After three days of riding, Lebanon resident Claire Barnett and her mount Patrick trotted away with a ribbon for first place in her skill level in Philomath for the Inavale Horse Trials.
"I got a huge ribbon," Barnett said. "And I qualified for championships in Aspen Barns in Washington. And I got so much stuff…A bag of really great stuff. A swag bag! I've never gotten one of those before."
The Horse Trials included one equestrian discipline per day for three days. In dressage, horse and rider performed a series of predetermined movements demonstrating strength, grace and training. The cross country jumping competition featured galloping horses on a course filled with jumps over water and ditches. Show jumping required competitors to clear fences as a test of endurance.
The United States Eventing Association sponsored the event, the only one of its kind in Oregon. Local riders like Barnett reveled in the chance to avoid traveling to compete.
"My daughter was there," Barnett said." My husband was there. They never get to see me compete… People from home actually got to come and see me because it was so close to home. That's what made it so amazing."
Barnett's love of riding comes from her childhood in England.
"I fox hunted since I was eight years old," Barnett said. "Fox hunting is when you scent the hounds on the fox and they chase the fox over countryside, over jumps, ditches, stone walls and everywhere. I got the adrenalin rush and that's how came I do what I do."
Barnett's partner is Partick, a nine year old former race horse and grandson of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Barnett and Patrick have been taking lessons and practicing five days a week for the last five years.
"He's just a soft personality which makes him very trainable,” Barnett said. “Even though it's taken us a long time to get here, because race horses don't mature mentally until they are about six or seven years old…I stuck it out and these last couple of years it's been a complete change. He's become amazing!"
The future is bright for Patrick.
"He will be ten this year," Barnett said. "Theoretically, he could probably keep doing this up to his twenties."
With the win at Inavale, Barnett earned the right to compete for a championship at her current skill level of Training. But, she also qualified to move up to the next competition level, known as Preliminary. She will likely forgo the championship event in favor of changing levels.
"I don’t want to stay at this level just to go to the championships," Barnett said. "I don't have anything to prove. I want to move up."
For Barnett, the sport is about more than just levels and ribbons.
"Every time I go out I question myself," Barnett said. "What am I doing? This is a dangerous sport? But then when I finish, it's like 'that's why I do it, right there! It's such a crazy high! I'm a little bit of an adrenalin junkie."
Barnett will travel Kalispell, Montana to compete for her next competition in the third week of July.