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The revitalization of the Wilsonville equestrian program

After three years without a team, Wilsonville High School brought back its equestrian program last year.


Just a year ago, Wilsonville High School was void of an equestrian program for the third year in a row.

“I was surprised Wilsonville being the equestrian community that we are didn’t have a high school team,” current Wilsonville High equestrian advisor Lori Jersey said. “We are a community that supports the equestrian world.”

The absence could’ve had a profound affect on her daughter, Savannah, who began high school at Wilsonville last year.

Because Oregon High School Equestrian Teams, the equestrian organizational body, was cracking down on equestrian athletes choosing to compete for other schools, Savannah would’ve likely missed out on the high school equestrian experience if Wilsonville didn’t reinstate the team.

For Savannah and fellow incoming freshmen and horse lover Emily McCarthy, this was a problem that needed solving.

So they, along with Lori, who volunteered to be the team’s advisor without hesitation, set up a meeting with athletic director Dennis Burke. Burke sympathized with their conundrum and already had an understanding of equestrian while serving various positions at Canby High School. Just like that, Wilsonville had an equestrian team once more.

“Everyone was positive, quick to respond and willing to support me as an adviser,” Jersey said.

But cementing varsity status meant the work was just beginning.

To recruit members, they set up shop at the high school’s club fair.

Savannah and Emily showed off equestrian’s finer points such as the gallant horses and widespread array of events. However, maybe the group’s biggest selling point was the sport’s flexible schedule. Though equestrian is a varsity sport, participants can also play other sports in the spring.

In fact, months later in her first spring as a Wildcat, Savannah played both equestrian and lacrosse.

Plus, though there were no such participants last year, students can choose to help out in a non-competing role.

“This is for people who have a love for horses, like to groom horses and want to help the athletes get ready,” Lori said.

In all, Savannah and Emily were able to attract four girls to join the team.

Afterward, to attain the necessary equipment, they had to fundraise.

“We had some of the equipment like saddle blankets but we needed to do some fundraising to support uniform requirements,” Lori said.

The girls made team posters and went around the community to attract sponsorships. After the work was done, they renewed sponsors of the old Wilsonville teams and gained some new ones as well.

“We had a lot of enthusiasm at the local level,” Jersey said.

Though Lori had success competing in equestrian when she attended North Marion High, she serves more as a facilitator than a teacher. For instruction, the team sets up training sessions with local trainers.

Considering the circumstances, the team had quite a successful first year. McCarthy finished fourth in Oregon and second in the Pacific Northwest in the hand seat over fences event, Emmerson Smith qualified for state in the showmanship event and Caitlyn Kauer qualified for state and won the Tri-River Valley District gold medal in steer daubing. Though she is proud of her athletes individual accomplishments, Lori hopes that with a bigger team, they will be able to perform more team events next year such as team penning, working pairs and in hand obstacle relay.

Lori said six incoming freshman are considering joining the team next season and believes a few upperclassmen might make the jump as well.

“I’m hopeful that we’ve generated an interest and enthusiasm to get upperclassmen to come out,” she said.

However, a couple obstacles make equestrian a tougher sell.

Though equestrian doesn’t require a ton of time-commitment to participate, in order to achieve peak performance, extracurricular practice is a necessity.

“Most of these athletes are taking lessons, going to clinics or doing something on their own,” Lori said.

Also, athletes must have access to a horse and a trailer to compete. Though she admits this is a sizable hurdle, Lori knows many horse-owners in the community who would be willing to donate their horse for practice and competitions.

Lori is excited to be a part of the team’s reinvigoration and wants to continue to help strengthen the program.

Lori said: “Our greatest goal is to create an infrastructure that can sustain for years to come.”




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