Mountain Trail IMTCA Youth Spotlight: Ava Dees

Mr. Sox came with the warning from his previous owner that he would never go in the water

One of the goals of IMTCA is to showcase the ultimate Mountain Trail horse, where a rider of any skill level can enjoy trail riding in a safe manner and that includes the youth of the equestrian world.

IMTCA youth rider Ava Dees started her education to excellent horsemanship at the tender age of nine under the tutelage of Mark Bolender at Bolender Horse Park.  Never having ridden before, Ava is a natural and has excelled under Mark’s guidance and instruction. The road for this pint-sized powerhouse in the equestrian world didn’t come with a “been there, done that, seen that, seasoned trail horse”. Ava’s partner, Mr. Sox, now 20-years old, was actually her mother Cynthia’s reining horse. Cynthia had purchased Mr. Sox from a gentleman in New Jersey and had shown him for three years prior to Ava taking over the reins.

Interestingly enough Mr. Sox came with the warning from his previous owner that he would never go in the water. According to Cynthia the day that Mark worked with Ava on the Mountain Trail course I knew in my heart he would become Ava’s.  Now 12-years-old, Ava and Sox have expanded their riding disciplines to include competing in all around events, reining, ranch riding, trail, English and Western in the AQHA youth club in Washington state.

While Ava has been very successful in the show ring it isn’t about the awards, it’s about the confidence she has built along the way. Something we have heard about time and time again. The power of horses, and not just with the youth. Even at this tender young age Ava has grown as a person and Sox has been her rock. Together, they are on a path to the joy of riding, all defined by excellent horsemanship and the skills taught to her early on in Mountain Trail.

Regardless of your age or skill level Mountain Trail has a division and level for you. The following levels and divisions are recognized by the Trail Challenge management and within each division there are three levels.


Level 1- This is considered a new Partnership. The rider and Horse many not have established trust or are unsure about each team member’s ability to negotiate simple obstacles. Obstacles should be easy to explain to the team: basic maneuver or technique need to compete the obstacle. The course will be at the flat-footed walk.

Level 2- This is considered an established Partnership. The rider and Horse are familiar with one another, exhibit trust when negotiating obstacles and are conditioned to ride a longer Course. May include some jog, trot. running walk, gait, or intermediate gait up to and between obstacles, forward ground covering is encouraged; 180, 270 or 360 degrees on certain obstacles.

Level 3- This is considered a Partnership where Horse and rider have established trust, can negotiate difficult obstacles and are conditioned to travel a longer Course. May include some canter, lope, or gait up to and between obstacles; 180, 270 or 360 degrees on certain obstacles.


  1. Lead Line: This is defined as anybody requiring a lead line from an adult by their side (e.g., a child or equestrian with disabilities).
  2. Novice Division: This is defined as limited exposure to mastering Mountain Trail obstacles. No more than 3 blue ribbons in a qualifying Trail Challenge or in the first 2 years of riding.
  3. Youth Division: This is defined as participants under 18 years old based on age as of January 1st; minimum age to compete will be 6 years old. Helmets are necessary when required by state and/or local ordinance; all youth must wear helmets while showing under IMTCA. A youth cannot exhibit a stallion.
  4. Adult Division: This is dined as participants 18 and older.
  5. Open Division: This is defined as trainers and all riders.

For more information about the International Mountain Trail Challenge Association, please visit:

Discussion about this post

Login Subscribe