O-Mok-See storms island

This horse and man are competing in the O-Mok-See competition at the Island County Fairgrounds last weekend. - Gayle Saran / staff photo
This horse and man are competing in the O-Mok-See competition at the Island County Fairgrounds last weekend.
— image credit: Gayle Saran / staff photo

Thundering hooves and an occasional “yee haw” could be heard as horses and riders competed in the sixth annual O-Mok-See at the Island County Fairgrounds last weekend.

O-Mok-See, translated from its Blackfoot origins, means “Big Dance” and is a riding competition that includes number of events pitting man and horse against a clock and other competitors.

The two-day event — which ran Saturday and Sunday — was sponsored by the Whidbey Western Games Association. It drew contestants from as far away as Montana. While on South Whidbey, horse-riding visitors stayed in their RVs, near their horses, at the fairgrounds camp site.

Competitors were separated by age and participated in a total of 12 events. Scores for the events were added to determine final winners.

The Sunday events were keg race, polo turn, stilly figure 8, stake race, key race and two barrel flags.

Sam Woodward of Freeland was a winner in the age 36-24 division. The win comes just weeks after his step father, Walt Werner, won the O-Mok-See national championship. During his riding career, Woodward has earned the nickname, “Saddle Sam” because he has won do many competitions.

All first place winners receive saddles, while all juniors riders — those 12 and under — receive a lead rope for their horses.

Werner, a veteran O-Mok-See competitor, said the activity is a great family sport.

“It’s not like Little League where there are very competitive parents playing through their kids.” Werner said. “O-Mok-See families are very supportive and want to see everyone do well. We welcome anyone who wants to become a part of the group.”

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