WENATCHEE — Michaela Lantzy and Jenna Gould dressed appropriately for the occasion. Sparkling Kelly green top hats perched at precarious angles atop their riding helmets over green cellophane wigs. Their horses sported glittery green bridles, a green bow and a shamrock painted on their rumps. When their turn came up, the two Wenatchee High School students pranced their steeds in time to an Irish step dance played through loudspeakers in the Appleatchee Riders arena.
If nothing else, the girls likely impressed judges with their Irish sentimentalities, even if their synchronization was off a bit in the working pairs competition during the Washington High School Equestrian Team district meet this weekend. The three-day, 27-event meet — with nine Eastern Washington schools and 100 contestants — continues Sunday at Appleatchee with rodeo gaming competitions.
“We could have done better, but we had a good time,” said Michaela, 16, after the event Saturday. She quickly changed from her St. Patrick’s Day green into western attire for her next event, a working drill with teams of four riders each. She had already competed in five other events, placing second with her team in an obstacle relay and fourth in a working rancher event.
Michaela, who has been riding since she was 8, rode her gelding, Sammy, a 17-year-old quarter horse.
“He’s not in his younger years, but he’s still got some kick in him,” she said. The objective in the working pair competition, she said, is to match the horse’s gait to the music and mirror your partner’s movements while going through specific maneuvers and patterns at different speeds and gaits.
Results of the competition were posted about an hour after they performed. The team of Selah Valencia and Pashiya Sandum from Chelan High School took top honors. Another Chelan team placed second. Lantzy and Gould placed eighth.
“They did good, but they can do better,” said Thera Judd, the Wenatchee team’s coach and adviser. “This is all for fun. I try not to get too competitive at the first meet. It’s hard to get much practice time in during the winter.”
Equestrian teams get together for three district meets each spring. Competitors who place in the top three in an event during at least two of the meets qualify for the state meet against individuals and teams from other districts. District 1, in which Wenatchee competes, includes nine Eastern Washington teams, some from as far away as Spokane and Colville. The Wenatchee team includes participants from Wenatchee and Eastmont high schools and River Academy. Cascade has members from Cascade and Cashmere high schools. Other North Central Washington teams come from Chelan, Ephrata and Soap Lake.
The 27 events include all types of equestrian competition, from dressage and jumping to breakaway calf roping and barrel racing.
“There’s a little something for everybody,” said Linda Simon, District 1 chairwoman and a Cascade coach. Teams have to raise their own money to participate, including travel expenses and stable fees. Practice is outside of regular school hours.
But participation is considered a school sport. Members can earn athletic letters just like in football or volleyball. Some teams even have cheerleaders, Simon said.
“And just like in other sports, they have to keep up their grades and attendance,” added Judd. The sport is relatively new. Wenatchee started its team just seven years ago. Cascade started a little earlier as part of a Western Washington district, Judd said. Nearly all of participants are girls, but the sport is open to boys as well.
“It’s great for kids who don’t necessarily excel at sports, but who can do well with a horse,” Judd said.
Rick Steigmeyer: 664-7151