Savannah Stokes
PHS senior Savannah Stokes said she most enjoys the faster events. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

High school equestrian competitors from around the state will come together this week to put their skills to the test in Redmond, including a group from Philomath that has qualified in several individual and team events.

Entering the arena on the state stage provides an opportunity to showcase abilities beyond the district meets. Seniors Savannah Stokes and Haley Sumners, and freshman Alyssa Kvidt — three of the six members competing on the Philomath team — won’t let pressure get in the way of their fun.

“It’s pretty exciting once you get there and honestly, it’s not as stressful as the district meets are,” said Sumners, who competed at state as a freshman. “It’s kind of a lot less pressure and you know, you go out there and you do good or you just go out there and have fun — and it’s whatever.”

Stokes also competed at state as a freshman and said it can be nerve-wracking but it’s an exciting experience.

“It’s more of an open arena and you get to feel more speed and see the crowd more because it’s angled up as the seats are,” Stokes, who competes on “Jazz” for cows and drill and “Lady” in the gaming events, said before a practice on Sunday evening.

Kvidt is approaching her first state appearance in much of the same fashion.

“I’m trying to not care too much about how it goes,” she said. “I’m a freshman and I have three more years to do it … so I’m just going to just do the best I can.”

The OHSET (Oregon High School Equestrian Teams) State Championships at the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center will run Thursday through Sunday. Jordan Payne and Karenza Martin serve as the Philomath team’s coaches.

Alyssa Kvidt
PHS freshman Alyssa Kvidt is headed to state after qualifying in a team-high eight events — three individual and five as part of teams. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Kvidt qualified in eight events — three individual and five as part of a team. In the individual categories, she will compete in hunt seat equitation, showmanship and keyhole. In the Willamette district competitions this spring, she earned a silver medal in hunt seat equitation and a bronze medal in keyhole.

Kvidt said she enjoys the sport while spending time with the animals.

“I’ve been involved with this since I was like born pretty much, so I kind of just got raised with it and it’s just fun,” Kvidt said.

The most challenging part of competing for Kvidt is keeping emotions in check.

“Like when it doesn’t exactly go how you planned it to, it’s really hard to cope with it sometimes,” she said. “Especially when you work at it for a long time.”

Haley Sumners
Philomath senior Haley Sumners qualified for state in seven events. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Stokes and Sumners both qualified in seven events. Individually, Stokes will compete in barrels and figure 8 while Sumners competes in in-hand trail, reining and saddle seat equitation.

Sumners and Stokes both competed as freshman in 2019 and got in about half of a season in 2020 before the pandemic. 

“I think the thing I find most challenging about it is not giving up,” said Sumners, who had been riding since about age 10. “The thing I love about it is the reward you get after you face that challenge and beat it.”

Stokes said she enjoys the faster gaming events, like figure 8 and barrels.

“I like that you can always improve on something … you can never learn too much or know too much,” said Stokes, who added that the most challenging part of competing is having patience.

In the district competitions, Sumners, who competes on “Lexi,” was a silver medal winner in all three of her state-qualifying individual categories — in-hand trail, reining and saddle seat equitation. Stokes was a silver medal winner in barrels.

“I’m happy with the horses and how far we’ve come but it’s kind of sad to see it come to an end,” said Stokes, who started getting into equestrian about the time she was in the fourth grade. “So we’ll see what happens next.”

As far as favorite events, Sumners enjoys reining individually and cow sorting as part of a team. Kvidt, who competes on “Candy” in most categories and “Dash” for drill, said she prefers performance over speed when it comes to events.

“It’s just more technical and more of what I have to focus on,” she said. “But that being said, I also like the team events a lot.”

PHS equestrian team
Philomath High’s equestrian team puts in work at a recent practice in the indoor arena at the Benton County Fairgrounds. From left, Savannah Stokes, Alyssa Kvidt, Brooke McKinley, Madison Lehmeyer, Haley Sumners and Allie Gilmour. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Three Corvallis students that are part of the Philomath team are also headed to state. Crescent Valley freshman Allie Gilmour qualified in five events (barrels, keyhole, pole bending, team Canadian flag race, drill team). Corvallis High freshman Brooke McKinley also made it in five events (horsemanship, working rancher, team in hand obstacle relay, team versatility, drill team). Crescent Valley junior Madison Lehmeyer qualified in one event (drill team).

In the district, Gilmour earned gold medals in keyhole and pole bending, plus a bronze in barrels. McKinley was a silver medalist for horsemanship and bronze medalist for working rancher.

Allie Gilmour
Allie Gilmour, a freshman at Crescent Valley that competes with the Philomath team, earned two individual gold medals during the district season. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Philomath had the most success in the Willamette District’s three meets in the team events. The team claimed gold medals for working pairs, Canadian flag race, versatility and drill. They also had a silver medal showing for the in hand obstacle relay.

Kvidt and Stokes run together in the working pairs category. The Canadian flag race team includes Stokes, Sumners, Kvidt and Gilmour; versatility includes Stokes, Sumners, Kvidt and McKinley; drill features Stokes, Sumners, Kvidt, Gilmour, McKinley and Lehmeyer; and in hand obstacle relay includes Stokes, Sumners, Kvidt and McKinley.

The equestrian team, which celebrated the district season with an awards banquet last week, was scheduled to leave Wednesday for Redmond.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.