IMTCA Debuts at Quarter Horse Congress

Ohio Expo Center, Columbus, OH

Mark Bolender riding Checkers bridleless

IMTCA’s journey in bringing Mountain Trail to the Quarter Horse Congress in 2018 started in April where we met with the executive director of the Quarter Horse Congress, Dr. Scott Myer.

When all was said and done, IMTCA was given the green light to bring and demonstrate Mountain Trail to the Quarter Horse Congress. Thanks to IMTCA members in Ohio who committed to bringing three truckloads of obstacles and horses to demonstrate, we knew that we would be able to set up a nice Mountain Trail Course to present Mountain Trail to the AQHA.

Six months had rolled by and early on a Sunday morning we loaded up my horse Checkers (Sir Rugged Chex, 19-year-old Quarter Horse) and Macen, a cute smart pony which would be used for ride one lead one and demonstrate in hand and headed for Columbus, Ohio, a four and half day drive across America. The weather was great, but the days were long as we crossed this beautiful nation, driving up to 736 miles per day. We arrived at the Quarter Horse Congress on Thursday October 25th and made our way through a maze of trucks, trailers, horses and pedestrians. There are countless arenas and you see horses everywhere.

I guess this is what one should expect at the worlds largest single breed show with over 20,000 horses.

Once the horses were tucked into their bedded stalls we were able to catch our breath and check out the facilities. Once I saw the pavilions filled with vendors I knew I was in trouble, for my wife’s shopping eyes were wide open. This fear later on proved to be well founded but I must admit I found the shopping fun and my hands were soon full of my own bags stuffed with new clothes to wear.

The demonstration was set for Saturday October 27th but we could not begin to set up the course until late October 26th. We started the set up around 7:00 pm by bringing in trucks loaded with obstacles which were off loaded and set in place. After the obstacles were set in place we began the finishing touches by placing over 200 mums and 65 shrubs.

Over 20 banners representing sponsors and 11 flags representing nations involved in Mountain Trail were placed on the arena wall which really put the finishing touches to the stadium.

The final touch was WOW. Everyone was tired but excited for the day and what it would bring. My wife Lee and I were so thankful for everyone’s hard work and commitment to make this happen for without them it would only be a dream not a reality. There is always so much hard work behind the scenes which no one sees yet is so critical to the success of any endeavor and IMTCA presenting Mountain Trail to the Congress was no exception.

Mark Bolender and his horse Checkers (Sir Rugged Chex, 19-year-old Quarter Horse)

Saturday arrived, the horses were groomed, warmed up, the arena was groomed, and we were ready to go.  It started out with me speaking about “instinct vs intelligence” and how it relates to training horses. It was a fun filled hour of information and my demonstration horse provided did great. After speaking and the practical demonstration there were many questions and comments. It was well received. I finished just in time to warm up my horse Checkers and turn him over to Dr. Scott Myers. Dr. Scott is a great rider, but he had never ridden a horse without a bridle. Checkers and he hit it off at once and soon he was navigating the obstacles like a pro. He was fun to coach and was even able to pull off a 360 on the swinging bridge. Within no time, he was trotting between obstacles and progressed to a cantaloupe. In Mountain Trail we don’t lope or canter but we Cantaloupe. When all was said and done the crowd loved watching and Dr. Scott had nothing but a smile on his face.

Now it was my time to get on Checkers and demonstrate a pattern like you would see at an IMTCA challenge/show. Checkers was on and did a great job as he flowed through the obstacles showing the horsemanship and transitions which are the foundation of Mountain Trail. When I was done it was time to demonstrate ride-one-lead-one with the pony Macen. Macen and Checkers have always worked well together and have a relationship like big brother little brother. The demo went well and was loved by the crowd.

Dr. Scott Myer, executive director of the Quarter Horse Congress

Now the real fun started when four others begin to demonstrate in-hand and riding. They spent some time just riding the course and moving through the obstacles and demonstrating their skills to the audience. After demonstrating Mountain Trail skills as a group then it was time for each participant too have the course to themselves and ride or show in-hand a preset pattern as would be required in a real show/challenge. Each participant showed their skills in a manner that showed what the new equine discipline is all about. Great horsemanship, finesse, trust and a partnership while having fun is what this is all about. You can see the whole hour by going to YouTube 2018 Quarter Horse Congress Mountain Trail Demonstration.


Happy Trails and Bolender Blessings.

Mark H Bolender

Learn more about the International Mountain Trail Challenge Association online:

Photography courtesy Creek Side Horse Park

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