PEPPERELL -- The Pepperell Horse Owners Association (PHOA) has scheduled its winter meeting for Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Pepperell Community Center at the Pepperell Rotary at the intersection of routes 111 and 113.

In 2012, the PHOA held a series of eight Versatility Challenges at Ten Broeck Farm on Prescott Street. The series was tremendously successful, attracting horses and riders from many different disciplines -- trail, dressage, showing, eventing, reining and more.

"Versatility Challenges" are growing in popularity in the horse world. Each challenge is an obstacle course, with 10 obstacles, worth 10 points each.

The objects vary widely, from weaving in and out of a simple line of poles, or backing through an L-shaped series of rails, to running the gauntlet through an array of foam "noodles," riding through a hanging curtain of strips, or walking through a wading pool full of water and rubber snakes and crocodiles. Horses are scored on the percentage of obstacles successfully completed, and also on the time needed to complete the course, with a maximum of five minutes allowed before disqualification.

To be successful, the horse has to have complete confidence in the rider, and be trained to respond to cues to move sideways, or back up, or to approach obstacles that most horses would consider frightening.


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The speaker for the evening will be Cathie Anderson, who has won a number of competitions and has even appeared at the "Equine Affaire" a huge multi-day, multi-discipline event held every November at the "Big E" in Springfield.

In one of the recent PHOA challenges, she completed with a 100 percent score in one minute, 36 seconds! Cathie trains horses professionally and will pass on her secrets of success to PHOA members and friends.

The public is invited, refreshments will be available, and there is no charge for what promises to be a very entertaining and informative evening.

For information, please contact PHOA president Judy Lorimer, jmlorimer@juno.com, 978-433-2384, or visit our website: www.phoa.info.