South Valley equestrians compete at Oregon Horse Center

EUGENE, Ore. -- The region's high school equestrian athletes competed Saturday at the South Valley Districts hosted by the Oregon Horse Center.

The 17 district high school teams were trotting to the top, competing in everything from showmanship to choreographed performances.

District Chair Sue Lowe said many of the students have been working with their horses for a long time to establish cues - or directional aids - to complete routines.

"The smaller the aids of your legs and your hands and your voice, the better you score," said Lowe.

In May, the top three athletes in each event will go to the state championships in Redmond.

The prize is exciting, but every rider we spoke with said the bond between horse and rider means much more.

"He protects me and that's how he shows love," said competitor Destinee Redding.

The competition continued through Sunday at the Oregon Horse Center.