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Scappoose and St. Helens are sending riders to state championships next month.

COURTESY PHOTO: STACY BLACKBURN - St. Helens equestrians Gwen Daoust, Madison Blackburn and Becca Snook appear at the final district meeting of the 2021-22 season in April.St. Helens equestrians took first in the district this season, followed by Scappoose in second.

Both teams will send riders to the Oregon High School Equestrian Teams state championship next month, to compete in both individual and team events.

St. Helens sisters Madison and Taylor Blackburn each earned district medals in multiple events. The duo took gold in the two-man birangle and, joined by Brooke Burnham and Lindsay Weltsch, took gold in team versatility.

Taylor Blackburn took silver in steer daubing, gold in figure-8 and silver in pole bending. Madison Blackburn took bronze in steer daubing, figure-8 and barrels.COURTESY PHOTO: KARLYNN KENNY - Scappoose competitors stand with their equines at an April OHSET meet.

Scappoose junior Ada Kay Evans took first in reining at each of the three Northwest district meets this season.

Reining "shows the level of control you can have through all the speeds, all the maneuvers," Evans said. "It's very hard, definitely very competitive. It takes a lot from the horse as well; the horses have to be very athletic."

Evans is also headed to state in working pairs with senior Karlynn Kenny, which the two only started competing in this season.

"It's a lot different than anything we've ever done before," Evans said. "It kind of brought some fun into the riding."

Kenny is also going to state in hunt seat equitation, reining and Western horsemanship.

At all three district meets, Scappoose's Mollie Sundin took first in working rancher, followed by Kenna Olson in second.

Nine Scappoose riders — almost the entire team — qualified for state. St. Helens is sending 12 riders — also almost the full team.

St. Helens coach Julie Sandstrom said the team did "exceptionally well. We qualified for state in multiple events; we got gold in multiple events as well."

Sandstrom said the team has fluctuated in size over the years but hasn't seen a huge drop in turnout this year, unlike many other teams.COURTESY PHOTO: STACY BLACKBURN - St. Helens riders attend a district meet in March 2022 at the Yamhill County Fairgrounds.

While the Northwest OHSET district used to have roughly 100 riders, it now has close to half of that, Sandstrom said.

Scappoose head coach Hailey Zweigart said the team has a "different dynamic of rider this year."

"Scappoose, in the past, has primarily been a gaming, barrel racing-type team. And this year, we are primarily a performance, showing team," Zweigart said.

Zweigart said the team environment has also changed.

"Equestrian tends to be an individual sport, and OHSET allows it to be a team sport," Zweigart said. "In the past, there have been clashes of personality, and this team is so special in that they get along. … When we need help, they all step up."

Scappoose only has one senior this year, while St. Helens has five.COURTESY PHOTO: KARLYNN KENNY - Scappoose's Alana Garrison rides her horse at an April district meet.

At St. Helens, "we have a couple new riders that showed great improvement over the three meets," Sandstrom said.

Even some upperclassmen are fairly new to OHSET.

Juniors like Evans only had one meet as freshmen, before the pandemic hit and the Northwest district paused meets for what turned out to be a two-year break.

Evans also competes in Oregon Reining Horse Association shows, but other OHSET riders have more limited competitive experience.

"I never really got the full season experience, qualifying for state and all that," Evans said of her underclassmen years. "I'm very happy that we got to have all of (the meets). It was really cool to see all the people come back."

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