Riding a horse outside of the stables or arena can pose a many number of
Having to go through gates, cross bridges, or perhaps there may be a tree
trunk fallen across your path. Horses are a timid animal, and when they
encounter an unfamiliar object, they may refuse to get close to it, let
alone go around or over it.
In the Trail Class, mock obstacles are erected in the arena to see how
well competitors and their mounts can overcome them. It is the most Western
like event, allowing one to enjoy the skill of any given horse, as well
as the process a competitor may use to overcome an obstacle.
The arena is equipped with wooden poles, bridges, gates and other daily
obstacle one may encounter on the trail. Competitors must use a variety
of movements such as the side pass to overcome these matters one at a time.
The Trail Class is not a speed event. So long as you are able to overcome
an obstacle properly, you are permitted to take as much time as necessary
to do so. Even if you are slow, if you are able to proceed at the
horses pace and smoothly, you will not be docked for it.
The obstacles are arranged according to the skill level of the class, (the
lower the class, the less difficult the obstacles) but here we will use
the Amateur/Open Class patter to explain. The course can be separated into
a number of parts, and competitors are scored by their performance in each
- In this portion, you are to canter in between two poles placed parallel
to each other on the ground and come to a complete stop. If your mount
should step over the pole or it's hove should hit it you will be docked.
This alone is quite difficult.
- SIDE PASS
- At this point, the horse is facing towards the top of the image.
Competitors must move their hoses sideways (side pass) between the two
poles to the corner. Of course, should the horse hit the pole, that is
a dock, and should he step over the pole, that is a big dock.
- The objective here is to back up between poles placed in an L shape, without
hitting the poles or stepping over them. You back your horse up slowly,
watching the ground, but some people have trouble doing this in a car,
much less on a horse. This alone shows how difficult the trail class can
- Here, the competitor must unlock, open, pass through and close the gate,
never letting go of the gate, and remaining on horseback the entire time
as well. If the rider lets go of the gate, they will be docked and
receive a zero for the gate portion. It is quite common for a horse
to shy away from the gate as soon as it is opened.
- A mock bridge is placed on the ground, and must be passed over. It
may seem simple, but horses often fear things such as this, and you can
never let your guard down.
- A number of logs are laid on the ground, and you must cross over them in
a jog or gallop, with points being docked should the horse strike the logs.
The way not to strike the logs is simple; don't interfere with the horse.
If you give the horse a strong signal by jerking or strongly pulling the
reigns, the horse will loose their concentration on the logs and hit them
or step on them. The key is to signal gently (it always sounds so
- A box barely big enough for the horse to stand in is another obstacle that
may be encountered. The objective is to enter the box and do a 360 turn,
without of course, hitting the box it self. It may sound impossible, but
horses are very dexterous animals.
Hitting a log in either portion means deduction of points, and even the
crowd nervously watches this class of competition in silence.
The Image was drawn by Kazuyuki Tsugeshita.
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