Whidbey horse riders compete in national competition

Makenzie Peterson competes in a barrel racing event. Peterson won her age division at the National Saddle Clubs Association National Show Championship.  Photo courtesy of Sonya Peterson. - Photo courtesy of of Sonya Peterson
Makenzie Peterson competes in a barrel racing event. Peterson won her age division at the National Saddle Clubs Association National Show Championship. Photo courtesy of Sonya Peterson.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of of Sonya Peterson

A ninth-place finish wasn’t what Sonya Peterson expected before Mother’s Day. But then, it wasn’t the Mother’s Day Sonya expected.

It was a case of wrong place, wrong time. She was with her horse when five other horses, strangers to hers, started fighting. A cut liver, a punctured lung and three broken ribs led to three days in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center.

“It’s not something you want to have happen very much,” Peterson said.

Peterson literally got back on the horse two months later. She resumed training and riding on the same horse that left its hoof print in her chest.

“When you’re older and you quit riding fast,” Peterson said, “It takes a little bit to get back on and ride fast again.”

Peterson and her daughter, Makenzie Peterson, competed at the recent National Saddle Clubs Association National Championship Show. The Whidbey Western Games Association sent 31 riders from Whidbey Island to Kalispell, Mont.

Set up as an individual competition, each club represents its state. Riders from as far away as Florida made the trip to compete against the other 400 riders.

Families traveled to Kalispell for the weeklong event. The Petersons, from Freeland, stayed at the campground with the other Whidbey families. Sonya Peterson remembered seeing generations of riders at the competition, from grandparents to grandchildren.

“It’s really a great family sport,” she said.

Winning was in the Peterson family at the NSCA championship. Makenzie Peterson won her age division and received an engraved trophy saddle.

“It was a pretty good surprise,” Sonya Peterson said.

O-Mok-See, or pattern racing, includes relay racing, barrel racing and arena racing, among others. All events are timed competitions.

Sonya Peterson explained that watching events from the sidelines looks daunting because of the speed and maneuvers of horse and rider.

“You can’t safety up and go easy,” she said. “You’ve got to go for it.”

Sonya Peterson placed ninth in the senior women’s division.

“I was happy that I could just place,” she said. “Top nine, I’m happy with that.”

Makenzie Peterson began riding horses in the second grade, Sonya Peterson said.

“She was on a horse when she was probably three days old,” she said.

Whidbey was well represented. Five riders placed in the top 10 of their division, including the Petersons. Ellie Thompson finished third in the 7-and-under group. Holly Fairbrook finished eighth in the women’s division. And Sam Woodward placed fifth in the senior men’s group.

Shayna Grant won the royalty competition and was crowned rodeo queen.

“I was just myself the whole time,” Grant said.

Pam Grant, her mother, became teary when she spoke about it.

“I was shocked,” Pam Grant said. “I’m very proud.”

Shayna Grant, 17, is going to be a senior at South Whidbey High School. Her senior year will be filled with rodeo events and appearances as rodeo queen. It was her first time competing in a royalty pageant and at a national O-Mok-See event.

“It was kind of overwhelming at first,” she said. “It was more about fun for me than competition.”

The royalty competition consisted of riding, public speaking, decorating the horse’s stall, service and pattern racing.

“I didn’t go there with the motivation everyone else did,” she said. “It was really fulfilling.”

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