Tumwater WAHSET Drill Team Has Setback, but Comes Out Triumphant, Qualifying for Regionals

WAHSET Regionals is June 15-16, 2024

From left: Fawn Murphy, Madison Niemi, Lily Hallett, Courtney Murphy. Madison and Lily are holding either state champ sorting buckles while standing next to their coaches at the 2024 WAHSET State Meet. Photo courtesy: Kelly Hallett

Those of us who ride know that it can take months, even years, for a horse and rider to really connect and become a great team for competition. Nothing is worse, than, to find out your horse has an injury days before a big competition. That is exactly what happened to Lily Hallett, a sophomore on the Tumwater High School Washington High School Equestrian Team (WAHSET). Despite some setbacks, she went on to compete and do well along with her teammates, including sorting partner Madison Niemi, a senior at Tumwater.

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Lily Hallett Heads to State Despite Horse Injury

“Tuesday night about 9 p.m. at night she went completely lame,” Lily explains about her mare, Bubbles. “And so we had to find something Wednesday because we left Thursday at 7 a.m. So I ended up using Ripley.” Ripley was a horse at her trainer’s barn. The owner of Ripley graciously allowed Lily to take her across the state to compete in drill at the WAHSET state meet May 17-19 at the Grant County Fairgrounds in Moses Lake.

Lily says she had ridden Ripley once before, so had at least ridden her, but she needed to use her for Drill Team, where a large group of rider completes a complicated routine at fast paces.

Ripley came through. The Tumwater Drill Team, led by coaches Lindsey Kale and Lauryn McAferty, came in 4th out of 15 teams, qualifying them for the Pacific Northwest West Invitational Regional Finals June 15-16 in Moses Lake. The top five placings in each event from WAHSET and the Oregon High School Equestrian Team (OHSET) State competitions qualify for Regionals.

Lily says that while Bubbles is doing better and has returned to work, she will ride Ripley for Regionals as Bubbles is not in shape for drill competition.

She started riding about 4 years ago, after her sister – using a PowerPoint presentation – convinced their parents Chris and Kelly Hallett, to do horses as a family. “Lily was a ballerina forever,” Kelly shares. “And then she decided she wanted to ride horses instead of dance ballet.”

Lily also competed at state in versatility, reining and sorting.

Madison and her horse Dusty (Left) and Lily and her horse Scooter (right). Photo courtesy: Kelly Hallett

Tumwater WAHSET Team Wins State in Sorting for First Time in 10 Years

Sorting is a timed event where a team of two riders work together to sort and move cows in numerical order from one pen to another. The Tumwater WAHSET team has not won a sorting state title in 10 years. Courtney Murphy was one member of that team that won a decade ago. Now, she coaches the Tumwater WAHSET team along with Fawn Murphy, her mother. This year, Courtney got to witness the team she coached bring the state title back to her alma mater.

Lily and her teammate Madison won the sorting state title. “It was fun that they were able to get the title for their coach this year,” says Kelly. Madison has been riding all her life.

Tumwater WAHSET Drill team competing
The Tumwater WAHSET Drill Team placed 4th at state and are headed to the Pacific Northwest West Invitational Regional Finals June 15-16, 2024. Photo credit: Julie Alonso

In addition to being the drill captain and competing in sorting, Madison placed 5th in steer daubing and 4th in saddleseat at state, so she will be competing in those events at Regionals as well, with her half-Arabian quarter horse named Dusty. She also competed in in-hand obstacle relay, showmanship, versatility, saddleseat, individual flags and reining at the state meet. “He does it all,” Madison says. “He was a posse horse, and used to just bolt, so I had to retain him and now he does everything. I’ve had him for about 8 years. He isn’t the easiest horse, we’ve had some troubles, but we worked through them and now everybody wants him.”

Maddison is also a member of the Midnight Riders 4-H Club. This will be her final Thurston County Fair as a 4-Her. She plans on keeping her horses and continuing to compete while in college.

Since Madison is graduating, Lily is losing her WAHSET sorting partner after Regionals, but the pair compete in sorting and team penning outside of WAHSET, with Westside Team Penning Club. They often place and bring home a bit of money, usually around $200-300 after entry fees. Lily said that next year the coaches will put her with several teammates, and choose the one she works best with before the first WAHSET competition.

Good luck at regionals, bring home the gold ladies!

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