Saddling up for final showcase

Riders from Washougal and Stevenson aim for state qualifying marks

The hard work of these Washougal and Stevenson horseback riders is all for the final district three showcase April 17 to 20, at the Grays County Fairgrounds in Elma.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” said Washougal Equestrian Team President Fee Harrison. “It’s my senior year, so this is the last impression I can leave on everybody. It’s also really sad because I grew up in this sport. It developed who I am, what I stand for and what my morals are.”

Harrison hopes this won’t be her last ride at a high school equestrian meet. Neither do fellow seniors Savannah Lehman, Mattie Olson, Megan Templer and Shelby Valaer. They all want to compete for state medals May 8 to 11, at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden.

“The strengths of this team are their spirit, their encouragement and their closeness,” said parent advisor Teresa Foster. “We hope they build more memories together and keep up the team spirit. They are a small group, but they’re mighty.”

Foster and Laurie Sanchez are the parent advisors. Tammy Harrison and Brittany Ronhaar are the gaming coaches, and Sandy Haigh is the performance coach.

The team practices together once a week at Windy Ridge, in Washougal. It’s up to the riders to meet with their teammates during the week days. They also train their horses year round.

“This is a living animal. You have to be able to care for the animal, ride the animal and depend on him or her,” Foster said. “It’s an amazing feat. I’m proud of every single rider on this team for how committed they are to their horses.”

Harrison has spent years establishing what she hopes will be a lifelong bond with her horse, Hollie Mae. The two have become a formidable duo in poles, figure 8, barrels, keyhole, in-hand obstacle relay and the Canadian flag events.

“That bond is indescribable. You can’t put it into words,” Harrison said. “To me, it means everything. I’m her brain and her body, and she’s my wings. She helps me soar.”

Harrison hopes to leave the arena for the last time with a smile on her face knowing her teammates, horses and friends performed to their best of their abilities.

“This team has turned into a huge family. I hope our district continues to grow as well,” Harrison said. “We brought people from all over the county and the state together. We all love to ride and show what our horses can accomplish.”

Everything Harrison puts into this sport is to make her Washougal family, teammates and coaches proud.

“I just want to find my mark on the wall and ride hard to it. Just keep driving,” she said. “My mom tells me, ‘Every champion started out as a challenger.’ I’m that challenger trying to become a champion.”