The Tumwater High School Equestrian Team has brought home eight of the past nine titles in state mounted drill team competitions.
And in late June, the team won the first-ever Pacific Northwest Invitational Championship in Redmond, Oregon.
“Everyone was so excited,” said team captain Courtney Murphy, 18. “And it was probably one of the proudest moments of my life.”
The organization is called the Tumwater High School Equestrian Team, but don’t let the name fool you. Its 30 riders hail from a variety of schools, including ones in Olympia, Tenino, Rainier -- and yes, both high schools in Tumwater, according to coach Marcia Hallmann.
The program is not a recognized sport at Tumwater High; it’s supported by sponsors, parents and community donors, she said. It’s affiliated with the Washington High School Equestrian Teams, which represents more than 40 teams across the state.
Members of the team compete in a variety of events such as dressage, barrels and obstacle relays. Twelve of the riders make up the club’s mounted drill team, which carries flags while riding intricate choreographed routines to music.
“We are judged on timing, spacing and alignment,” said drill team captain Zoie Galloway.
Hallman said the team has a mix of riders with different experience levels.
“There are some that are new that have don’t even own their horses, and there are some who have been riding since they could walk,” she said.
Fifteen-year-old Tiffany Townley, who is home schooled, recently finished her first season with the team.
She said she enjoyed it because she learned a lot about horsemanship skills, and made some great friends, too.
“Before I was even on the team, I felt like I was,” she said.
Drill team coach Troy Valentine said the program is successful because it puts a big emphasis on teamwork.
“We don’t even talk about winning or losing,” he said. “We talk about preparing yourself with practice, and if you’re prepared, winning and losing takes care of itself.”