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Duo reigns on last day with a little horsepower

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | June 2, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — This is one horse tale that will go down in school lore.

After all, it isn't every day that students forgo driving their car or taking the bus for a different kind of horsepower — one that comes with four hooves and a tail.

But that is exactly what seniors Kelly Whitney and Taylor Peck did, opting to take advantage of an archaic Idaho law that allows students to ride to school.

"I think it was just like a fun way to like exit our senior year on our last day of school and we get to hang out with our horses all day," Whitney said. "And that's kinda like the last thing that a lot of the kids can remember their senior year that their classmates rode their horse to school and so just a lasting memory for a bunch of us."

Like Whitney, Peck said she loved the idea of riding to class on her last day of high school.

"I have a ton of like little cousins that go here," she said. "And so I'm hoping that their senior year that they find the encouragement to come and ride their horse to school, too."

The pair set their plans in motion, gaining the approval and support of their parents. Getting up early, Whitney and Peck got their horses, Newt and Katie, ready and staged in the Coffelt parking lot.

Quickly saddling the horses, the duo headed down Division, crossing to Kessa's, initially planning to get a cup of coffee but putting that on hold to ensure they arrived at school on time.

The horses were initially a little uncertain about being on asphalt and concrete but quickly adapted to the adventure, the pair said.

"Taylor's horse [Katie] didn't know what to think about the asphalt turning into concrete and my horse [Newt] was looking at her like, 'Yeah, I'm not going to do that if you're not going to do that,'" Whitney said. "But they got to be pretty good by the end."

The pair turned heads and gathered plenty of attention when they rode up, after a quick stop at Sandpoint Middle School where Whitney's mom, Liz Flanigan works, to say hello.

"The other kids were saying, 'oh my gosh, that's a horse' and some people asked if that is a real horse that you're riding," Whitney said.

While the pair told assistant principal Kari Garner of their plans, it was a surprise for principal Jacki Crossingham.

"She was a good sport," Whitney said. "She just whipped out her phone immediately and started videoing us."

The pair said they loved spending time with their horses and found it fun to bring them into town.

"It was like a good last memory of our last week of high school," Whitney said.

Not only did they get to greet everyone as they arrived at school, they liked that the school's staff and their fellow students were coming up, "loving on their horses and petting them."

The duo got their idea from Whitney's stepdad, Riley Flanigan, who along with friends Nicholas Hawkins and Adrian Mitchell, discovered the old Idaho law that requires administrators to tend to the horses if students ride them to class during the last week of the school year.

Both Peck and Whitney said they would love for the tradition to continue, saying the ride has created a special memory.

Superintendent Dr. Becky Meyer, who was SHS principal at the time, said she loved the creativity of Flanigan, Hawkins and Mitchell. So much so that she cared for the horses and later displayed their autographed picture in the office, where it has been displayed since the 2007 ride.

"It was such a hoot," Meyer said. "I was so lucky to be the principal the first time around when this obscure law was brought to my attention and I am happy to be here when the family tradition is carried on. How fun to live in Sandpoint!"

"[They] have been dreaming of this day … as they have completed their senior year at SHS with grace, dignity and, of course, grit," Whitney's mom, Liz Flanigan said. "They rewarded themselves with a leisurely ride to school. Kelly is following in her stepdad's hoof prints and continuing the tradition."