(Update: Adding video)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- In 1993, Oregon High School Equestrian Teams (OHSET) started with a vision for high school students. That vision saw a competitive outlet for students who loved horses and sought equal recognition to other athletic programs.
By 2022, 112 high schools and hundreds of riders were participating from schools across the state. Being an equestrian athlete is now a major part of the high school experience for many.
It's up to each individual not only to physically condition their horse, but to build a close, competitive relationship as well.
Abigail Russel from Ridgeview High took part in a recent cow-sorting practice.
"I love OHSET," she told me recently. "I mean, we have gotten a lot better. I have only had her for about a year and a half, and our bond has gotten a lot stronger in the last couple months. Definitely helps take your mind off school!"
Regular team practices happen about once a week, but it's up to each student to practice and exercise their horse almost daily. Riders and events do get lots of support from humans as well -- parents play a integral role, as well as coaches and volunteers.
One parent, Jennifer Bomke, says; " I think that is one of the biggest benefits is learning how to care for another animal, outside of yourself."
Every high school has a team, and competitions include incredible variety of disciplines a few of which are hunt-seat, showmanship, barrel racing, and the two-person cow sorting practice I watched on this day.
Horse ownership is not required -- you just have to love horses enough to be dedicated. Reach out to your local coach, as it is possible to find a mount to lease or borrow. The season begins November 1st and state championships are in June.