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AQHA Trail Challenges

These fun events are the perfect way to show off your trail horse's skills in a competitive setting.

There are generally 6 to 16 obstacles in any given Trail Challenge, depending on the land and terrain of the host location.

Spring is quickly turning to summer, which means it is the perfect time to ride your American Quarter Horse at an AQHA Trail Challenge

“What’s an AQHA Trail Challenge?” you say. We’re glad you asked!

An AQHA Trail Challenge is a judged course that tests a horse and rider’s ability to work as a team and navigate through natural obstacles they might experience on a trail. By competing in a trail challenge, riders enhance their horsemanship skills while learning about safety and fun on the trail.

There are generally six to 16 obstacles in any given trail challenge, depending on the land and terrain of the host location. A judge or judges (determined by the amount of obstacles) are located throughout the course evaluating a rider’s skills to maneuver his horse through the obstacle. Each horse-and-rider team starts out with a value of 70 and then gains or loses points, depending on their ability to navigate the course. The horse and rider (partnership) with the highest overall value is declared the trail challenge winner in each division.

AQHA offers an all-breed division, as well as an American Quarter Horse division at each trail challenge. Every division will include a youth and adult category. Within each division, there are three levels:

    • Training level – new horse-and-rider partnerships


    • Intermediate level – established horse-and-rider partnerships


    • Master level – partnerships ready for a more demanding course


Riders compete for a first through fifth placing and must be an AQHA or AQHYA member to participate. Those aboard American Quarter Horses will have the chance to earn trail challenge merits to be put on the horse’s permanent AQHA record. (Note: At this time, trail challenge merits do not show up on a horse's competition record. When the technology is available, these merits will be uploaded into the database.)

Riders can also earn great prizes while participating in trail challenges by enrolling in the AQHA Horseback Riding Program. Not only will you be recognized for each trail challenge you attend, you'll also earn double the hours you spend on your horse during an AQHA Trail Challenge.

For more information on the trail challenges or to find a challenge near you, visit  


AQHA also offers a Trail Ride Program for recreational riding.  For more information, please visit the AQHA Trail Ride Program page.