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W. SPRINGFIELD, MA, October 17, 2023 — Next month, Equine Affaire returns to the Eastern States Exposition in Massachusetts – and so does the Versatile Horse and Rider Competition! Sponsored by Chewy, this exciting competition pits approximately 25 pre-selected horses and riders against each other in the pursuit of $5,500 in cash and other prizes, as well as the coveted title of the Versatile Horse and Rider Champion.

The competition will take place on Friday, November 10, at 2 pm Eastern Time in the Coliseum at the Eastern States Exposition. Here’s how the competition works. One at a time, a horse and rider pair races the clock as they navigate over, under, and around a series of obstacles in the coliseum arena. The obstacles are designed to test the communication between horse and rider as well as each competitor’s horsemanship skills and athletic prowess. Past obstacles have included jumps, balloon arches, pushing a salt block with a polo mallet, weaving poles, opening and closing rope gates, using a lance to spear a suspended ring, and many others. Riders receive limited information on the course until the afternoon of the competition, when they perform a walk-through and receive final instructions on how to navigate the various challenges.

Greg Robinson of Valley View, Texas, will judge this year’s competition. Robinson is an 11-time world champion and multiple reserve world champion in every division of ranch versatility. The master of ceremonies will be Noah Rattner, the official Voice of Equine Affaire. The top five riders will win cash and rosettes, while the fifth through tenth place riders will receive rosettes. The first-place winner receives $2,500 in cash, a Champion rosette, and the title of “Equine Affaire Versatile Horse & Rider Champion.” The second-place rider wins $1,500 and a reserve champion rosette; third place earns $1,000 and a rosette; and fourth place wins $500 and a rosette. Who will win this year? You’ll have to attend to find out!

Equine Affaire is proud to begin introducing you to this year’s class of 2023 VHRC Competitors. In this press release, meet the first five competitors:

April Baronas

Horse: I Can’t Eeven, 8 year old Mustang mare

I Can’t Eeven or “Eevee” is an 8 year old Mustang mare from the Little Owyhee HMA. April has been working with her for over five years. Last December, Eevee became April’s first horse – presented on Christmas Eve with a big red bow, many tears, and all. Together, they’ve competed in everything from trail and obstacle work to dressage to ranch events and mounted police horse training. They have earned many top placings in local, regional, and national shows, including back-to-back trail division championships in 2021 and 2022 at the Woodstock Fair, 9th place at the 2022 MA VHRC, and 11th place in the 2023 OH VHRC.

“I appreciate how willing this little mare is to try anything and everything I ask her to,” April says. “She has completely changed how I approach riding, and my ultimate goal is just to have as much fun with her as I can. We look forward to the VHRC for not only the challenge of the course, but also the camaraderie of the competitors in the ring.”

Hilary Dorazio

Horse: One Smart Red Pine, 14 year old American Quarter Horse gelding

Hilary and “Smarty” have been a team for twelve years. Smarty is owned by Jean Lindsey. Both Hilary and Jean have competed on Smarty, and the gelding has multiple championships, reserve championships, and high point awards to his credit.

“Smarty is a very athletic and truly all-around horse,” Hilary says. “He is a joy to ride. Participating in the VHRC has always been a dream of mine, and with Smarty as my partner, I am excited to see what we can do!”

Nicholas Fair

Horse: Cisco Coyote, 9 year old American Quarter Horse gelding

Nicholas grew up riding Western in upstate New York. In high school, he drifted away from horses due to a lack of time and the expenses involved. Fast forward twenty years, and his six-year-old daughter asked if she could learn how to ride. Nicholas’ daughter began riding hunter/jumpers. One evening, Nicholas got the opportunity to swing a leg over a lesson horse and remembered how much he missed riding. Last fall, he began taking lessons at Hollis Ranch in Hollis, New Hampshire. After riding “Coyote” for eight months in many different disciplines, he purchased the gelding for his own. They began focusing more on versatility outside the arena, including working with Nicholas’ small herd of beef cattle.

“We are submitting together to compete in the VHRC as a good goal for our training together,” Nicholas said. “We want to be able to work my herd as a team. We’ve had a lot of fun getting to this point and hope to be able to compete at an even higher level come November.”

Jessica Hogan

Horse: Canoli Bandit, 19 year old Pinto/Walker gelding

Jessica is a 22 year old college student studying horse science. She hopes to earn a teaching certification so that someday, she can teach the Horse Science program for Nassau Boces. Jessica has been training horses since she was 18 years old and works with many special needs adults and children.

Jessica and “Bandit” competed in the 2022 Massachusetts VHRC. Unfortunately, they couldn’t finish the course due to a fall, so they’re eager to return and finish what they started!

“Bandit is spunky, forward, and requires a lot of attention, much like a toddler,” Jessica says. “My mom and I joke and call him our dumpster baby, because he was really thrown away. This year, we won Grand Champion in Open English Pleasure. I am so proud of our accomplishments. Bandit has taught me what it means to be a true horseman. I learned that progress takes patience and the ability to allow your horse to be himself, even if the outcome wasn’t your original intent.”

Scott Keyes

Horse: KC, 14 year old American Quarter Horse gelding

Scott has been riding for 25 years, competing in many disciplines and riding many miles of trails in the process. He purchased KC as a 3 year old and started the gelding at a Buster McLaury clinic. He has trained KC himself.

The pair have competed in team roping, cattle sorting, versatility, and ranch horse, to name just a few. They also competed in the 2018 MA VHRC.

“KC has always been a reliable mount who is up for any challenge,” Scott says of his partner. “I love versatility because it combines speed and finesse and really challenges a horse’s brain.”

Are you excited for this year’s Versatile Horse and Rider Competition yet? Plan to attend Equine Affaire on Friday, November 10, and watch the competition unfold in the coliseum. Learn more about the competitors for this exciting event by following along on our social media channels leading up to the event, and stay tuned after the event for results!

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