Trail Trials

Trail trial competition enhances the bond you have with your American Quarter Horse.

It’s hard to pick just what makes the American Quarter Horse so special. Certainly, though, the ability to enjoy these horses in such a variety of different ways is close to the top of the list.

Trail trials are yet another - increasingly popular - way to enjoy your Quarter Horse. So popular in fact, that AQHA will have trail trial clinics at QuarterFest. In addition to the clinics and practice time, QuarterFest goers will be able to get their feet wet in an actual trail trial competition.

We last mentioned trail trials when we wrote about 5,000-hour Horseback Riding Program award winner Debra Smith. Many of her hours were garnered through participation in competitions put on by the California State Horsemen's Association.

Plan your trail trial debut today by downloading AQHA's Recreational Riding report. Not only will it help you get started with trail trials, it will also introduce you to other fun ways to enjoy your horse.

Here is a basic description as explained by the CSHA:

"Trail trial rides consist of obstacles and situations riders might encounter on a trail ride. A course is designed using the natural obstacles that already exist on a particular trail. Exhibitors may be required to walk over logs, open a gate or maneuver through a creek. Riders may also encounter obstacles such as birthday parties, family BBQs, mountain bikes and more.

This is not a timed event, but casual in nature. A time limit may be given for riders to complete a particular obstacle so those behind are not held back."

Debra especially enjoys the casual atmosphere. She also says "you really do meet some wonderful people when you participate in trail trials."

Each ride sets its own rules and regulations. Though there is no official national governing body for trail trials, the American Trail Trial-Horsemen’s Association acts as an umbrella point keeping and awards program association. Its main purpose is to promote the activities of trail riding and trail trials and provide an awards program. The ATTA awards competitors in youth, 18-49 and senior sections of  novice, intermediate and advanced. They also offer an award to provide recognition for those riders who competed but did not attend enough qualifying rides.

Jody Laxague of the ATTA believes trail trials are gaining momentum largely because of their family friendly nature. Riders may ride as individuals or groups and family participation is encouraged. Though obstacles and their difficulty vary from the novice levels through the advanced levels, each rider works the obstacles individually so exhibitors of multiple levels can stay on the trail together.

In Jody's experience, common obstacles include:

    • Crossing the river and picking up a saddle bag to hand to the judge.
    • Riding into a camp to get directions.
    • Dismounting to check your stirrup and remounting from a large rock.
    • Dragging a sagebrush to the campfire.
    • Doing an emergency dismount to help a hurt person on the ground.
    • Dismounting and loading your horse into a stock trailer.

You can learn to be a better rider through trail trial participation and with a little help from AQHA's Recreational Riding report. Start having even more fun with your horse now!

Exhibitors are also required to carry a certain set of mandatory items as determined by each ride. Here is a general list of suggested items:

    • Halter lead rope
    • Long pants and shoes with heels
    • Hoof pick
    • Pocket knife
    • Helmet

As far as Debra is concerned, trail trials are largely about the relationship between horse and human.

"The only thing that stands out in my mind is the 'trust bond' you develop with your horse as you execute the obstacles together as a team."

If you're interested in more information about trail trials, come to QuarterFest! You can also check out these organizations:

American Trail Trial-Horsemen's Association

California State Horsemen's Association

Top 10 Things About QuarterFest

#4: Hannah Montana's horse, Blue Jeans! Blue Jeans from "Hannah Montana: The Movie," will be at QuarterFest. If you are coming, you can meet Blue Jeans, the movie star, while you’re there. You’ll even be able to get your picture taken with him!