Journal on the Road

AQHA Trail Challenge

April 9, 2012

Our first event was a success … you’ll want to find one near you!

By Kelly Bruce Beard

Stephanie Dow of Jensen Beach, Florida, rides JS Sweet Zipsation across a 22-foot-high bridge. Photo by Kelly Bruce Beard.

The AQHA Trail Challenge is a new competitive event that asks horses and riders to work as a team, navigating natural obstacles they might experience on the trail. The focus is on horsemanship, and the goal is to promote education, safety and fun. As a bonus, “trail challenge merits” will be recorded on horses’ permanent AQHA records.

The first event was held March 24 at Fox Trail Farm in Palm City, Florida, as a fundraiser for the Florida Quarter Horse Youth Association. There were trail horses there to compete, but also hunters, jumpers, cutters, reiners, pleasure and dressage horses, and just about every other make and model in between.

The riders, who were just as diverse as the horses – all ages, levels of experience and disciplines – united to make AQHA history, competing in an event that celebrates the challenges found on the trail.

Here’s what a few of them had to say about the historic event:

“Spend some time with your horse on the ground, safely getting him used to these types of obstacles, and then come out and play. Bring your horse and have some fun. We had a ball! We’ll be back for sure.”
– Jon Seefeld, trail rider, and Designated Bold, Fort Pierce, Florida

“Just give it a try. Most people are scared of the obstacles at first – they don’t think their horse is going to do it. When I first brought my hunter out here, it took us a while with the groundwork, but in the end, we were crossing the high bridge, climbing up rocks and doing all the obstacles together. There’s so much to do, and it’s stimulating for you and your horse’s mind. It’s a nice break from your normal training schedule, but it’s still really productive.”
– Lindsey Whitehead, AQHYA competitor, and XS Delux, Stuart, Florida

“Get out there and give it a try. It’s fun, a little challenging at times, but it’s worth it. We’ll definitely do more obstacles and Trail Challenges. There’s no doubt.”
– Bridget Hughen, trail rider, and GDA Roses Best, Malabar, Florida

“I’ve been riding since I was 4 or 5 years old, now I’m 63. Doing the same thing over and over gets boring. This event is more versatile and gives my horse something more to think about – and me, too. It bonds us even tighter, because he’s depending on me to be brave. My bravado takes him where he’s weak, and his bravado takes me where I’m weak. So it’s give and take. I hope AQHA has more Trail Challenges. I’ll travel for these events.”
– Suzzette Stroud, AQHA competitor, and Zippa Rona, Boynton Beach, Florida

Upcoming Trail Challenges

  • May 6, Smith, Nevada
  • May 13, Brunswick, Maine
  • May 19, Palm City, Florida
  • July 7, Topsham, Maine
  • July 29, Lodi, New York
  • August 18, East Sparta, Ohio
  • September 15, Eugene, Oregon
  • September 29, Conewango Valley, New York

Don’t miss the June issue of America’s Horse for more on Florida’s inaugural Trail Challenge. America’s Horse is just one of the great benefits of AQHA membership.