More than a dozen Whidbey-based equestrians are spending their free time fine-tuning their skills to compete in a three-day competition that draws hundreds of riders from throughout the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska.
The Whidbey Island Horse Trials, hosted by the Whidbey Island Pony Club, features dressage, cross-country riding and show jumping that starts Friday and wraps up Sunday.
The pony club, which is in its 36th year, comprises about 15 people from age 7 years old through age 25. They operate on 50 acres of farmland on Central Whidbey Island near San de Fuca.
While festive-minded people on the Fourth of July slept in before a fun day filled with parades, barbecues and fireworks, the young horse riders were busy working on their show-jumping skills in preparation for the upcoming competition. They started out performing gymnastics, which is a series of quick jumps that gradually increase in difficulty.
“It’s great exercise for the horse and the rider,” said Linda Chatfield, instructor for the pony club. Following their warmup, they practiced their show-jumping.
Participants in the Whidbey Island Pony Club came to the group in different ways. Kate Petersen joined the pony club as a Christmas present. The 20-year-old has been a fixture in the club for 12 years and she will be competing this weekend. Fourteen-year-old John Filer, who is from Issaquah, spends his summers on Whidbey Island riding for the Pony Club.
Emily Daugherty has been teaching lessons since she was in high school and joined the Whidbey club several years ago. Even though she reached the 25-year age limit, she still helps out full time during the summer. Her involvement as an instructor inspired her to enter her current career field.
“The pony club helped get me into teaching,” Daugherty, who teaches math at Oak Harbor High School, said.
This weekend’s horse trials are going to draw around 250 riders from Washington, Oregon, western Montana, western Idaho, Canada and Alaska.
Pony club members are busy getting the grounds ready for the competition. Janet Kurtz, who is an adult involved with the pony club, is building new obstacles for the cross-country course, and 150 portable stalls are being added for the horses.
The horse trials are broken up into three days. Friday is the dressage competition, where a rider and horse complete a predetermined series of movements to display how well they work together and the horse’s training. The second day riders compete on the cross country course and the third day is show-jumping.
Chatfield said the horse trials and the high caliber of riders the competition attracts helps the pony club members.
“When kids watch these really good riders, it’s inspirational to them,” Chatfield said.
Whidbey Island Horse Trials begin 8 a.m. Friday, July 12. The trials take place on farmland located east of Zylstra Road and the gate is opposite of Van Dam Road.
For more information, go to www.whidbeyisland.ponyclub.org