HORSEPLAY: Gala’s, Four-H and tenting for horses on the Peninsula


AFTER THE WORLD Knowing it stalled at the height of the pandemic, it’s been nice to see the 4-H Horse Club’s membership growth this year at both the Jefferson County and Clallam County fairs.

Entering the Jefferson County Fair through the gate next to the horse arena, I was pleased to see the familiar face of Penny Doan, who judged the horse classes including English, Western, Showmanship, Equestrian, Jumping and Dressage, along with a fair board Member – and top barrel racer – Glenda Meek, who later judged the games. When I spoke to Doan later that day, she was thrilled to also be a judge at last week’s Clallam County Fair.

Let’s hope that many more young people will participate in September after school starts. For more information on 4-H horse clubs in Clallam County, contact Melanie Greer at 360-417-2398 or [email protected] In Jefferson County, contact Sarah Pederson at 360-379-5610 ext. 208 or sarah.pederson

Did you know you don’t have to have a horse to join Back Country Horsemen? If you use a trail for walking, hiking, or biking, consider joining to help with trail construction and maintenance.

I was actually at the fairgrounds on Saturday, August 8th because I volunteered to help out at the BCH Buckhorn Range Chapter information booth along with member and trail warrior Bob Hoyle. Before I say more, I want to make it clear that I support our three local chapters equally: Buckhorn Range, Peninsula and Mt. Olympus.

That being said, Hoyle has done a tremendous amount of work building, repairing and maintaining trails. Most recently, he worked with others to clear trails at LaBar Horse Camp near Shelton. This is in addition to running his landscape business. He’s been doing trail work for decades, and unsurprisingly the man is tiring. He would really appreciate having younger trail warriors to help him out.

This Saturday, however, Hoyle was more concerned about an adverse change made to Olympic National Forest signage at LaBar Horse Camp.

“There used to be a sign telling others it was a horse camp. Storage use only. Now the sign just says ‘camping,’ like it’s open to all,” Hoyle said. “Instead of saying it’s a horse camp, they’re now saying it’s a run-of-the-mill campsite sometimes used by horse people – and we have to fight back!”

Located in the Hood Canal Ranger District at Forest Service Road 2353, LaBar is one of only two horse camps in the Olympic National Forest (the other is Mt. Muller, just west of Lake Crescent) and the only one in Jefferson County. Both were built by riders for riders and are the only two ONF campgrounds on the peninsula that allow truck, trailer and horse camping.

Hoyle has reason to be excited. This isn’t the first time ONF has opened horse camps to everyone, meaning those without stock. He recalls camping with horses at the nearby Brown Creek Campground until “we got kicked out and then we were told we could build another one in LaBar.”

Other longtime members have similar stories to tell.

Worse, he found it difficult to find anyone working for ONF to complain now that the Quilcene Ranger station has been shut down.

“We used to speak and work with the local rangers but now the offices are closed; they’re closed,” Hoyle said. “So there’s no one to go in and physically talk to. And when you call, you get a recording. So I no longer know who to contact or who to talk to.”

That’s when I saw Rep. Mike Chapman stroll by. I knew from previous conversations that he was for multi-purpose trails that include horses.

“Hi Mike Chapman,” I sang. “We have a question for you.”

“Hi Karen,” he replied after a quick glance at my name tag. With all the people he meets and greets every week, I didn’t expect him to remember my name. After explaining the issue, Hoyle suggested contacting Olympic Peninsula U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer since he had received The Great American Outdoor Grant, a nearly $3 million grant , which includes funding the maintenance backlog required at ONF and other public lands.

He figured the best way to contact Kilmer was to email his executive assistant, Andrea Roper [email protected]

Unfortunately, keeping trails and camps open to horses is a constant problem. One reason for this is that city people make the decisions in the committees.

The Miller Peninsula has long been a popular spot for biking, and we fear we’ll be sidelined as the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission moves closer to developing a long-term plan for what it described in a June 29 memo as a “2,800” designated vacant acres.”

They want to turn it into a tourist destination park – including a lodge and large RV sites.

Well, there goes the neighborhood, right? Of course, we shared our concerns with Chapman about Miller Peninsula’s upcoming master plan.

“I spoke to some people who were concerned that there might be a big lodge and big RV sites going up there,” he said. “They asked what I think the position of the state will be. I’d say there will still be trails and horses and 10 campgrounds at most. But not the big lodge or lots of pitches for big RVs because that much traffic wouldn’t work there.”

Referring to the Back Country Horsemen, he said, “You guys built so many trails there and we have to respect that.”

I reminded him that it was Back Country Horsemen who were working to create the large parking lot with ample parking for horse trailers, a ramp for people with disabilities to easily mount a horse, and a vault toilet.

“The state is going through a budget process,” Chapman explained. “But the changes don’t include a lodge or dining area because that would take away local businesses, and we can’t have an army of traffic coming off the motorway.” The area can’t handle it and the locals who live on Diamond Point want their homes to remain quiet.”

To comment on future planning for the Miller Peninsula, send an email [email protected]; Post PO Box 4250, Olympia, WA 98504 or phone 360-902-8656.

As Chapman continued to search the aisles, I paused to snap some photos of the 4-H youths competing in barrel racing and pole bending.

In the 20+ years that I’ve been photographing gaming events, I’ve never understood why the 4-H rules require a white powder line to be placed at the start/finish line. It doesn’t make sense for either the horses or the riders since in game events like Figure 8 and Keyhole the horses are taught never to touch the white line with their hooves or they will be disqualified. And I can confirm that a trained gaming horse enjoys the feeling of a job well done that comes with a good, fast and clean run.

Therefore, almost every horse that competes in 4-H games will attempt to jump over the white line when beginning and ending the run. It’s almost comical but sad because the games are timed events and skipping the line results in longer run times.

When I got back to the booth, I found Hoyle and Chapman continuing the discussion of the Miller Peninsula with Jeff Chapman, a Buckhorn Range member and Jefferson County surveyor.

“My constant focus is on preserving for future generations the land that we have all used and enjoyed,” said Mike Chapman. “Once gone, gone forever.” Jeff Chapman and Hoyle heartily agreed.

prize ride

Join the BCH Peninsula Chapter’s Olympic Spirit Prize Ride on Saturday, September 10 from 8:00am to 8:00pm at Layton Hill Horse Camp, just east of Sequim at 2514 Chicken Coop Road.

The grand prize is a $300 Visa gift card. For $30, you can ride a three-hour, 8-mile scenic loop along with four raffle tickets.

Don’t want to ride but have a chance to win a prize? Simply pay the $30 online for the four raffle tickets, but to win you must be present in person for the 3pm draw at camp.

Riding the trail has some rocky areas so your horse will need to wear shoes or hoof boots.

Lunch is $10 and is a fundraiser for the Ranahan Pony Club.

Dry camping is also possible.

Register online at Calendar — Peninsula Chapter — Back Country Horsemen of Washington (

For more information, contact Kim Merrick at [email protected] or 253-261-6188.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

If you have an equine event, clinic or seminar that you would like listed please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call them at 360-460-6299.

Cassie Moore’s horse Louis jumps over the white line at the start of her pole bending run August 8 during the 4-H game show (as an adult in the open class) at the Jeffco Fair August 8. The 4-H horse rules prescribe a cue in front of the line to be placed at the start/finish line, which often confuses the horse. (Karen Griffiths/For Peninsula Daily News)