Fun for Participants and Spectators
by Mark Bolender
The new discipline of Mountain Trail is in exciting times. For the past six years Mountain Trail courses have been built across the globe. An association known as International Mountain Trail Challenge (IMTCA) has been established along with affiliates in Canada, Germany, Italy, and soon Australia. IMTCA will be featured later this year on RFD-TV with Equestrian Nation. This program will show this sport as a refined and fun discipline.
IMTCA represents and is the body that oversees Mountain Trail. This is a new discipline that involves many breeds along with mules and mini horses. A combination of Western and English disciplines, it’s an exciting spectator sport that requires specialized skills from both horse and rider. While most participants are recreational riders, the sport also offers challenges for the most advanced rider.
IMTCA has concentrated on building a foundation for the discipline by constructing training courses around the world. It is also standardizing certain obstacles with blueprinted drawings, training and certifying judges and interns internationally, and working with trainers to build and promote the sport. We have introduced IMTCA internationally by holding clinics, shows, and challenges. The Italian National Show, held in Verona in November 2015, drew more than 10,000 spectators per day and featured excellent competitors. Mountain Trail was first brought to Italy four years ago and has taken off to the point of holding this national show at the Verona Horse Expo with over 170,000 attendees.
On the TV presentation, you’ll see both novice and advanced English and Western horses navigating trail obstacles on a Mountain Course just outside of Denver. This course features 9 levels of elevation with over 50 obstacles. It also has two man-made ponds built into the hillside, each navigable at a walk, trot, or lope/canter which is called the “canterlope” in Mountain Trail.
Mountain Trail is part dressage and part 3-day eventing. It’s a sport of boldness and precision that appeals to recreational and hardcore backcountry riders alike, both of whom make up the majority of competitors. It requires precise transitions, great horsemanship, and good riding skills. It’s also a sport that promotes showing the horse “in hand.” At a competition you’ll see horses navigating many challenging obstacles, such as rolling bridges, swinging bridges, balance beams, rock patches, rock steps, water crossings, and the cake box. You’ll also see smiles of success on riders and a little frustration from both horses and riders.
IMTCA has three levels of difficulty: Level I, where the horse only walks on the course and through obstacles; Level II, which requires the horse and rider to trot from obstacle to obstacle; and Level III, where the horse and rider will “canterlope” between some obstacles.
The RFD-TV program will spotlight some great goes by horses and riders, and some where things do not go as desired. You will see many who are just having fun. There are horses and riders of various skills levels and on many different breeds. Some of the obstacles for Level III riders are very difficult, while the obstacles and riding patterns for the Level I riders are much less complicated. At every level of Mountain Trail you will see horses and riders having fun.
As a spectator sport, Mountan Trail is almost as much fun to watch as it is to ride. Check out the Equestrian Nation trailer for the RFD-TV program at Bolender Horse Park, (www.bolenderhorsepark.com) or search Mark Bolender or Bolender Horse Park on Facebook. Enjoy the program!
Happy Trails and Bolender Blessings
Mark Bolender is the nation’s leading expert in Mountain Trail, Extreme Mountain Trail, and Competitive Trail. He’s a three-time National Champion and one of the most popular trainers in the country. Today, Mark’s unique style of horsemanship has made the Bolender brand synonymous with these disciplines.
Mark has written for numerous national magazines and authored the popular book, Bolender’s Guide to Mastering Mountain and Extreme Trail Riding. Mark and his horse Checkers hold the sport’s all-time highest honors. Checkers was distinguished by becoming the 2020 Breyer Horse.
Mark and Lee Bolender founded the International Mountain Trail Challenge Association (IMTCA) to promote these sports. Today, the IMTCA trains judges, coordinates activities, and maintains certifications around the world.
Mark owns and operates Bolender Horse Park in Washington State. Mark has also designed and built Mountain Trail courses around the world.