The Sisters High School equestrian team got the 2020 season underway with a strong start at the first Oregon High School Equestrian Team (OHSET) meet of the year at the Redmond Fairgrounds on February 21-23.

With more than 20 different events — which involve individuals, pairs, and four-person teams — the meet requires multiple days to complete. Some event names are more familiar than others, according to Head Coach Annie Winter.

“A fan’s appreciation of the competition is enhanced when they understand what the names of the events mean and what is required of the riders and their horses,” she said.

She explained that at an OHSET meet, competitors take part in both performance events and gaming events. Participants can do up to five individual events if they choose.

Overall team scores are determined by total scoring in individual events added to the events that include pairs or quartets.

Sisters placed third overall among the medium sized teams. Bend won the meet (448), followed by Mt. View (435), Sisters (409), Lakeview (350) and Hermiston (316).

Ridgeview, one of two large-sized schools, won overall with 530 points.

Shea Robertson, a junior, led the scoring for Sisters by placing highly in four individual events and two relays.

Robertson placed second in dressage (a performance event in which the horse and rider must perform a sequence of around twenty movements and is judged). She finished second in trail equitation and third in hunt seat equitation. In equitation events judges score the horse’s movement and form as well as the rider’s ability. Robertson also placed sixth in reining and fourth in Western horsemanship.

Chloe Winter also had a strong showing, placing second in hunt seat over fences (jumping) and third in saddle seat equitation, while Sidney Sillers took second in working rancher, fifth in reining, and fifth in keyhole.

Working rancher requires contestants to replicate things that you would do while on the job at the ranch, including roping a dummy calf head, sort cattle, and ground-tie the horse. Keyhole is a timed event in which horse and rider gallop into a key-shaped area, turn about and race back out.

Sillers and Winter came through with the team’s lone win of the meet as they scored 77 points in the working pair competition. The working pair ride a pattern together which could be likened to synchronized dancing, according to Winter. Sillers later paired with Hailee Kennedy to take second place in team sorting, which requires a pair of riders to sort calves into pens.

Other high finishes for the Outlaws included Josie Berg, who placed fifth in barrels and sixth in steer daubing, as well as Hailee Kennedy and Madilyn Larrabee who placed fourth and fifth respectively in pole bending, which is a timed race requiring weaving through six poles spaced just over twenty feet apart. Steer daubing requires horse and rider to chase down a steer, and get a daub of paint on it for time.

Sisters held its own in two four-person events as well. In the hand obstacle relay, Sillers, Robertson, Berg, and Winter got second overall, while the team versatility group of Sillers, Robertson, Berg, and Kennedy got fourth place.

The in hand obstacle relay is when the contestants lead their horses through an obstacle course. Team versatility is also a relay race in which each contestant takes a turn at a challenge including in hand, trail, equitation, and gaming.

According to Winter, the team has been practicing hard since mid-November.

“That means winter evening practice on those cold dark days and trailering horses after practice in the dark, so it really requires true commitment from the kids,” she said. “Having to deal with a live animal makes this a much more complicated sport since every person is also dealing with another athlete: their horse,” she added.

“The kids’ performances in this first meet definitely exceeded my expectations,” said Winter, who is in her third year as the head coach.

She is assisted by Lori Kennedy and Dave Jones.

Support from parents is key to this sport, and Winter wanted to thank all of the team parents for their help. With so many events to prepare for, time is precious at the four team practices held each week. In addition team members do conditioning with their animals outside of regular practice times.

Winter also has special thanks to Kerry Newall and Julie Vosberg for the use of their facility, since the team practices indoors. Mike Pinto of JGW ranch also has made that arena available to the team, for which she is very grateful.

“The support these people provide for the kids is actually beyond generous,” said Winter.

Next up for the Outlaws is a meet on March 20-22 at Brasada Ranch. Winter encourages people to come and watch.

“Who knows, you might get to witness something you’ve never seen before, like a two-person birangle or a Canadian flag race,” she said.