On Saturday, July 16, the Cottage Grove Riding Club hosted the Elmira Buckle Bash, an Elmira OHSET (Oregon High School Equestrian Team) gaming event. Participants of all ages saddled up to negotiate different obstacles astride their four-hooved companions as their times were recorded.
For one challenge – the Poles challenge - points were awarded based on how quickly the riders weaved through upright poles and then raced down the length of the course. For the Individual Flags challenge, picking up and trading out flags was the challenge. Other obstacle features included Speed Barrels and doing the Figure 8.
The Elmira Buckle Bash doubled as a fundraiser for Elmira OHSET, and riders from Cottage Grove, Creswell, and Junction City - among those from other towns - were present to show their support.
Said the Elmira OHSET team advisors and coaches, the expenses associated with the sport are something the athletes must pay out-of-pocket, and this is why the team fundraises all year long. Travel expenses, stall rentals, and competition-associated fees can be financial barriers to high schoolers that want to participate in this lifestyle-altering type of activity.
Those attending the Elmira Buckle Bash event sat observing the competition on rows of bleachers that partially circumvented the riding arena. On this occasion, visitors had the added option of exploring different vendor booths positioned behind the bleachers. On this date, the gaming day challenges occurred simultaneously with the Cowboy Christmas & Tack Sale and made for a special kind of draw.
Audience members and competition participants milled about tables displaying welded horseshoe art, horse saddles, riding equipment, as well as items unrelated to the equestrian sporting world. It was all blue jeans, boots, and buckles. Many of the female riders had their hair tied up in braids in styles similar to their horses’ manes. Among the very young girls, the belts and buckles many of them sported were often wider than their arms.
Competing divisions broken into age groups spanning from 7 & Under to 40 & Over range rotated in and out of the arena as different obstacle courses were prepared and then ran. Participants sat in a row atop their four-hooved companions inside the fence line as they waited to hear their names come over the loudspeakers instructing them to take the field.
Several competitors in the division for those 14 to 18 years spoke to the Sentinel, introducing their horses and sharing that they were residents of Cottage Grove. It was apparent after observing the riders compete that many of them knew each other; as several riders finished running the Poles event, one could easily hear the other equestrian athletes on the sidelines offering encouragement.
The points each rider earned throughout the series of challenges was tallied up at the end of the day, and a winner in each age division was determined. Each winner received a buckled as big as a cup saucer to commemorate the day and the victory.
NOTE: Cover photo by Ladd Halupa Photography.