3 a.m. mornings. Dirty boots and clean horses. Laughter, tears, wins and losses. Dedication, determination, discipline and focus. Friends for life. For these and so many other reasons, the four years I had on my high school equestrian team were some of the best times in my life. Come experience the exciting equine events of the Washington High School Equestrian Team (WAHSET) for yourself at the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds!
The Washington High School Equestrian Team (WAHSET) is an organization created to give high schoolers a positive youth activity revolving around equine events. High schoolers from 7 districts in Washington State compete with each other throughout the spring, hoping to qualify for the state meet. Those that go on to state, then hope to qualify for the Pacific Northwest Invitational Championship (PNWIC), where they will compete with other top high school equestrians from Oregon.
Kids and horses just go together, and what a great combination they are! Equine activities teach kids some amazing life lessons. “I have been a part of WAHSET since 2007 where my son competed for Enumclaw,” shares Kari Ward, WAHSET state chair. “This is a great organization that gives an opportunity to high school students to be involved in something that builds relationships and teaches what it means to be a team player. These athletes must work hard and have dedication to their equines to attain the goals that they have in the competition arena. They learn through trial and error what it means to win and to lose. Having the ability to pick yourself back up when things don’t go your way is a skill much needed in today’s world. There are no guarantees how your ride is going to go when you rely on a 1,000-pound animal. Anything can and does happen. I would venture to say that if you have spoken with these kids’ years after WAHSET, they would say that WAHSET was some of the best years of their lives.”
In 2023, there are 49 schools participating with another 136 high schoolers competing with them as Co-ops. “Co-op means they attend a school that doesn’t have their own team, so they ride for another team that does,” explains Kari. “We have approximately 500 athletes competing statewide with about 10-15 of those from Grays Harbor.”
Fast-Paced Action Makes for a Crowd-Pleasing Day of Fun at the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds
There is total of nine WAHSET meets held at the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds this year. It’s a great time to come out in support of local youth, learn about the sports and just have some fun!
“Spectators in the stands can expect to see great competition, beautiful horses, camaraderie between teammates, and have an overall good time,” says Kari.
While some sporting events only give you one event to watch – sometimes one long, slow event – Washington State High School Equestrian Meets have 25 exciting and fast-paced events that the teens compete in over the long weekend. Events include English and western performance classes, dressage, jumping, in-hand trail, and the exciting timed gaming events including barrel racing, pole bending, and keyhole, to name a few.
You won’t want to miss the cow classes either – watching teens pen cows or steer daubing – that’s where you use a stick with a foam ball dipped in paint to mark a steer after it streaks out of a chute – are just as fun for the audience as they are the kids. Other entertaining classes include the team relays, like in-hand obstacle relay, working pairs – which is performed to music – and bi-wrangle, another speed event.
You also will not want to miss the drill team competitions! Set to crowd-pleasing music, each team will perform intricate patterns that will wow you as your foot taps along.
Watching the kids have a good time and doing well with their horse is what Kathi Dahlstrom, former coach and district chair, says the WAHSET is all about and what makes it a great family-friendly Grays Harbor Fairgrounds event.
Don’t miss the next WAHSET meets at the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds:
- March 9-12
- March 16-19
- April 6-9
- April 13-16
- April 20-23
If, after watching a meet, your teenager is interested in an equestrian team, contact them via the Washington High School Equestrian Team website.