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Riders come out for O-Mok-See this weekend at fairgrounds

Emily Houck and Molly Rawls pose with their friends Becca and Rhia on the last day of the Island County Fair. Both will participate in today’s O-Mok-See event, a chance for members of the Whidbey Western Games Association to show what they and their horses can do. - Jeff VanDerford
Emily Houck and Molly Rawls pose with their friends Becca and Rhia on the last day of the Island County Fair. Both will participate in today’s O-Mok-See event, a chance for members of the Whidbey Western Games Association to show what they and their horses can do.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

The Whidbey Western Games Association will hold its 12th O-Mok-See this weekend at the Island County Fairgrounds.

At the horse arena during the final day of the Island County Fair, members put on an exhibition of riding skills that wowed those watching.

“This is really exciting and I love doing it,” said Molly Rawls as she cooled down her paint, Rhia, after the barrel-race event. “It gives me a real adrenaline rush, especially on a beautiful day like this.”

Best friend Emily Houck added that her quarter horse Becca has an advantage. “If a horse has a really long stride, they can cover more ground faster,” she explained. “This is a terrific sport, and it’s open to anyone who likes to ride.”

The action starts at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Competitors from all over the Western states come and compete for prizes and recognition for their skills. O-Mok-See is an American Indian word for “horse gaming,” featuring 12 events including barrel riding, scurrying and jumping.

“Scurrying — a short race or sprint — happens very fast and you have to be quick if you want to beat the other riders,” Houck said. “And some horses don’t like jumping much, so you never know how it will go.”

The 140 members of the local club encourage riders of all ages and riding abilities to come and join the program.

The season starts in March with the first show of eight in which riders compete in their age group to collect points at each show. In October, prizes are awarded after all show totals are calculated.

In all, the club gives out more than $20,000 in prizes each year to its members.

The horse gaming association began when a group of riders who wanted local game shows — patterned horse racing in which people of all ages could participate — got together. The group formed so that family and friends could compete and have fun at the same time.

“The association also gives back to the community,” said president John McCreless.

“So far this year, we have given over $1,200 to the Hope therapeutic riding program, $200 to the local Boy Scouts and will be giving $1,250 in educational scholarships,” he said.

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