Red Hills Horse Trails returns for their 24th consecutive year.

The annual Red Hills Horse Trials, that began Friday, is back in full swing after a year of no spectators due to COVID-19 precautions.

A long night of thunderstorms and rain Friday night led to a cloudy and blustery Saturday morning for the Red Hills second-day event, cross-country.

However, the big cooldown did not stop spectators, vendors, or the rider-horse duos from participating.

Supporters were bundled up by 8 am, Saturday morning to engage in the equestrian sport.

For some riders, the three-day event that brings in about 20,000 spectators from across the world in the course of a weekend, was a first.

Longtime volunteer with Red Hills and current chair of stadium jumping, Lilli VanWinkle, finally got her shot in the competition after medical conditions with her past two horses hindered her from making it to the preliminary division in previous years.

Riders compete in the cross country event at the Red Hills International Horse Trials on Saturday, March 12, 2022.

“It’s a dream to be out here,” said VanWinkle, a 26-year-old Tallahassee native who first started volunteering with Red Hills at 6-years-old. “You get to go to the event in your backyard and take your horse while competing with the top riders in the nation.”

After being gifted her first pony at 6-years-old, VanWinkle joined the pony club: an organization for young kids to learn more about horses and the sport.

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