Trail Challenges

Earn Horseback Riding Program rewards while participating in this exciting event.

What is an AQHA Trail Challenge?

AQHA Trail ChallengeAn 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. The purpose of a Trail Challenge is to enhance the horsemanship skills riders need while encouraging education, safety and fun on the trail.

There are generally 6 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.

Download the AQHA Recreational Activities Guidebook to learn all the AQHA Trail Challenge rules.

What are the divisions?

AQHA will recognize 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

View the Trail Challenge schedule to find an event in your area.

How do I earn awards?

Riders will compete for a 1st-5th placing. Those AQHA or AQHYA members 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 TC merits do not show up on a horse's competition record.  When the technology is available these merits will be uploaded into the database.) Ride in a Trail Challenge and discover a new partnership with your horse.

How can I earn additional awards?

Enroll in the AQHA Horseback Riding Program today and watch the rewards stack up while you participate in Trail Challenges. 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-approved trail ride. 

For more information on how to participate or host a trail challenge, contact AQHA's Jackie Boggs at (806) 378-4377 or