By: Brittany Bevis
The ever popular Amateur Versatility competition provided some thrills and spills tonight at the Quarter Horse Congress. In addition to some fierce competition that kept the crowd on its toes, one of the competing horses wandered away during a tack change and two riders were unseated during the pole bending portion of the class. One rider walked away from her fall, but the other was taken away in an ambulance. Thankfully, it is believed that her injuries are not life-threatening. We will update with more information as we receive it.
Over a dozen horse and rider teams were put through their paces having to compete in Hunter Under Saddle, Western Pleasure, Horsemanship, and Pole Bending, with only a brief five-minute tack change in between each class. In the end, Maria Salazar bested the competition with Winkin For Chocolate and was crowned the Congress Amateur Versatility Champion.
Salazar’s trusty grey steed is a nine-year-old gelding named “Leroy.” They have been a team for one year now and currently compete under the guidance of Shannon McCulloch.
“Poor guy. He had a nice, easy life up in Washington. He barely ever showed, and then we ruined his life and made him an intense all-around horse,” Salazar jokes. “Last year, when we were here, we heard about the Versatility. We went to the office and tried to sign up. They were like, ‘You’re crazy. People sign up for this a year in advance.’ So, we decided to do it the next year and here we are.”
Salazar’s arena crew for this evening’s class was Shannon McCulloch and Seth Melani. Although she’d like to say they had an elaborate strategy for the competition, it was more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of thing.
“I’d like to say we had a really big plan, but we didn’t,” she says. “It was more like I had a bucket of my clothes and Shannon and Seth did Leroy. It was so stressful. Those five minutes were five minutes of having the feeling like when you’re stuck in a sweatshirt and you can’t get out. Pure panic. That was the full five minutes.”
Although she may have been a little panicked during the tack changes, Salazar was able to put those nerves aside when it came to competing in each individual event. She and Leroy placed fourth in Hunter Under Saddle, fourth in Horsemanship, third in Western Pleasure, and third in Pole Bending. It just goes to show that slow and steady wins the race, until you get to pole bending that is…
“Oh my gosh, I cried [when the girls fell off],” she says. “Thank goodness they weren’t before me, because, when I was going, I was so scared and nothing had even happened yet. I hope he doesn’t take off when we go back in that arena tomorrow, but I think he will be happy to go slow again.”
Now that Salazar and Leroy have won their second Congress Championship title of the show (their first came in Amateur Equitation yesterday evening) it’s off to practice for the Amateur Trail that will take place tomorrow morning.
Salazar is thrilled with the outcome of the competition tonight and has several individuals she’d like to thank.
“Leroy is such a good boy,” she says. “It’s all him and Shannon’s hard work and everyone helping out here. I didn’t do any of it. I want to thank Shannon and Seth and my mom. She stayed in the hotel room all day today sewing the vest that I wore in western pleasure. And, I want to thank God for protecting me in pole bending. That was so dang scary!”
1-Maria Salazar/Winkin For Chocolate
2-Suzanne Randolph/Super Kat Man
3-Fon Laughlin/Zip Along Home
4-Darcy Reeve/Ima Petite Classic
5-Marissa Dalton/RL Best Of Faith
6-Rebecca Pirger/RL A Lucky Sudden
7-Cathy Johnson/Perfect Potential
8-Lauren Bracken/Style Sophisticated
9-Bree Johnston/Triple Js Glory Days
10-Bobi Jo Swartz/Eyed Be Potential