Quest for Best Challenge Benefits CACF
Top local riders and their mounts competed in the Quest for the Best Challenge, a benefit event for the Companion Animal Clinic Foundation (CACF), at the Reflections Farm Dressage and Versatility Show in Vass on April 14.
This was the feature event at the first show of a yearlong series.
Riders competed in refined horse versatility, which is a test of refinement and versatility. The refinement phase was a dressage test. In the versatility phase, riders put their horsemanship skills to use as they negotiated obstacles and performed tasks that could be encountered in the course of a pleasant outing. The judges were looking for the horse that best represented the ideal partner.
The road to victory began Friday evening at Ashten’s when CACF president Randall Phillips shared the important mission of the organization: to reduce euthanasia of dogs and cats through the prevention of births by assisting people who cannot afford to spay or neuter their pets.
“In four short years, 25,000 surgeries have been performed at the Spay Neuter Veterinary Clinic, which is supported by the CACF,” he said. “We serve an 11-county area and are now reaching out to those who cannot bring their animals to the clinic by arranging transportation. Through the efforts of dedicated volunteers and support from the community, we are making a huge difference.”
Then it was time to meet the riders, each of whom represented a different discipline in the world of equestrian sport. The riders appeared in costume, setting the tone that this event was going to be a lot of fun.
Amy Bresky appeared as a boxer, to the delight of the crowd, while the theme song from “Rocky” played in the background. She even sported a black eye. She came prepared to show that upper-level dressage horses can play outside the white rectangle. Her horse, Welkin, did just that.
Gina Fiore came soaring into the room as Super Eventer complete with red cape. She teamed up with Linda Dreher’s horse Remington for the competition. Parker Minchin and her gray horse, Jesse Power Stroke, were fittingly the Lone Ranger. As a reining horse, Jesse Power Stroke, worked hard not to slide past ‘X’ in the dressage test.
Super Spy Nick Ellis faced the greatest challenge of his equestrian career by riding a secret weapon. He rode National Champion Working Hunter Mule, Big Woods Queen Elizabeth. Lizzy, as she is known to her friends, was on loan from Todd and Terri Barfield of Greensboro. Ellis, who has never ridden a mule, only met Lizzy on Saturday for a quick ride before the competition began.
Rose George, representing the sport of TREC, brought a large contingency of enthusiastic supporters. Rose teamed up with her horse Pumpkin. Shellie Sommerson, a whipper-in for the Moore County Hounds, strode into the room to the sound of the 80s dance tune “Whip It.” Her partner for the Challenge was Steel Smile.
To raise money for the CACF, a Calcutta was held. In a packed room, attendees quickly formed their bidding strategies as they sought to own their favorite rider. Adding another fun twist to the event was the bribing of the judges. Dressage judge, Debby Carter, and versatility judge, Melissa Deal, took bribes for the Audience Choice Award.
On Saturday, Reflections Farm owner, Kriestin Kleinschmidt, opened her farm to host the event. Against the backdrop of a lakeside setting, riders came prepared to play full out and win the challenge. Dressage newcomers Ellis, George and Minchin held their own.
To prep for her test, Minchin had a supporter arrange a dressage lesson with Olympian Will Faudree. After the final salute, she wowed the crowd by spinning her horse with no reins.
On the versatility course, designed by Linda Hoover, riders showed off their teamwork as they mounted from a block, halted on a bridge, opened a gate and put on a rain slicker to name a few of the obstacles. They even had to carry a stray cat, stuffed of course, to Dr. Cindy Eaton of the Spay Neuter Veterinary Clinic.
One of the more difficult obstacles was placing one front foot over a pole and pausing. The last obstacle was loading their steed on a horse trailer.
At the end of the day, Sommerson and her horse Steel Smile rose to the top and were crowned Quest for the Best Champions. Reserve champion was Minchin. Rounding out the finishers were Fiore (third), Ellis (fourth), George (fifth) and Bresky (sixth).
The clear winner of the Audience Choice Award was Nick Ellis and Lizzy. Winners of the Calcutta were Friends of Moore County Hounds.
From the many positive comments of the riders and spectators, expect to see the Quest for the Best Challenge again next year, said one of the organizers. It was a fabulous event benefitting an outstanding organization, said several of the attendees.
To learn more about the Companion Animal Clinic Foundation and how you can help, go to CompanionAnimal Clinic.org.
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