Equine Affaire
Equine Affaire’s ultimate test of horsemanship, the Versatile Horse & Rider Competition, will return to the 2015 Equine Affaire at the Eastern States Exposition this November. A select group of riders and horses will compete for $5500 in cash and other prizes and the coveted title of Champion at the 2015 Versatile Horse & Rider Competition which will be conducted on Thursday and Friday, November 12th and 13th, during Equine Affaire.

The Versatile Horse & Rider Competition—aka “VHRC”—will be a timed and judged race through an obstacle course created to test communication between horse and rider as well as each competitor’s horsemanship skills and athletic prowess. The qualifying rounds of the competition will take place on Thursday morning, and the top 10 horse and rider teams will advance to the Finals on Friday afternoon in the coliseum at the Eastern States Exposition.

“The Versatile Horse & Rider Competition is a true test of horsemanship for those who are willing to put their riding skills on the line—and a whole lot of fun for horse people in the audience who mentally work through the course with each team—thinking about the best approach to an obstacle and empathizing with the contestants as their horses succeed at some obstacles and fall short at others,” explained Eugenia Snyder. “The VHRC is not only an exciting competition to watch, it also has a strong educational element. You get to watch great horses and talented riders tackle real riding challenges, and you inevitably learn a lot simply by observing different approaches to the same obstacles and the horsemanship skills of dozens of outstanding riders on horses. Horses of different sizes, breeds, and disciplines take somewhat different approaches to the same obstacles.”

The competition. The VHRC course will feature a combination of some traditional as well as highly unusual obstacles and riding challenges such as jumping over or through items, backing through a pattern, pole bending and/or roll backs, gymkhana games, working gates, flexing, working on the diagonal, lead and gait changes, and riding over or through difficult/spooky objects. “Our production team tries to develop unique and difficult obstacles that will test abroad range of horsemanship skills,” Snyder continued. “The race is pretty amazing to watch because no two runs are alike and some of the obstacles are pretty difficult. Horse people in the audience are at one moment silent and holding their breaths as they watch a horse and rider team strive to master an unusual obstacle and—in the next moment—they’re applauding and yelling at the tops of their voices as contestants successfully work through an obstacle or race to the finish line.”

How the competition will be judged. Caroline Rider of Ocala, FL, will judge the qualifying round of the competition, and T. R. Potts of Fountain Inn, SC, will judge the finals. All around rider and trainer, Julie Goodnight, will introduce the contestants and provide obstacle-by-obstacle commentary. The performance of each horse and rider team will be judged on each obstacle for both quality of horsemanship and timing. Judges will award performance points on a scale of 1 to 5 based on the rider’s horsemanship, the horse’s attitude, and the team’s overall performance for each obstacle. Horses and riders must complete the course within a specified time or risk disqualification. Overall ride times will be translated into points, and the team with the highest overall combined point score will be the 2015 Massachusetts Versatile Horse & Rider Competition Champion.

Win $5500 in cash and more! Cash and other prizes will be awarded to the top four contestants with the first place team receiving $2,500 and the title of 2015 Massachusetts Versatile Horse & Rider Competition Champion, and the second, third, and fourth place teams receiving $1,750, $1,000, and $250 respectively. Ribbons will be presented to the top 10 teams; additional awards to top-placing teams will be announced prior to the event. All awards will be presented at the conclusion of the Finals on Friday afternoon. Of course the greatest “prize” of all will be the bragging rights that go along with earning a VHRC Championship--a title that can be earned only by a truly talented horse and rider team.

Who can compete. Equine Affaire’s Versatile Horse & Rider Competition is open to all riders age 18 years and older and horses of all breeds and disciplines. All horse and rider teams will compete against each other; there will be no “divisions” based on gender or age. A maximum of 30 horse/rider teams will be pre-selected based on application materials to participate in the Versatile Horse & Rider Competition.

Are you and your horse up the challenge? To obtain all of the details on the VHRC and an entry form, visit equineaffaire.com, click on the Massachusetts event, and follow the “Participate” link to the VHRC page or contact Kristen Gump at kgump@equineaffaire.com or by calling (740) 845-0085 ext. 104. The entry fee for each horse/rider team is $350 and includes stabling on Wednesday through Friday nights and a four-day ticket to Equine Affaire. Individual riders may compete with more than one horse in the race, but they must submit a separate application, video, and fee for each horse they wish to enter. Applications and support materials will be accepted by Equine Affaire through September 11th. They will be reviewed by the management of Equine Affaire, which will select the final contestants for the competition and notify contestants by October 1, 2015.

Throughout both the qualifying rounds and finals of the competition, VHRC attendees will enjoy plenty of action and suspense as contestants negotiate the challenging obstacle courses at top speeds and address the unusual horsemanship challenges of the competition. Admission toboth the qualifying round and the finals of the 2015 Versatile Horse & Rider Competition is included in general admission to Equine Affaire—providing just one more reason to venture to W. Springfield for Equine Affaire this November. Plan to get there early to get a good seat—the VHRC is a very popular feature of Equine Affaire!