It’s easy to get past the poop smell burning through your nose, your freezing strawberry red fingers and aching feet when you’re on top of a 5 to 6 feet tall horse.
Western’s equestrian team got to experience all of this for 48 hours on Saturday, Feb. 4, and Sunday, Feb. 5, while hosting their annual horse show at the Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center in Lynden.
Teams from all over the northwest, including the University of Washington and Washington State University, compete for the first place ribbon.
Junior Arianna Lapke is one of the riders with Western’s equestrian team. Lapke has been riding since she was 10 years old and has competed in shows put on by the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.
“Sometimes you get the best horse in the whole show, sometimes you get a horse that’s lazier, or one that’s young and crazy and you have to stay composed and trust your riding.”
Lapke said these competitions are all about making sure you look good and how well you can adapt to a new horse. [ Riders train by riding different horses in their practices so they are able to control any horse they might get during the competition.
“When you’re out there your goal is to make the audience say, ‘Wow that looks easy. I can do that,’ but it’s not,” Lapke said.
During competitions, rider and horse are paired at random because the competition is about the rider’s ability to make decisions and lead the horse through a series of pre-made routines the rider must memorize.
One rider from each team is secretly appointed point-maker by the coach and any points the rider gets also count toward the team’s score.
Sophomore Paige Newman is a rider on the University of Washington equestrian team.
Newman started her passion for horses as a camp rider. She then continued by exercising horses for children with disabilities, taking lessons and joining the equestrian team at the University of Washington after moving from Minnesota to Seattle.
“You just have to go with it,” Newman said. “Sometimes you get the best horse in the whole show, sometimes you get a horse that’s lazier, or one that’s young and crazy and you have to stay composed and trust your riding.”
All of the horses used in the show were donated by community members, Western’s team or local trainers.
Lapke said she rode horses throughout her life because of the relationship created between them, the horses and their teams.
“You can walk your dogs and they can be trained to do a bunch of stuff but when you’re riding with your horse, you feel them and they feel you. You guys have to work together,” Lapke said. “When you’re on them they feel everything you do so everything matters.”
Despite graduating from Western, Ashley Greyell and Ariel Haustveit continue to help the Western equestrian team.
Greyell is known on the team as the “knower of all things,” due to her 15 years of experience with riding and competitions.
“There’s a team effort I really appreciate, especially coming to Western because I knew a couple people from high school but this is where I really found my family,” Greyell said.
Haustveit said the team is a big bonding experience from having to travel from one competition to another, overnight stays for shows and coming together to host events.
Johanna Duell, the vice president of the team, said the team will continue on with its weekly club meetings. The team will also host clinics, which is when professionals come and teach certain skills to improve the team’s riding and horse skills.