The lottery comes first, then the show begins.
This is how the riders get assigned their horse for competition. For the Western Equestrian Club, being able to adapt to different horses is part of what being a rider is all about. From horses that are small and rowdy to tall and stoic and everything in between, it’s impossible to know what card (or in this case, horse) you will be dealt.
“When we go into a show we don’t know what horse we are going to get. We get pulled a random horse a few minutes before we start,” said Courtney Karmil, a junior who has been riding for two years. “It’s stressful but it’s also really fun, because you get to meet a ton of different horses. It makes you a very versatile rider being on this type of team.”
Riders can end up in some strange situations because of the lottery system. Holly Jones, a junior who has been riding for 10 years, shared a story from her last competition.
“My last show I drew this really crazy little horse. And I am tall, so I looked funny on this tiny little pony who is fast and scary,” Jones said. “It was still fun and I didn’t end up placing, but it is more about the experience and being there, and trying to ride these crazy horses.”
A horse isn’t essential for those looking to join the club. The club has several facilities that lend the riders horses. Lang’s Horse and Pony Farm in Mount Vernon lends the club eight horses. The club also contracts with a facility in Everson and Lynden and are able to use their horses and clients’ horses, said club president Johanna Duell.
The Lynden and Everson facilities are where the club practices its different riding styles: English and Western riding.
“In English, the horse is more forward and quicker, and the rider is lighter and almost standing up in the faster gaits,” Duell said. “In Western, the horse is slower and the rider sits deep in the saddle and relies on their seat and legs to control and guide the horse.”
The members choose which team they want to be on.
The club currently has about 40 members. Each year the team develops and changes. Christian Blough-Swingen, a senior who is currently the only male on the team, joined when he was a freshman.
He said throughout the years, there has been lots of variation in terms of what they work on and what they are working towards.
Most recently there has been an increase in the importance of safety and having fun.
“This year we have a lot of new people,” senior Madison Leidig said. “We have a lot of safe horses and a lot of experienced people so there is no reason to not try out and see what you can do.”