The Equine Challenge
The Equine Challenge or Trail Challenge, like the American Quarter Horse Ass'n (AQHA) program, are excellent venues and activities to participate in, and utilize to assist in building trust, the horse and rider partnership. Although there are a number of trail challenge programs out there, we use he AQHA program because it addresses the elements of training we feel is important, and all breeds of horses as well as mules may participate.
# 1 is Safety, safety for both mount and rider. It goes without saying that animal welfare is always important. The use of good tack is also essential, doesn't have to be fancy but needs to be in good usable condition. It is also expected that riders and horses exhibit good manners. Riders are not compelled to do an obstacle, if they are not comfortable they may pass, if it is a scored event their score will reflect accordingly. The AQHA program is not a timed event. Safety seems to go out the window when the clock it turned on.
#2 Educational, a rider should be able to learn from the trail challenge experience. The trail challenge facilitator or judge should be a knowledgeable horseperson, and be willing to assist participants with suggestions and ideas to improve the handling of an obstacle when they have problems. Training techniques and ideas for the participant will enhance the experience and give them something to work on and practice at home.
#3 Fun, these type of workshops and events should be fun. That folks is the essence of the word recreation. Let's ride safe, learn and have fun.
NOTE: Obstacles should be the same or similar to obstacles found on a trail in real life situations. A course should be developed in a trail setting not in an arena, and obstacles if not natural should be made as close to possible from natural materials, not PVC, plastic or foam. To learn more about the AQHA Trail Challenge rules and guidelines go to www.aqha.com and go to the ride program.
In 2013 the University of Nebraska Extension Service adopted the AQHA Trail Challenge Program for the 4H youth in Nebraska, consequently there are several 4H events throughout the year in Nebraska where 4H youth, parents and volunteer leaders can go to participate and win awards. Check out go.unl.edu/horsechallenge