Cover Stories

November 2014 Cover Story: Introducing the International Mountain Trail Challenge Association

November 2014 Cover Story: Introducing the International Mountain Trail Challenge Association
Catherine Madera

Taking the Sport of Trail Competition to the Next Level

by Catherine Madera

 

Trail Challenge

Cover Photo courtesy Hall Cook

 

Trail Challenge

Obstacle trail challenges continue to grow in popularity. Photo courtesy of Hal Cook.

Nearly every equestrian sport has a governing body with the goal of promoting the discipline and creating a level playing field for those who compete. In dressage, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) helps ensure rules are “fair, realistic and applied with scrupulous competence and even-handedness.” In the reining horse world, the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is dedicated to the promotion of the sport and “serves as the standard setting body for the sport of reining worldwide.” Arguably, extreme and mountain trail competition is now the most popular equestrian discipline with courses and show series popping up everywhere. This begs the question who, or what is creating a level playing field for competitors?

“Currently the sport is fragmented,” says extreme and mountain trail champion and clinician Mark Bolender. “Judging is not very consistent.”

Trail Challenge

Mark Bolender and Checkers navigate a water obstacle at Bolender Horse Park. Photo Courtesy Hal Cook.

Bolender, an AQHA professional horseman, has created mountain trail courses all over the world and serves as a national judge for the sport as well as conducting clinics at his own course, Bolender Horse Park, in Silver Creek, Washington. It was only natural he would be interested in creating an association to help bring the sport to the next level of legitimacy: consistently judged and scored competitions, worldwide. Together with his wife Lee, Mark created the International Mountain Trail Challenge Association with this very goal in mind.

“A mountain trail competition in Germany should be scored the same as one in the US,” says Mark, who refers to organizations such as the NRHA for comparison. Bolender has already helped create sister associations to the IMTCA in Italy and Germany and has built trail courses in both countries as well.

Trail Challenge

In-hand obstacle work is necessary preparation for challenges under saddle. Photo courtesy Hal Cook.

The Bolenders are very excited by the reality of uniting judging standards. This creates a greater degree of fair play and equality while promoting the sport of extreme and mountain trail challenges. The IMTCA has created general guidelines and class descriptions which include in-hand and mounted competitions. They are also focused on standardizing obstacles and training potential judges. Interested persons will be required to complete classroom work as well as evaluate and score scenarios on real courses before being certified to judge an event. In Italy 25 people have been trained and certified by IMTCA, some of these include AQHA judges. In addition, the IMTCA provides membership, points tracking and the possibility for obstacle course owners to list events with the organization for greater promotion.

“This is a fun new discipline that everyone loves,” says Bolender, “and it’s also one of the greatest training tools for good horsemanship out there.”

Trail Challenge

 

 

For more information on Mark Bolender visit bolenderhorsepark.com. To find out how to participate in IMTCA visit imtca.org.

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Cover Stories
Catherine Madera

Catherine Madera attended Walla Walla University in Eastern Washington where she majored in communications/journalism. After winning a national competition for Guideposts Magazine in 2004, Catherine concentrated on non-fiction inspirational stories. Since then, she has published numerous personal and ghosted stories for Guideposts and their affiliate publications. Catherine has published in many regional and national magazines/newspapers and her work is included in several anthologies. She specializes in equine-related topics and profiles and serves as editor of The Northwest Horse Source. In 2010 Catherine’s non-fiction story, A Hero’s Work, received the Merial Human-Animal Bond award given by American Horse Publications. She has also authored three works of fiction and provides editing/writing assistance through Word Horse Writing Services.

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