For more than a decade, Windy Ridge Farm, a former thoroughbred racehorse training and breeding facility just east of Washougal, was also home to the Washougal equestrian team.
But when Windy Ridge owner Stanley Bishoprick passed away in 2013, the facility slowly fell into a state of disrepair and eventually closed. That meant that Washougal High School students had to travel all the way to the Clark County Fairgrounds in Ridgefield just to practice.
Washougal High School senior Alli McNealy was a freshman on that team. Her mother, Andrea, and father, Chris, remember those days well.
“It was tough for the team going all the way out there to the fairgrounds,” Chris McNealy said.
Today, the McNealy family can just walk out their front door to work with horses after purchasing Windy Ridge eight months ago. They immediately invited the Washougal equestrian team back while renovating the facility back to its former glory.
However, instead of race horses, the facility is geared more for rodeo and cow events. There are currently 38 stalls for boarding horses.
“Some buildings were nearly falling down,” Chris McNealy said. “We fixed them up and propped them up, put on new roofs. We built a new parking lot, fixed a lot of fence, and I don’t know how many acres of blackberries I’ve mowed and sprayed.”
New facility helps team reach unexpected success
The huge indoor arena at Windy Ridge has helped the Washougal equestrian team put in the tough practices required for success this season.
The team did well at the Washington High School Equestrian Team (WAHSET) state competition in Moses Lake, Washington, held in mid-May. The annual meet not only determines the state’s top competitors but also qualifies equestrians for the Pacific Northwest Individual Championship (PNWIC), an annual competition between riders from Washington and Oregon. Washougal will send eight riders to Redmond, Oregon, for the regional event June 14-16.
“We have never had a team have this many riders go to regionals,” Washougal equestrian performance coach Jen Crandall said.
“These kids have really put the practice in,” gaming coach Brittni Devault said.
Regional qualifiers finished among the top five in state in their riding categories. Washougal team members heading to Redmond include Kira Buchanan, Keely Crandall, Peyton Robb, Megan Slosser, Simone Velansky, J.C. Daley, Taytum Peters and Camas High School student Karen Phelps.
Crandall was honored as the fifth-place high point performance rider at the state meet, at which 400 horses and riders competed.
The team meets twice per week and has been training since last winter.
“Right now as we prepare for regionals we’re trying to keep the riders and horses healthy and just not do anything crazy,” Devault said.
Phelps will be competing in three different events at regionals with her faithful horse Bobbi. She said practicing at Windy Ridge has been a wonderful experience for the entire team.
“We can just come here whenever we want and practice,” she said. “It’s really nice because it’s a big nice arena and you can really do anything in it.”
The team is positioned for even greater success in the future as most of the riders are freshmen and sophomores.
The new Windy Ridge Farm owners have been excited to watch the team’s success and support the team any way they can. Chris and Andrea also run a Washougal excavation business and say the work they are doing at Windy Ridge is a team effort and a labor of love.
“It’s really been fun for all of us,” Chris McNealy said.
Andrea added that the hard work is actually relaxing, and Alli, who specializes in rodeo riding, agreed.
“We love it here,” Alil said.