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Kings Valley Charter School senior Kodi Wolfe crosses the line after a "birangle" practice run Saturday in Corvallis.
February 27, 2013
DALLAS -- Several pairs of horses and riders patiently wait at the end of the arena in a barn just outside Dallas.
They watch carefully as equestrian coach Tabatha Bielemeier calls out instructions to one rider-horse team as the pair works through a series of maneuvers.
Thankfully the arena is covered -- rain is falling outside -- but to say it's "indoor" would be a stretch.
It's cold. Very cold. Riders waiting their turn to perform are likely shivering in the saddle.
This is the weekly practice of Dallas High School's equestrian team. Willingness to work in bone-chilling temperatures illustrates team members' -- and their supporters' -- commitment to the sport.
Dallas' team includes riders from Dallas, Falls City and Kings Valley high schools. The team operates as a club through the high school and is part of the statewide organization, Oregon High School Equestrian Teams (OHSET).
OHSET's season begins in December and, in order to be competitive, the 16 riders on the team and their steeds have to practice in whatever conditions Mother Nature feels like bestowing.
"The one thing about OHSET, just like with 4-H, is all these kids have a passion for horses and they absolutely love it," Bielemeier said at the Feb. 20 practice. "They don't mind riding in the cold weather. We are all out here in five layers and mittens and gloves and they are out here riding."
Team co-advisor Candi Pedersen is quick to point out that all the people supporting the team are volunteers, offering their time and knowledge for free so the team can compete.
DHS equestrian team co-advisor Candi Pedersen, right, helps measure out barrel placement during practice at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Corvallis Saturday.
That includes Bielemeier and the team's other two coaches, the mother-daughter team of Shannon and Kelsey Bridges, Pedersen and co-advisor Jen Unger, and several local families who offer the use of their barns for practices and even lend out horses for the riders.
"Everybody has to work overtime to make it work," Pedersen said.
Equestrian teams compete in contests similar to track and field and swim meets, where each rider competes individually and the team earns points based on their placings and scores.
Events are divided into two categories: gaming and performance.
Gaming events include barrel racing, pole bending, roping and team cattle penning, all of which are primarily scored based on time.
Performance events, including showmanship, dressage and trial, focus more on technique and execution.
Tavan Mauk, a Dallas senior who has been riding horses since a young age, has seen success in both types of events. A three-year state qualifier, he's looking to cap his career with another trip to Redmond.
"I want to make it to state for my fourth year and hopefully do well there," Mauk said. "I placed ninth in roping there last year. I would like to return."
He is off to a good start this season with top-10 finishes in all of his events and a win in team cattle penning at the team's first meet in McMinnville Jan. 31-Feb. 3.
On the other end of the experience spectrum, first-year participant Kelsey Riemer, a freshman from Dallas, also began the year with success. Her only experience with horses has been through off-and-on riding lessons, but she decided to give the team a try anyway.
"It seems like a lot of fun and a couple of my friends were doing it," she said. "I just like working with horses."
The McMinnville meet was her first taste of competition.
"I was really nervous" Riemer said.
Apparently, it didn't show.
Riemer, who participates in a variety of performance and gaming events, placed 15th out of 48 performers in showmanship, formerly her least favorite event.
"Now I really like it," she said.
Last week, the team was preparing for its second meet, this weekend's competition at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem.
This will be the first chance to qualify for state as performers who place in the top 10 in two of the three qualifying meets can compete at Redmond.
For advanced riders like Mauk, that's the goal. But for others, it's just to improve.
"(Our expectations are) for them to exceed their expectations," Bielemeier said. "Their goals are definitely to improve each meet."