Equine Trail Sports
by Catherine Madera
Founded in 2013, the Austin, TX based Equine Trail Sports (ETS) is focused on fun while helping riders develop the skills and confidence needed to navigate real trail riding experiences. This is filling a valuable niche in the fast growing sport of obstacle and extreme trail challenges. The motto for ETS— Ride for Fun, Ride to Learn— also serves as an apt description of the horsemanship journey of Northwest ride manager, George Ehmer.
Indeed. What this retired mechanic and former Marine has accomplished since he began riding at age 58 is impressive. Since acquiring his Appaloosa gelding Joker in 2008, Ehmer has been to the Appaloosa World Show, competed in Extreme Cowboy Races and numerous trail competitions and is working to complete the entire Chief Joseph Trail Ride (ridden in 100 mile segments). In addition, Ehmer and his trusty mount have won many awards in both competitive trail and equine scent detection challenges, repeatedly proving their solid partnership.
Because of his passion and unique horsemanship experience, Ehmer was a natural fit for filling the important role of regional ride manager, growing the number of Northwest area rides from 3 to 44 in the first year. Besides finding and training ride managers, Ehmer’s duties also include training judges.
“It’s super important,” says Ehmer, of the need to standardize judging procedure for ETS events. It is a major goal for the organization in 2015.
So how does ETS competition differ from other obstacle challenges? The organization developed a levels program that allows the rider to choose at what level they wish to navigate each individual obstacle during a challenge event. Obstacles are judged at 3 levels of difficulty, allowing riders the opportunity to customize an individual ride for maximum success. This removes pressure and results in horse and rider showing to their best ability, obstacle by obstacle. Perhaps most importantly, ETS does not feature timed events, something George Ehmer is enthusiastic about.
“Good horsemanship goes out the window in a timed event,” says Ehmer who believes horses are too easily pressured and taught to rush when on the clock. This quickly becomes a safety issue, both on course and during a real trail ride. The top priority of ETS is to assist riders in achieving a better relationship with their horse while growing in ability in a supportive environment.insert 2901
By utilizing the levels program of ETS, a horse and rider are set up for long term success, building trust in the way Ehmer has experienced first-hand with his horse Joker. The scoring system encourages a rider to honestly assess their skills and abilities while offering opportunity for advancement and greater challenge. ETS believes so strongly in the importance of partnership that horsemanship points are possible even if a team does not complete an obstacle.
In addition to obstacle course events, ETS members can also participate in trail challenges and recreational rides. For challenges, a judged obstacle is set up approximately every mile along a 5-10 mile trail. For recreational rides, obstacles may be provided for practice along a 5-10 mile course. These rides offer fun, learning and also a way to fund raise for special events. In all three ride formats, miles are accumulated for the ETS Mileage Program and gifts are awarded for specific achievements. It’s all about building camaraderie and becoming more confident in the place a majority of equestrians prefer: the trail.
“Our vision at ETS is to help riders enjoy their horse, have fun and be safe on the trail,” says Ehmer.
Join ETS for only $25.00 and enter an upcoming tournament. See the website for the 2015 NW Tri-State Tournament. A beautiful saddle and horse sculpture art pieces are this year’s prizes. For more information or to join visit Equinetrailsports.com. The TrailMeister is the official trail directory for ETS.
Catherine Madera served as editor of the Northwest Horse Source for five years. She has written for numerous regional and national publications and is a contributing writer for Guideposts Magazine and the author of four equine-related books. She has two grown children and lives with her husband and three horses in Northwest Washington.