Although the Camas and Washougal equestrian teams are both members of the Washington High School Equestrian Teams Association, only one team may be able to compete this season.
That’s because the association has allowed it teams in District 6, which includes Washougal, to begin practicing and training for the upcoming season, but has yet to give similar approval to its District 3 teams, which include Camas as well as Battle Ground, Enumclaw, Kelso, North Thurston and Woodland.
Washougal vault coach Brittni DeVault is confident that her 20-member equestrian team, which trains at Windy Ridge Ranch in Washougal, will be able to hold safe and productive practice sessions. Coaches and riders are required to wear masks at all times and separate into smaller “pods” for the duration of the season.
“Equestrian sports are unique in that we naturally socially distance,” DeVault said. “If somebody gets within 6 feet of somebody else, they’re probably doing something wrong. They don’t share any equipment, and they’re not passing (objects to each other), even in relays. We recognize that we’re very lucky compared to other sports. We naturally fit in with all of the new COVID-10 requirements.”
Washougal equestrians will compete against other District 6 teams, including Elma, Hazen, Hockinson, Tumwater and Chehalis.
“The kids are super excited. They’re looking forward to it,” DeVault said. “(The cancellation of the 2019-20 season) was pretty devastating for some girls, but we all collectively decided to go forward and just plan for having a season this year. Until everything got super locked down, we still kind of got together as a team to help foster the relationships and keep the momentum going. We planned for a season until we heard otherwise, and luckily it ended up working out.”
The competitions will be starkly different, however.
“Before, it was a family affair,” DeVault said. “Parents, brothers and sisters went to the meets. Now it’s limited to one adult per rider, and teams are not allowed to watch other teams compete. … Things will be different, but the kids will make do. Horse kids are pretty resilient. I have full confidence in them.”
Camas coach Kelli Whidden said she her team is still not allowed to practice as a group.
“They can practice their patterns individually, but we can’t do team events or have drill practice yet,” she said. “We’ll know by the middle of December if we’ll have a season or not.”
The small size of the Camas team, which had seven riders in early October, could help address safety concerns.
“If kids are in close quarters for competition, will it be safe? That’s what we really have to look at,” Whidden said. “We really want to have competitions, but what’s the right decision for all of the kids?”
The Camas team trains at Vancouver’s Green Mountain Stables, where Whidden manages a boarding facility.
“I’m hoping we still have a chance at a season,” Whidden said. “The kids would be ecstatic. We have members who joined the team this year who have never ridden for (the state equestrian association). We have one senior this year, and we hope that she can compete and be recognized and all of that,” she said. “So much of school has changed, but we want to at least give her something that resembles normalcy.”
The 2020-21 equestrian season is scheduled to begin in February 2021 and end with a regional meet in June 2021.