Versatile Horses and Riders

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By Jennifer Paulson, Managing Editor

In an age of specialization, the horse-and-rider pair that can cross from one event to another (and another and another) is a hot commodity, and usually a great story. That's why I'm so excited to tell you about my project this week.

Tomorrow, I leave for our second leg of coverage of the All American Quarter Horse Congress. I'll continue the coverage you've seen on our social-media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), but I also get to work with two riders who'll compete in the Amateur Versatility class on Thursday night. This event is unique to the Congress?and has an estimated $10,000 purse.

Here are the details: The riders must be AQHA-carded amateurs, and they must compete on registered Quarter Horses. Each horse-and-rider pair is judged in four events: hunter under saddle, Western horsemanship, Western pleasure, and pole bending (in that order). That's right?a horse has to be able to lope quietly down the rail like a pleasure horse and tear through a serpentine of poles, too. Competitors have five minutes between each class to change clothes and tack and warm-up their horses, and they're allowed helpers in the process.

I'll be following two of the competitors closely, one a rookie to the class and the other competing for the second time. Get to know them here, then look for interviews with them from the show and updates on how they do in each part of the class.

Maria Salazar

Maria Salazar and Leroy.

Maria Salazar and Leroy.


Hometown: Portland, Oregon.

Horse's name: Winkin For Chocolate, or "Leroy."

History with the horse: I've had this horse for about a year. We here amateur high point at the 2012 AQHA West Novice Championship.

Previous experience with Amateur Versatility: I have none! Last year was my first time to show at Congress. I heard about the class and tried to sign up, but I didn't get in soon enough.

Favorite part of the class: I'm looking forward to different events for different reasons. I'm excited and terrified for pole bending. Who knows what'll happen! It's so fun, because the fans really get into it?hooting and hollering. I think it'll be a great break from the stressful Congress experience.

Favorite thing about Congress: It's just so big and fun. I like how classes are spread out, so you really get to prepare. It feels like a championship show without being one. And the shopping is great!

Darcy Reeve

Darcy Reeve and Kramer.

Darcy Reeve and Kramer.


Hometown: Garden City, Kansas.

Horse's name: Ima Petite Classic, or "Kramer."

History with the horse: I've owned Kramer for seven or eight yeas. We've won AQHA World and Congress titles together, including the 2012 AQHA world championship in amateur Western riding.

Previous experience with Amateur Versatility: Last year was the first time I've done the class. I definitely learned to appreciate the time I have on a normal show day?five minutes between classes flies by!

Favorite part of the class: I love the hunter under saddle. I used to show in the class, and my horse is pretty good at it, especially in a largely non-English group of horses.

Favorite thing about Congress: I love to hate the Congress. My favorite part is when the hard work pays off.

Photos provided by Maria Salazar and Darcy Reeve.

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