OHSET’s first meet of 2019 starts Thursday, Feb. 14 at the Yamhill County Fairgrounds.
What is OHSET? This is a question I am asked often. I usually give a quick response—I clarify that it is more than a club; it is a sport in which horseback riders from various high schools compete against each other. I usually end by explaining that, yes, Tigard High School has an equestrian team. We are a small group, definitely unknown, but still here.
OHSET stands for Oregon High School Equestrian Team. Every year, this statewide program hosts competitions among high school equestrian teams. OHSET was formed in 1993 and the program has become increasingly popular in the equestrian community. Three regular meets are held each spring, followed by both a state and regional competition. All levels of riders are encouraged to compete, and a vast array of events are held ranging from barrel racing to saddle seat.
OHSET also gives riders the chance to learn new skills and have fun with other ‘horse people.’ Junior Abby Goodell has learned a lot in her three years with the team.
“OHSET has taught me teamwork, and how to manage my nerves right before a competition,” Goodell said. “If something doesn’t go well, I know that I can go back the next meet and try again.”
This year we have six members on the Tigard High equestrian team, which is relatively small compared to other schools in the area. Sherwood, for example, has upwards of 10 people, and the Molalla team has almost 20. Due to our team’s small size and low funding, we do not have our own coach like most teams. Instead, team members have weekly lessons with individual trainers coaching them. In place of a coach, our team’s leader, Wendy Goodell, organizes the team and runs meetings and fundraisers.
“I love being able to allow students who want to participate and try different horse disciplines access to do that,” Goodell said.
Even when I describe OHSET and Tigard’s equestrian team, however, most people still don’t consider riding to be a sport. In my opinion, it’s one of the hardest sports there is. While horseback riding is fun and enjoyable, most people don’t understand what goes on beyond the exterior.
An often overlooked fact is that riding is a team sport. Every time a rider steps in the saddle, they are responsible for both themselves and their horse. A rider can ask a horse to do something, but that doesn’t mean it has to. Riders must communicate with a half-ton animal who cannot speak, all while controlling its movements as well as their own. They have to be strong mentally and physically, while also developing poise and balance for themselves and their horse. A rider must be focused and kind, but stern.
But the sport of riding does not end when the rider hops out of the saddle. One is also responsible for the horse’s health. Cleaning stalls, lifting hay bales, grooming, and turning horses out to pasture are done daily and essential to the horse’s health. This list does not even include smaller tasks around the barn, and one must also have an attentive eye to any health issues a horse may develop.
The Tigard High equestrian team is small this year, and we have struggled with funding. While OHSET is the best sport at our school in my opinion, it is also one of the most expensive. Costs associated with OHSET can get as high as 600 dollars for the season (sometimes higher), and most, if not all of these costs are out of pocket. That doesn’t mean the other members and I have extraordinary amounts of money laying around. It means we work hard to raise the funds for the sport we love.
Sadly, fundraising is difficult when no one knows who we are. Although we happily take donations, most of our funds come through selling items, such as See’s candies or Willamette Valley Pies, although we only earn a small profit. Many of our members also help out at football games or other school functions. But unlike many school sports, we get no donations from the school, which makes our sport even harder to fund.
So here is an official statement. The Tigard High equestrian team exists and we compete in OHSET every year. We are proud of our sport, our team, and our horses.
If you would like more information on OHSET or the Tigard High School equestrian team, feel free to contact us. You can email us at [email protected], visit our website at thsequestrian.weebly.com, or view our Instagram page at thsequestrianteam. If you are interested in joining, let us know. If you simply want to watch some cute horses, come by during our spring competitions and watch! We’d love to have more support from the Tigard community.