For Kit Maret, it’s a way to keep active in a sport she enjoys. For Maya Black, it is a springboard to the upper echelons of her sport.
The pair were among the many who helped run or compete at the 41st Whidbey Island Horse Trials July 7-9.
The local trials are the longest running competition in Area VII recognized by the United States Eventing Association.
Area VII includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
The Whidbey Island Horse Trials also included participants from California and British Columbia. In all, 287 took part, including Black and nine others from Whidbey Island.
When the Whidbey event began 41 years ago, it was hosted by the Whidbey Island Pony Club and held at the Seaplane Base in Oak Harbor.
The Whidbey Island Horse Trials Foundation now organizes the event, and it is held at Arnold’s Aces, owned by Fred Arnold, off Zylstra and Van Dam roads. Much of the land used for the trials is leased as pastures by 3 Sisters Market and turned over to the WIHTF for the competition.
The Pony Club still provides the majority of volunteers, according to Maret.
After the completion of the horse trials, several pony clubs take advantage of the layout to host camps over over the next few weeks.
Maret, who lives on West Beach, began competing in the 1970s, took some time off when “life happened” and returned to the sport in 2008. She also started volunteering at the Whidbey event in 2008 and has served as show secretary the past three years.
Once she picked up the show secretary duties, she stopped competing because “you don’t have enough time to do both,” she said.
Maret’s job is to keep the event running smoothly.
The Whidbey Island Horse Trials “wouldn’t exist” without Maret, according to Jay Arend, who doubles as the public address announcer and show jumping judge.
This year’s event was one of the most popular, with a waiting list up until the final two days, Maret said.
“We were really scrunched, but we found a place for everyone that wanted to come,” she said.
This year’s competitors included a former Olympian, some of the United States’ top riders and a slew of the best juniors, according to Arend.
Among the “A” list is South Whidbey’s Black.
Black, 29, began competing at the Whidbey trials when she was 14; now she is one of America’s leading riders.
Black was named the traveling reserve for the 2016 USA Olympic team but didn’t make the trip to Rio de Janeiro because of issues with her horse just days before the team left for the Games.
Black’s selection for the Olympics came after she won several events and then placed second among Americans at the 2016 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the most prestigious competition in the United States.
Black is now training a new horse, Mowgli, and aiming for the 2024 Olympics. It is unrealistic to shoot for the 2020 games, Black said, because it takes 10 to 15 years to get to know, train and qualify a horse for elite-level competition.
“Just because you know how to ride one horse,” Black said, “doesn’t mean you can ride another.”
Black and Mowgli, a rejected race horse, are off to a good start. They won a lower-level preliminary event at this year’s national championships.
At the Whidbey Island Horse Trials, Black and Mowgli finished first in the Intermediate Open competition.
Other strong showings by local riders included Coupeville’s Cynthia Bayles and Accolade, who paired up to win the CT Preliminary Open, and John Filer and Glitteratti, who claimed second in the Preliminary-Young Rider division.