DALLAS — From the moment Dallas sophomore Daphne Mauk rode a horse for the first time at the age of 8, she was hooked.
Mauk, who was adopted when she was 7, had an immediate connection to her four-legged friends.
“My mom put me on a horse and I cried (with joy),” Mauk said. “I didn’t want to get off.”
Riding is now an integral part of her life.
“It helps me escape reality,” Mauk said. “If I’ve had a tough day or a rough week at school or work, I go for a ride and my mind just goes to the horse.”
Eight years later, and Mauk will help represent Dallas at the Oregon High School Equestrian Team state championships June 24-27 in Redmond.
The Dragons will compete in Canadian Flag Team (Tristan Savage, Maddie Haerer, MaKayli Laizure, Chrystal Lee), in-hand obstacle relay team (Nathan Slade, Daphne Mauk, Kelsey Riemer, Karlie Dalke), in-hand trail (Daphne Mauk), poles (Cari Hanson) and keyhole (Chrystal Lee).
Mauk hopes for a top five finish in at least one of her events.
But she’s already proud of how far she’s come this season.
“I’ve been working with a new mini,” Mauk said. “We’re doing what other horses have done for years. I’m already pleased with where I’m at. Just making it to state is an awesome thing.”
Teammate Kelsey Riemer has also seen riding change her life, fully devoting herself to riding in middle school.
“It’s been the best time of my life,” Riemer said. “I’ve played other sports, and it just got really hard for me to keep up with those sports. I wanted a change of scenery and to try something different, which I did by coming here and experiencing horses.”
Since that decision, riding has become more than a hobby.
“When I’m on an animal, I feel like I’m untouchable,” Riemer said. “I love the way the horse moves under my body. I love the experience. I love the thrill of it. Anything you can imagine about a horse, I love it.”
As Dallas makes final preparations before traveling to Redmond, riders are optimistic about their chances.
“We’ve worked really hard,” Karlie Dalke said. “We just want a solid performance and hopefully come out on top if we can.”
Most of all, Dallas’ riders hope the state championships provide them with one more chance to compete together.
“My teammates have been there for me,” Mauk said. “We’re not friends; we’re family, and they’ve been there for me. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.”