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Volunteer Ranch Horse Association Show


Rider: Scott Keeney - Horse: Winkle Lena

Rider: Delores Cain - Horse: Reys Smart Chic

Rider: Delores Cain - Horse: Reys Smart Chic

Rider: Delores Cain - Horse: Reys Smart Chic

Rider: Delores Cain - Horse: Reys Smart Chic
Article & photos by LaCresha Kolba

“Remember Our Troops” was the theme of the Memorial Day weekend Volunteer Ranch Horse Association (VRHA) show, held May 23-24 at the Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. There was a lot of excitement with over 500 entries, approximately 125 horses, and nine states represented.  Competitors from Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Alabama and Missouri attended this show.  The Volunteer Ranch Horse Association offers classes such as: All Age Trail, Two Year Old In Hand Trail, All Age Herd Work, Herd Work, Ranch Riding, Horsemanship, Working Cow Class, Novice Amateur Boxing, Youth Boxing, All Age Sorting, Sorting, Showmanship, Ranch Reining and Ranch Cutting. 

The Volunteer Ranch Horse Association, established in 2007 as a chapter of the American Ranch Horse Association (ARHA), sponsors four ARHA sanctioned shows this year for ranch-type horses. Show season started early in February (1-2) with the Cabin Fever Classic at the Tennessee Livestock Center in Murfreesboro. An extra incentive at this year’s shows is the Saddle Futurity that awards a new Ranch Cutter saddle by Jay’s Custom Leather to the horse/rider combo that earns the most ARHA points in a single class in one division. The Saddle Futurity is offered at the May show, the Beat the Heat show September 5-6, and the Fall Finale November 7-8, all in Murfreesboro, TN. In addition to horse showing, the organization asks all competitors to bring canned goods or non-perishable items for a Food Drive at each show. The food will be donated to church food pantries across Tennessee.

 This ARHA approved show was double judged, so competitors earned double points. To qualify for weekend high point awards, exhibitors had to show in five classes with one a required cattle class and one required conformation class.

Along with points, the high point winners received quality feed bags and saddle blankets. 

The classes at Ranch Horse Association shows are designed for the working ranch horse. Their trail class requires more than traditional trail classes one might see at Quarter Horse shows. Along with going through a gate, the competitor must also rope a dummy steer and load the horse into a trailer. 

They offer a class called “Boxing,” which was developed for those not familiar with working cattle. It is designed to allow the rider to have the opportunity to work a cow, and build their confidence in a working cattle class.  A rider can safely gain the experience they need to move to the upper level cattle classes Their reining classes are judged on pattern, performance and technique, but is not as focused on the more dug out slides that reining horses perform. They look for a slide which can be done out in the pastures when working cattle.

Marvin Butler, chair of the VRHA Memorial weekend show, stated: “My favorite parts of these shows are how they are family friendly and focused on the camaraderie and how competitors support one another.  I can have confidence while my five year granddaughter is on one of my horses and I know she can enjoy herself while showing.” Marvin was asked what makes this show stand out from other horse shows. He smiled as he replied, “This particular event is one of the largest VRHA shows that you can find locally.  We strive to find good judges, make sure the cattle are good. We love the location of this facility at TMC, and you cannot beat the kindness of the people.  It is free to spectators and a great environment to bring the kids.” 

The American Ranch Horse Association is based in Nancy, Kentucky, where Erica and Jerry Keeney oversee the operations. They attended this show as supporters and competitors. We were able to catch up with Erica and Jerry between classes and find out more about this organization. Erica explained, “The ARHA has been active for 11 years and we strive to be family friendly, and promote the all-around athlete of the horse and rider.  You are able to pick and choose the classes you want to participate in at each show.  Most of our competitors will do multiple events.  At the World Show, which will be held in Bowling Green, KY over the fourth of July weekend, we will have a new category for our members to compete in, ‘America’s Top Ranch Hand.’  There will be multiple events to compete in to obtain this title. We think it will add a new level of fun competitive spirit to our World Show event in July.”

Whether you are competing at the Tennessee Chapter of the Volunteer Ranch Horse Association or one of the other 14 Chapters of the ARHA, you will find an atmosphere of good sportsmanship. Erica and Jerry Keeney both agree that you will find them to be family friendly.  Erica states, “People come to these shows and they enjoy themselves. We have a family with three generations showing their horses this weekend.  We want everyone to know they are appreciated while they are here.  Local Chapters along with the main organization offer scholarships to those who are pursuing higher education.  You don’t have to be attending a four year college; you can be going to a vocational school and still be eligible. They do need to be a member for two years and participate in the organization. The kids are important to us and we feel the scholarship program is a way to help them realize their level of importance. We love being here in Tennessee; this is a great location for the competitors to get to from the different states and we have seen steady growth of attendance over the years.” 

To get involved with this organization you need to be a member and register your horse with the organization.  The horse does need to be a Quarter Horse type; AQHA, APHA, Palomino, Paint, Pinto, Appaloosa horses are also permitted.  Find more information by calling 606-676-4112 or visit their website: For the Tennessee chapter, visit:  

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