Try Mountain Trail
By Mark Bolender
Summer is upon us and calendars are overloaded! It’s hard to choose which horse events to attend.
Deciding where to go and what to do with your time and your spare money can be overwhelming. Do you go to breed shows, open shows, clinics or just get ready for a trail ride? What are your goals?
If you’re looking for an equestrian discipline that includes skill, finesse and fun you might consider Mountain Trail and shows approved by IMTCA (International Mountain Trail Challenge Association). The shows are fun, have approved certified judges, and many supportive individuals to help you out.
Mountain Trail is a growing sport and is now in eleven countries. IMTCA has a goal of bringing the sport to the Olympics and the World Equestrian Games so you can be part of a new exciting and growing sport.
North America has new regions set with the goal of the first world show happening in 2019 in Colorado. This year, Mountain Trail will be demonstrated at the Ohio Quarter Horse Congress and may be part of the show in 2019. Mountain Trail was part of the National Western Stock Show this past January and we are expecting 200 entries in January of 2019.
When the concept of Mountain Trail started 17 years ago, getting your horse through all the obstacles meant you were sure to win a ribbon. Now you’ll need to show more finesse in most shows. IMTCA has set judging standards and they are the same throughout the world. They’ve standardized the obstacles, so each show has certain safe obstacles in the pattern.
Here’s what to expect at a Mountain Trail show:
All IMTCA shows have a course walk between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. You have one hour to ask the judge any questions. All the patterns for the show will have been posted online at least one week before the show. This will give you time to practice your pattern and not stress out trying to remember it at the last minute.
Judges have been certified and trained to judge objectively on a defined set of rules that you can view online. It doesn’t matter whether you are judged by someone from Italy, Canada, Germany, Australia or the USA, you will be judged and evaluated under the same guidelines and standardized set of rules.
There are three levels of classes (plus novice) that you can enter. Level I classes are at a flat-footed walk between and through the obstacles. In Level II classes you may be asked to trot/gait between obstacles which will increase the difficulty level. You will be asked to perform more technical skills such as 180º or 360º turns on a teeter totter or suspension bridge. In Level III you may be asked to canter/lope part of the Mountain Trail Course and transition down to a walk at the obstacle itself. Anytime you add speed, you add a new level of difficulty.
Make sure you study the judging rules so you understand what the judges are looking for long before the show. This will eliminate much frustration when it comes to showing your horse properly. You will not need fancy tack or clothes at a Mountain Trail Show, but make sure you’re clean and neat along with your horse.
When all is said and done, you’ll find that a Mountain Trail Show/Challenge is fun and a great way to meet new people.
Happy Trails and Bolender Blessings!
Mark Bolender is the nation’s leading expert in Mountain Trail, Extreme Mountain Trail, and Competitive Trail. He’s a three-time National Champion and one of the most popular trainers in the country. Today, Mark’s unique style of horsemanship has made the Bolender brand synonymous with these disciplines.
Mark has written for numerous national magazines and authored the popular book, Bolender’s Guide to Mastering Mountain and Extreme Trail Riding. Mark and his horse Checkers hold the sport’s all-time highest honors. Checkers was distinguished by becoming the 2020 Breyer Horse.
Mark and Lee Bolender founded the International Mountain Trail Challenge Association (IMTCA) to promote these sports. Today, the IMTCA trains judges, coordinates activities, and maintains certifications around the world.
Mark owns and operates Bolender Horse Park in Washington State. Mark has also designed and built Mountain Trail courses around the world.