By Mark Bolender
Mountain Trail has moved to southwest Nevada in a big way with the construction of a Mountain Trail course in Pahrump, Nevada at Happy Hoof Beats Equestrian Center which is on property owned by horse trainer Barbara Callihan.
This is the latest IMTCA approved course designed and built by Mark Bolender. The course is on a compact site yet it offers everything to all riders from the beginning rider to the most advanced.
It is a rare thing to see water in this part of Nevada yet this course offers a small pond and a squirting water box. Both water obstacles are designed to withstand years of use. Along with the water obstacles the course offers several types of bridges that may be encountered on a real trail ride such as a suspension bridge, rolling bridge and a bridge with side rails, plus it features a ninety-degree turn.
In the Pacific North West where I am from we have a number of bridges in poor repair and it is not uncommon for them to move slightly while navigating them which in turn has led to a number of accidents with injury often sustained by horse or rider. By building a bridge that rolls we can teach the horse to address a moving bridge in a safe manner. The horse’s instinct is to bolt off a bridge that moves which can result in injury to horse and rider so by simulating a bridge that moves in a controlled training session we can build a bold and confident horse that is able to deal with this situation in a safe manner.
It is the same with the suspension bridge where the horse learns to deal with and maintain its demeanor while walking across or turning around on a bridge that moves under it. The biggest limiting factor in teaching new skills to the horse is the human factor. Often the human doubts that a horse can navigate a certain obstacle which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in having the horse fail in learning a desired skill.
We were able to demonstrate this in a clinic immediately after the course was built in October of 2017. All the horses became successful in navigating each obstacle by the end of a two day clinic. Many in the clinic looked at me in disbelief when at the start of the clinic I told them that each horse would be able to walk across and or navigate each obstacle by the end of day two. The reason each horse and rider were successful was the fact that my wife Lee and myself know what the horse can do across the globe. My total belief in the horse transferred over to the owners when they watched me teach their horse to do what they thought was impossible such as teaching the horse to walk across the three different balance beams.
A well-designed Mountain Trail course is much more than obstacles laid out for horses to navigate. Many aspects went into designing this course to maximize training and safety for horse and rider. This course is 3D which adds to the visual ascetics and is pleasing to the eye. A 3D Mountain Trail course also adds to the realism as in a real trail ride and increases the difficulty level in maintaining a consistent cadence at any gait and especially the canter-lope. As in a real trail ride the trail can become narrow yet the option of going off the trail is not an option. In this course while at the canter-lope, the trail becomes very narrow and tight at times while canter-loping yet it is very possible. By putting this challenge into this Mountain Trail course it forces horse and rider to address horsemanship and control. A well designed Mountain Trail Course is a great training tool and a great tool in having riders look at their equitation or lack of it. In order to be successful in riding and navigating obstacle one must have proper equitation.
I know that equitation is often a dirty word and often avoided at all cost however, this new equine discipline now forces each rider to assess their seat. If a rider consistently falls off of the balance beam for example I can almost guarantee that the rider is not using their legs and driving the horse forward or they are off balance in their seat. A rider will soon discover that if they sit correctly and use their legs they will have success in crossing the balance beam. This is just one example of what can be learned while riding at Barbra’s Callihan Mountain Trail Course. I could address the advantages and fun of a mountain trail course but the last thing I will touch on is transitions.
In most of our riding and training we talk about and train for transitions. If we miss a transition at letter C at the canter-lope it is not a big deal. However, if we fail to come from the canter-lope at the crossbuck then we have a major safely issue. The point is, transitions now have real meaning and failure to transition will have real and immediate consequences which means that one will be forced to address riding and horsemanship skills.
The exciting part of this Mountain Trail Course in Southern Nevada is it provides a fun time while learning new horsemanship skills and at the same time builds a partnership with the horse.
Happy Trails and Bolender Blessings.
For more information please visit: www.imtca.org