Mountain Trail: A Discipline for all Equine
By Mark Bolender
You don’t normally find the Western saddled horse next to an English saddled horse in the same competition. The same goes for seeing Arabians, Peruvian’s, Quarter horses, thoroughbreds, minis, warm bloods or even mules in the same competitive ring. But Mountain Trail competition is where all horse breeds can come together to navigate the difficult obstacles before them because the measures of excellence are not as much in the animal’s muscles as they are in its mind. This is a discipline where all types of riding disciplines meet side by side to test their skills whether in a western saddle or English saddle. This is why the new association founded by Mark and (Juanita) Lee Bolender called International Mountain Trail Challenge Association or IMTCA is growing as a popular new discipline across the globe. The daunting task of growing a new discipline is almost overwhelming when you consider trying to standardize judging rules, obstacles, train and certify judges, maintain websites, insurance needs along with language and work permit barriers and 24 time zones. Yet when it is all said and done the joy that we see across the board and how hard many are working to build Mountain trail it is all worth it.
We see more challenges/shows being scheduled and the excitement is growing. The last challenge/show at the Washington State Expo sold out quickly and $5,000.00 in prize money plus saddles and prizes from sponsors made it a great success. Mountain Trail has moved across Canada, Europe and Australia where multiple Mountain Trail Courses allow riders to compete.
Mountain Trail has been introduced in Equine affair, (Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts), and on the west coast of the USA along with expos in Canada, Australia and Europe. We are seeing more expos adding clinics along with challenges which are being well attended. The next expo we will be attending is in Verona Italy the first of November. This expo draws approx. 170,000 visitors each year and will be holding the third challenge at an expo in Europe. This has been a huge hit and is a large commitment for IMTCA of Italy and FEI financially and time wise. Setting up a complete Mountain Trail Course along with many special built portable obstacles such as swinging bridges and rolling bridges takes a lot of work and time. The President of the Italian IMTCA, Lino Tosoni, has obtained sponsors from some of the largest companies in Italy along with some global companies. We feel that the sponsorships will be a key to the growth of the sport for travel, prizes and facilities all are very costly.
This new discipline has now been aired 4 times on RFDTV which has also helped to build awareness and drew double the normal viewership according to Nielsen rating. This was also positive for the sponsors who funded the programs.
We feel that another key to building this discipline is for new Mountain Trail Courses to be constructed across the globe. We realize that some Mountain Trail Courses have been very expensive to build but depending on the use they can be a great revenue generating investment. The last Mountain Trail Couse built in Germany had 1,000 spectators show up to watch a challenge. Since this course has been built it has been in non-stop use for training, challenges and clinics.
Coming soon in IMTCA will be the “battle of the breeds”. We see this as fun class for each breed can complete on the same level. When it comes to training for the competitive ring, there’s much more of a difference within a breed than between breeds. It’s all a matter of disposition. The most desirable disposition for a horse to compete in Mountain Trail is boldness and confidence and I find this within each breed. In a well-trained Mountain Trail horse, you can see it working out the obstacles before it on its own. It doesn’t rely on the rider to know where to place a hoof or where to go because it already has thought it through. Its head is down, ears are forward, and it’s clearly thinking and working the problem. The rider is merely somebody who asks the horse to accomplish a task.
Mark and (Juanita) Lee own and operate Bolender Horse Park Inc. in Silver Creek, Washington State, which is widely recognized as one of the finest Mountain Trail and Extreme Trail course in existence, drawing students from around the world. Students of every skill level train side by side with horses of every breed.
And even if you don’t want to compete, training for Mountain Trail is an experience like no other, and anybody can share it with their horse. You develop a relationship far beyond any other bond. As many riders have proclaimed, the experience is “wildly addictive”.
Happy Trails and Bolender Blessings
Mark H Bolender
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