CAPS: Photo: mercurio2

Kathy Mercurio with her horses Moon and Lacey

Photo: Celestemercurio

Kathy adopted her rescued mini "Celeste" who has become a favorite mascot at Ride for the Ribbon events, posing for photos and adorned in pink pizzazz. Stop over and meet her on May 4th at the PHOA Versatility Challenge.

By Kristine Holloran

Correspondent

PEPPERELL -- The Pepperell Horse Owner's Association, celebrating its 10th year, will pull out the pink for its upcoming versatility challenge.

The 2013 series includes eight events held at Ten Broeck Farm. In support of the PHOA members who will participate in this year's Massachusetts Ride for the Ribbon, a portion of the proceeds on May 4 will be donated to their fundraising campaigns. Ride for the Ribbon is a nonprofit dedicated to the fight against breast cancer with an annual charity event that combines horse riding and raising money to benefit the Massachusetts Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Local riders include Robin Hebert with horse Magic, Katrina Palanski atop Mister and Kathy Mercurio on her horse Lacey. The sixth annual Ride will take place at Felton Field in Barre, Mass., on Sunday, June 2. The trails consist of dirt roads, railroad beds, wooded trails and some paved roads covering approximately 10 miles. Last year, riders throughout Massachusetts raised more than $75,000.

Mercurio is no stranger to fundraising, as she spent several years heading up the Pepperell Fourth of July Committee, where tens of thousands of dollars were needed to provide the community with its highly anticipated parade and fireworks. Ride for the Ribbon, Kathy explains, is far more personal.

"My horse Lacey will be wearing a pink bridle ribbon to celebrate the lives of my sister-in-law Susan and my dear friend Mary. I miss them both every day. And this year, my best friend's daughter Laura will ride my horse Moon. We celebrated Laura's last day of chemo together last year and will celebrate her health this year ... I am so excited that she will join her mom and me on the ride."

Kathy also adds that it's understandable that many people are stretched with their ability to donate to causes, but the riders appreciate any amount that can go toward saving lives.

PHOA President Sharon Ofenstein shares the club's sentiment, "The Pepperell Horse Owners Association is thrilled to have the chance to help support this year's Massachusetts Ride for the Cure. Virtually all of us have friends or relatives who have suffered from breast cancer, and we heartily thank our three club members who will represent Pepperell at the June 2 ride."

Versatility challenges are becoming increasingly popular among equestrians who enjoy the excitement of competitions. Unlike some of the more reserved showing venues, this event is a race against the clock through obstacles such as bridges, barrels, gates, ringing bells, tarps and even popping balloons. It is a colorful, fun, fast-paced event that helps further the relationship between horse and rider. Often, participants will complete their first run on foot with their horse. This introduces them to the strange sites and sounds and builds trust. Afterwards, the same pair may dash through in traditional mounted fashion.

Entry fees are $25 for the first run, and $10 for each run thereafter. The event is limited to 30 riders on a first-come basis and riders may register for multiple runs. Spectators are admitted for free and are encouraged to cheer on the riders.

The challenge is an indoor event and starts promptly at noon. There will be opportunities for riders and nonriders alike to contribute to these fundraising efforts. The club plans a bake sale and other activities to help support the Ride for the Ribbon. Donations can also be made at maridefortheribbon.dojiggy.com.

There is ample parking for spectators and trailers at Ten Broeck Farm, 1 Old Farm Lane. Registration can be found at tenbroeckfarm.net. For questions call Mercurio at 978-314-2260 or visit phoa.info.