WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA, October 24, 2022 – Equine Affaire’s most exciting feature challenge, the Versatile Horse & Rider Competition, returns this fall to the coliseum at the Eastern States Exposition on Friday, November 11! Every year, dozens of horsemen and horsewomen apply to compete in the VHRC, and every year, we narrow it down to 25 competitors. This year’s class of daring horsemen and horsewomen will race the clock and each other to complete an exciting course of obstacles. Every obstacle is designed to test communication between horse and rider as well as each competitor’s horsemanship skills and athletic prowess. Their efforts will be evaluated by our celebrity judge, Scott Purdum; narrated by our emcee, Steve Lantvit; and applauded by an audience of excited fans! Twenty-five horses and riders will compete, but only one pair will earn the title of the 2022 Massachusetts Versatile Horse & Rider Champions and the grand prize of $2,500 in cash and a champion rosette. Reserve, third, and fourth will take home rosettes and cash prizes of $1,500, $1,000, and $500, respectively; fifth through tenth will take home rosettes.
Ready to meet the first five competitors for this year?
April Baronas and I Can’t Eeven, 7 year old Mustang mare
April Baronas hails from Attleboro, MA. This year, she’ll be competing on I Can’t Eeven, or Eevee, a Mustang from the Little Owyhee HMA in Nevada. Eevee is owned by Carole Mayer and has been trained by April. April has been riding Eevee for four years, competing in trail, obstacles, dressage, and hunter/jumper classes in Open and adult divisions and at training level. In Eevee’s first show season, the pair earned many top ten placings at local, regional, and national virtual shows. They’ve gone on to win many other awards and accolades in their time together.
Eevee is the first “green project” that April has ever taken part in, and she describes her time with the mare as “a journey of growth for both of us.” April has competed in the VHRC four different times previously, and she’s excited for the chance to compete on a horse that she has trained and guided herself with the ultimate goal of taking her to Equine Affaire.
Melanie Davidson and Willow, 18 year old Haflinger mare
Melanie and Willow are jills-of-all-trades. Melanie wasn’t looking to buy a horse, but a friend mentioned needing help with a new pony. After working with Willow for six months, the pair became an inseparable team. Now together for five years, they’ve dabbled in almost every discipline together and have enjoyed jumping, fox hunting, trail riding, gymkhana, drill team, mounted shooting, dressage, and more. Melanie and Willow have also performed in many reenactments and cavalry demos with swords, lances, pistols, and bow and arrows. Willow has even pulled cannons and carts.
“There are not many horses I’d call bombproof, but Willow is the closest. She will go over, under, and through anything I point her at without hesitation,” Melanie says.
Megan Harmon and Doc Highbrow Dually, 9 year old American Quarter Horse gelding
From Windham, Maine, Megan and “Dually” have been a team for the last three years. They compete in Western Dressage, ranch riding, and versatility events, and also enjoy beach rides and trail riding. Dually has a huge personality and enjoys scratches, begging for snacks (his favorite is salt & vinegar chips). and playing with his plastic barrels or his Mega Jolly Ball. He’s a little horse with a whole lot of heart and always gives his best try at whatever Megan asks of him. Megan says he’s the absolute best partner she could ever ask for.
Franny Galvin-Hynes and Super Nova, 6 year old Fjord-Quarter Horse mare
Franny Galvin-Hynes has been riding since she could walk, training horses since she was twelve, and has won multiple championships in Ontario Extreme Cowboy and at Kentucky’s Retired Racehorse Project in competitive trail, show jumper, and ranch work. She’s competed successfully in several TIP Mustang Challenges, loves to ride in local hunter/jumper shows and Western games, enjoys trail riding with friends, and this summer, started learning team penning and ranch roping.
Super Nova is a 6-year-old Fjord-Quarter Horse who came to Franny as a somewhat scruffy yearling – but Franny saw her potential and they’ve been a dynamic duo ever since. Last summer, they hit the Ontario Extreme Cowboy circuit for their first full season and finished the year as Maturity Champions. This summer, they decided to give Ranch Roping a try and found it’s a very good fit – they have wins in the open class and teamed up to win a Cowboy Relay Challenge Buckle!
Franny first made the trip from Canada to Equine Affaire over five years ago and knew immediately she had to compete in the Versatile Horse and Rider competition one day. She made that dream come true earlier this year in Ohio, placing 6th overall with her beloved Super Nova, and is back this fall to move their names up the leaderboard!
Kendra Gorham and Drummers Tango, 20 year old American Paint Horse mare
Seven years ago, Kendra had to euthanize her heart horse. Heartbroken, she decided she was never going to own another horse again – and then “Tango” waltzed into her life. Then just thirteen years old, Tango, a fiery, smart, and strong little mare, proved to be exactly what the doctor ordered. Kendra purchased Tango as a wedding gift to herself and embarked on a whole new journey of love and trust with her new horse.
Although Tango is twenty years old this year, Kendra says she’s still shining in the show ring, has the heart of a winner, and never, ever stops trying. Kendra is thankful to have the chance to ride in this year’s competition with her beloved Tango.
Are you excited yet? We’ve got twenty more competitors to introduce to you before November 11th comes around and every one of them has an amazing story to tell! Watch this page for all the updates, then plan on attending the Versatile Horse and Rider Competition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, on November 11th, from 1-5 pm in the US Equestrian Arena in the coliseum, to see who will win!