High Hope Vaulters perform at warm up fest

Rachel Johnson and Chelsey Tegnell, assisted by Lisa Esperum, do their pairs routine on Sampson. - Photo courtesy of Theresa Fischer
Rachel Johnson and Chelsey Tegnell, assisted by Lisa Esperum, do their pairs routine on Sampson.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Theresa Fischer

HOPE Therapeutic Equestrian Program’s High Hope Vaulters, by special invitation from the Mount Rainier Vaulters, performed at the Mount Rainier Winter Warm Up Fest at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds Event Center in Elma.

The fest consisted of 12 equestrian vaulting teams from Washington, Oregon and Canada with skills ranging from novice to gold medal level. Vaulting is a combination of horsemanship, dance and gymnastics on horseback usually performed in sync with music while the horse is moving at various gaits. The goal of vaulting is to move in harmony with the horse.

HOPE vaulters Kaylin Fischer, Ashley Graham, Rachel Johnson and Chelsey Tegnell showed off their skills and routines on HOPE’s own vaulting horse, Sampson, a sweet, huge 2,300-pound part-Percheron. Vaulter and rider Jacque Diaz also attended but was unable to participate in the demonstration because the fairgrounds did not have a horse-accessible wheelchair mounting ramp.

The team — with vaulters ranging in ages from 5 to 21 — was supported on site by volunteers Dale and Lisa Esperum, Lynn Graham, Jennifer Bondelid (dance instructor from Island Dance), and John Burk. Miriam Burk, HOPE’s head instructor and vaulting coach, handled Sampson on the longe line and cued him into various gaits during the performance. High Hope Vaulters brought each of the participating teams a special card made by HOPE students and each vaulter left with a champion award ribbon. Everyone went home with warmed hearts and big smiles.

HOPE is a charitable, nonprofit organization financially supported by public donations that, until recently, focused on recreational or sport riding in which there are English-style riding and horsemanship lessons. Now HOPE offers three days of lessons at multiple sites on Whidbey Island and has included harness driving as well as vaulting.

For more information about becoming a volunteer, donating, sponsoring a horse, serving on the HOPE board or registering a student for the summer session call 221-7656, e-mail, or visit

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