Washington state barrel racing champion looks ahead to a bright future

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For 90 years, barrel racing has been a staple of American sports. Hailey Saeman, 16, has kept the sport alive and thriving.

A junior at Hockinson High School, Saeman has loved horses since she was 5 years old. She’s turned it into a passion which earned her the title of Grand Champion for the state of Washington.

“At the barn, there was this horse named Jazzy that no one wanted to ride and Hailey got on her and took off riding,” Starlet Saeman, Hailey’s mother, recalls. “Next thing we know, we owned a little pony for five years.”

From there, Saeman upgraded to a bigger horse named Grizz, who she still rides today. Another outcast horse no one wanted, she developed a bond with him. She started training him when she was 11 years old.  As part of the Clark County 4H program for three years, Saeman and her companion won the Washington state championship for barrel racing twice. Although it took a year to train Grizz to ride consistently, Saeman’s determination paid off, as Grizz and her other horse, Lemon, are the ones she rides exclusively in competitions. Not only has she trained them on her own, but she’s gotten them into the 1D division, which is the most advanced level a barrel racing horse can be in.

Lemon, the mare, is 8 years old, while Grizz, the gelding, is 9. They’re both palomino-coated quarter horses.

Through the Hockinson School District, Saeman joined the Washington High School Equestrian Team (WASHET). WASHET opened more doors for her, as she became Grand Champion from all her hard work. While she’s proud of herself, Saeman remains humble.

“It’s very humbling and I think it’s cool that I earned that title,” she said. “But I don’t really like to brag about it and there’s not much more for me to say.”

While being used to Washington state rodeos, she has also competed in the Oregon High School Rodeo from 2020-2021. According to Saeman, Oregon allows you to compete for money, whereas Washington does not. The audience was also more diverse because it was more of an official rodeo and included spectators outside of her school district. While WASHET’s competitions require more formal attire, Oregon High School requires its competitors to wear western gear. 

With her schedule as busy as it is, Saeman has plans for college and beyond. She hopes to become a horse chiropractor and wants to compete in more rodeos on the side. If that plan doesn’t work out, then she would like to be a horse riding instructor, using her talents to help others.

Her mother is proud of her and said Saeman has accomplished everything she has set her mind to. She is more than certain that her daughter has a bright future ahead of her.

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