Equestrian contests help fund hospice in Kanawha Valley

By By Jack Suntrup
Staff Writer
Tiarah Thornton, America’s Ultimate Little Miss for 2014, acts as ambassador for HospiceCare at Saturday’s Mountain State Charity Horse Show in Winfield, awarding ribbons to the winners of equestrian competitions. Proceeds from the event went to the Kanawha hospice. Thornton’s father recently died in a hospice.
CHIP ELLIS | Sunday Gazette-Mail photos
Savannah Clark and Jessa Cyrus, both 14, have been competing riders for several years. Although they go at each other in the ring, they stay friends after the ribbons are handed out.
CHIP ELLIS | Sunday Gazette-Mail
Reagan Jarrett, 7, took third place Saturday in the Academy Lead Line Class at the Mountain State Charity Horse Show. Proceeds from the event went to HospiceCare.

WINFIELD — Feet off, hands up and backs straight, dozens of well-dressed kids rode horseback around the Winfield Riding Club on Saturday for the annual Mountain State Charity Horse Show.

The show, organized by the Kanawha Valley Horsemen’s Association, raised money for the nonprofit HospiceCare, which serves Kanawha County and much of central West Virginia, while shelling out $10,000 in prizes to youth and adult competitors.

The KVHA has held the event in support of the nonprofit for four years, said Jeff Sikorovsky, HospiceCare marketing director.

The group serves anyone who meets hospice requirements, and raises money for bills that Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover, Sikorovsky said.

Although the goal of the event is to raise money for the HospiceCare, Sikorovsky said the focus should be on the competitors.

Early Saturday afternoon, the youth competition was well underway, with “Equitation” as the main event.

All the participants wore coats and ties. Straight backs and a firm posture were important; the best riders were able to stay upright even when their horses were galloping around the ring.

“With equitation, you have to really concentrate on yourself,” said Taylor Deer, 20, of Charleston. “Part of it is how you work with the horse, but 90 percent of it is how you look with the horse.”

Reagan Jarrett, 7, had just finished a competition when she was led into a common area by 15-year-old Frannie Salisbury.

Salisbury said she’s been impressed with the younger girl’s talent.

“She’s the fastest-learning kid I’ve ever seen,” Salisbury said. “All she wants to do is ride.”

Salisbury said riders who frequent the Winfield Riding Club have formed a camaraderie and healthy competition because of the club’s community feel.

Plus, the riders are always there, she said.

“Horseback riding isn’t something you can do on the sideline,” Salisbury said. “It takes over your life.”

Jessa Cyrus and Savannah Clark, both 14, said that they have become friends because of the competition.

“They’re best friends until they get into the ring together,” said Cheryl Salamacha, the KVHA president.

The two switched-off winning first and second place in different events over the weekend, they said, adding that it’s common for multiple riders to share in the victory lap after every competition.

“It’s always fun going around the ring together,” Clark said.

The KVHA hosts multiple competitions every year and sends riders to national events, but this annual event was focused on raising money for HospiceCare.

Tiarah Thornton, America’s Ultimate Little Miss for 2014, acted as an ambassador for HospiceCare, awarding ribbons to the winners of the competitions.

Her dad recently died in hospice care.

Thornton, 6, also rides horses, but not yet for competition, she said.

“I ride, but I don’t do horse shows until next month,” Thornton said. “I kind of like to feed them and love them.”

Reach Jack Suntrup at jack.suntrup@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.

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