, but the other kids and parents on the team." Tira Hancock, a teacher at the school, is the coach and advisor for Eatonville's team that's recognized as a club but not an official interscholastic sport such as football or basketball. Washington High School Equestrian Teams (WAHSET),the governing body for the sport, was formed in 2006. It has hundreds of riders from more than 40 schools statewide.


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