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Whidbey hosts horse trials
They came with their tails braided and manes twisted. All dolled up and ready-to-ride, hundreds of horses were led to Oak Harbor last weekend to compete in the 34th annual Whidbey Island Pony Club Horse Trials, one of the largest trials on the West Coast.
The horse trial is an Olympic-recognized three-day event that includes dressage, cross country and stadium jumping. According to representatives, the trial is a triathlon for equestrians.
This year 276 riders registered to compete. They ranged in age from 10 to 70 and came from Washington, Arizona, Alaska, Idaho and many places in between. The competitors were divided into groups based on skill level and were given deduction marks for any mistakes they made during their runs. The people with the fewest marks at the end of the weekend placed the highest.
The cross country competition, which took place on Saturday, drew the biggest crowds. This year, a challenging new water jump was added to the course and many climbed the nearby hills to watch the equestrians guide their horses through it.
“They are top level athletes and are simply amazing,” show secretary Suzette Keller said.
Thirteen-year-old Shannon Ogus came to the horse trial from Langley, B.C. She has been riding horses since she was four years old and competed in her first event when she was eight. Though many spectators nervously watched as the athletes approached the jumps, Shannon said they’re one of the funnest parts.
“It’s thrilling,” Shannon said. “It gets your adrenaline pumping.”
Her mom added, “You like to fly.”
Shannon rode her horse Little Miss Attitude during the trials and competed in the novice division.
Many of the athletes camped out in trailers near the arena off Zylstra Road, enduring the dust and the heat. Near the campsite there were concession stands, photo booths, a silent auction and a few other activities.
The Whidbey Island Pony Club is part of a national nonprofit organization and is one of the leading junior equestrian clubs in the world. To learn more about the Pony Club, visit its website at www.whidbeyisland.ponyclub.org.