W. SPRINGFIELD, MA, October 24, 2023 — On Friday, November 10, during Equine Affaire, the 2023 Versatile Horse and Rider Competition will take place in the US Equestrian Coliseum. 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.
If you’ve never seen the VHRC, you’re in for a treat! Here’s how it 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.
Equine Affaire is proud to begin introducing you to this year’s class of 2023 VHRC Competitors. In this press release, meet the next five competitors:
Horse: River of Dreams, 12-year-old Holsteiner/Welsh gelding
Together for eight years, Jessica and “Riv” enjoy hunter/jumpers. They have competed in the Massachusetts VHRC before and have been working hard since their last run to overcome the obstacles that challenged them during their round. They now ride in .80 jumper classes at both local and A circuit shows. This season, they’ve also padded their schedule with versatility clinics and competitions in an effort to sharpen the skills
needed to succeed in the VHRC. According to Jessica, Riv is brave, curious, and intelligent, and enjoys traveling to different venues.
“The bond we share is strong,” Jessica says. “I believe it has to do with stretching outside of our comfort zones as much as possible. I have been hoping to earn another shot at Equine Affaire’s VHRC ever since our go last year. I am extremely proud and grateful to be given another opportunity to participate in this awesome event with Riv!”
Horse: A Little Touch of Pixie, 11 year old American Quarter Horse mare
MacKenzie has owned “Magik” since she was a foal and trained her all by herself with the help of many lessons and clinics along the way. They have competed in numerous different disciplines such as dressage, Western pleasure, and their favorite discipline, extreme cowboy racing. They’ve been competing for four years in extreme cowboy challenges locally, provincially, and world-wide. They enjoy the adrenaline of competing against the clock and improving their horsemanship and trust skills along the way with every obstacle.
“I love challenging my horse and rider connection and our relationship every time we set off through new obstacles,” MacKenzie says.
Horse: Ayel YES, 17 year old Haflinger mare
Susan is a horse-crazy kid turned into a horse addicted adult. She has dabbled in many different horse sports: trail riding, dressage, eventing, jumpers, hunter paces, competitive trail, draft (working & showing), pleasure and combined driving, working equitation, trail obstacle, and more recently, versatility and even polo! She bred and raised Haflingers for nearly 30 years and showed Haflingers for a number of years in the 90s. She has trained her own horses for riding and driving. Her passion is combined driving, and she is hoping her youngest home-bred horse, who is now 3, will be suitable to fill his dam’s shoes and be competitive up to intermediate level or FEI.
Susan acquired Ayel YES, better known as “Allie,” in 2014 from Dirk & Karen Young of Twin Birch Farm. She was imported by them in 2007 from her breeder in Germany. Since coming to Sue, Allie has competed in eventing, primarily beginner novice, having earned a couple firsts, some top threes, and finishing 6th in the USEA Area 1 championship a few years ago. She has done a number of schooling jumper events, up to 3’, and has been very successful at that. This year, the pair has competed in a few working equitation shows. Sue says that Allie loves the run and jump part of things and is somewhat less enthusiastic about the dressage game.
Sue and Allie competed at the Saratoga County Fair Versatile Horse competition, earning a 3rd behind 2 experienced competitors. Susan has always wanted to compete at the Versatile Horse & Rider Competition at Equine Affaire and figured this was the best time to give it a try!
Horse: JMF New York Windfall, 17 year old Morgan gelding
Christina and “Moses” have been a team for 14 years. Together, they have competed in a variety of disciplines, including Western, saddleseat, huntseat, gymkana, and trail riding in local and 4-H shows and A-rated shows. Around the barn, Moses is known as the GOAT as he can do just about anything, but he also has quite the personality. Christina runs a small barn in northern New Hampshire offering boarding and riding lessons. Moses takes great pride in showing the tiny humans how to ride and helping them earn their first ribbons at horse shows. Christina is a 4-H horse project alumna and a carded 4-H horse show judge and steward. She enjoys a wide variety of horseback riding activities and has recently joined the world of eventing, having competed in the New England Hunter Trials and her first cross country schooling show. Even in the winter, Christina says there’s something to do horseback: skijoring!
“I’ve wanted to compete in the Versatile Horse and Rider Competition since I was a kid,” Christina says. “Bring on the next adventure!”
Horse: Wildfire, 13 year old Mustang mare
Kayla and “Wildfire” have competed in many local Western and ranch pleasure shows in the open division. This year, they progressed in mounted shooting by traveling and competing in the northeast. They’ve also participated in numerous parades and cavalry demonstrations, representing Teddy Roosevelt’s rough riders from the Spanish-American war. The cavalry demonstrations show a rider’s skill at arms using a saber, lance, and pistols, in addition to mounted drill formations. When Wildfire and Kayla aren’t doing parades, demos, or competing, they enjoy spending their time riding the trails with friends, exploring different parks on Long Island, or riding through town to grab a bite to eat. They have also just begun learning how to drive.
An eleven-time world champion and multiple reserve world champion in ranch versatility, Greg Robinson of Valley View, Texas, will judge this year’s competition. 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!
Come to 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!