High School Senior Sarah Payne Realizes Dream of Competing in Jumping with Washington High School Equestrian Team State

Sarah Payne and Diamond jumping at jumping at Rolling Rock. Photo credit: Galen Payne

Vancouver School of Arts and Academics senior Sarah Payne had her moment in the sun during her last season of competing with the Washington High School Equestrian Team (WAHSET) when she qualified for jumping with her horse Diamond at the State competition in May.

Sarah has been riding for 12 years and started competing four years ago. Before high school, Sarah says she did mostly trail riding but she wanted to get into showing, so she joined WAHSET.

During her sophomore year, her family bought Diamond, a green-broke mustang mare. “I patterned Diamond in gaming – she love poles and barrels, she is from a ranch so tried cow events,” explains Sarah. “I was told she did jumping in the extreme mustang challenge years prior, so I wanted to explore that. Teaching her to jump wasn’t hard at all, she loved it, but getting use to an English saddle took a while.”

Sarah Payne and Diamond compete in several events, including barrel racing. Photo credit: Jesse Maier

The Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge is where trainers take an untouched mustang adopted from the range and have 100 days to train them. But even though she had gone through this bootcamp of sorts, Diamond was still rough around the edges when it came time to compete with Sarah.

“When I first got Diamond, she was very green, she had never been shown or left the ranch,” Sarah shares. “She was petrified to enter a new arena. I took her to so many shows, junior year we were jumping at WAHSET, with just a few months together. We have qualified for state, jumping, drill, in hand obstacle relay, and Canadian flags really. Junior year state didn’t go great. That was Diamond’s first time at Moses Lake and she freaked when she got in the arena and didn’t know what to do. This year we wanted to get to state and be able to compete.”

At the WASHET meet 3, Sarah Payne and Diamond practiced for the American flag presentation for the senior salute. Photo credit: Jesse Maier

WAHSET State Dreams Come True

Sarah worked hard to get Diamond ready for all the demands of a show, including the potentially scary arena, knowing State would once again be held at Moses Lake. “To get to state my coach and I continued going to open shows and get her exposure,” explains Sara. “I was very excited when I qualified because it had been a rough year on both Diamond and I.”

And this time, Sarah was able to complete her ride as state. “My ride left me quite shaken,” Sarah recalls. “Diamond threw a fit getting in the arena and getting over the safety jumps, but after we got in course she flew over each jump without hesitation. I walked out happy, relieved, but also very stressed.”

Sarah Payne and Diamond jumping at WAHSET state. Photo credit: Lisa Threatt

Then Sarah learned that, so far, she was the only one of two that jumped a clear round – meaning no poles knocked down or refusals. “I was shocked. I knew Diamond could jump but I never thought she could compare to the horse that have trained for years,” she adds.

“I could not be more proud of Sarah for stepping up and jumping without me this weekend while I’m home taking care of baby,” said her former coach Lou Davidson on a Facebook post. He coached her on the Ridgefield drill team her junior year and is now her private trainer. His drum mare had foaled that week, making him miss the state competition.

Sarah Payne and Diamond performing with their drill team at the WASHET meet 2. Photo credit: Lisa Threatt

Sarah ended up tied for sixth place out of 18 riders and being was named first alternate for 2023 Pacific North West Invitational regionals happening June 16-18, 2023 at the Deschutes Expo in Oregon. And she has since learned that she will be competing at Regionals in jumping!

“I was kinda in shock about being first alternate – never thought Diamond could place so well at a high-level show,” Sara says.

After graduating this month, Sarah plans on attending Clark College and then transferring to Washington State University Pullman to study pre-vet. She was awarded a WAHSET scholarship, which will help her pay for her college tuition.

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