Trail Trials

AQHA judge Robin Frid walks youth competitors through a world-class trail course and advises them on how to score high at the 2010 American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup.

AQHA judge Robin Frid walks youth competitors through a world-class trail course and advises them on how to score high at the 2010 American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup.

Team Austria member Rene Brieger guides his horse through the trail course at the Youth World Cup trail clinic.

By Tara Christiansen

To start Day 4 off, AQHA judge Robin Frid walked the American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup competitors through a trail course and guided them through the ins and outs of scoring high in the class.

Staying out of the penalty box should be the rider’s No. 1 goal, Robin says. Also, horsemanship is key, even in a trail class. Echoing his advice from the horsemanship and western riding clinics, Robin reminded the youth that they can’t expect their horses to travel square if they as riders are not sitting square.

Robin preached to the competitors to use the space in the arena, something that he encouraged in the previous day’s western riding clinic.

“There’s plenty of dirt out there,” he says, “and I want you to use the big spaces of it.”

Also, Robin says that exhibitors should try to slow down their pattern. The quicker a rider tries to get somewhere, the sooner things can go wrong, he says. Robin borrowed a quote from his friend, trail course designer Tim Kimura: “Focus on the process, not the result.” How a rider approaches an obstacle, Robin says, is more important than the end result.

Robin offered advice that is easily applied to other classes. It’s too much energy to have control of a horse trotting or loping off from a standstill, he says. Instead, Robin suggests that riders walk their horses forward a step or two before asking for the next gait.

As the youth walked the pattern with Robin, he demonstrated where they should aim to place their horses’ feet. Look five to six inches behind the pole – where you want your horse’s foot to land, Robin says.

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Creating forward motion in the course is crucial in Robin’s eyes.

“This is not western pleasure trail,” he says. Nine times out of 10, your horse will tell you how much impulsion it needs; it’s the rider’s job to listen and interpret that cue.

Throughout the course, Robin showed the youth where they could take the time to breathe and collect themselves. To slow their pattern down, Robin says that a rider should react slowly to his horse, which will in turn slow the horse down. Also, Robin believes that cutting corners is solely rider error and, as a judge, he will penalize a rider that allows his horse to do so.

Through the years, it has become commonplace for trail exhibitors to lean forward over their horses as they walk onto a bridge. Robin discourages this: First, leaning forward loads the horse’s front end, which makes it difficult for the horse to step up onto the bridge. Secondly, Robin notes jockeys lean forward to ask their horses to increase their speed – a trail rider does not want to be asking for speed, especially at that point in time.

Want to learn what the professionals have to say about how to show your favorite event? Tune in to America’s Horse TV to catch the Youth World Cup clinics.

Hear what the clinicians had to say at the hunt seat equitation and western pleasure clinics and check out all the Youth World Cup coverage.

The American Quarter Horse Journal is in Oklahoma City for the Youth World Cup’s online coverage.  Check out the slide show below (click on each photo to see the caption).

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