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Inaugural Year for the PFHA Trail Horse Test Program

March 24, 2022


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By Virginia Foster
Photographer Ron Colburn

PFHA Board of Directors has demonstrated their strong commitment to our recreational riding members by voting unanimously to implement the Trail Horse Test (THT) program. The program is designed to recognize the responsive, well-mannered trail horse. This is not a competitive obstacle challenge, rather the horse is judged against a standard of performance as it completes the tasks normally performed, before, during and after a trail ride. The standards are set at three levels of performance: Junior, Senior and Master Level. The test is divided into 7 categories: trailer loading; grooming & tacking; ground exercises; exercises under saddle; performance on the trail; trail obstacles; and the most important category-overall temperament. Each category is further divided into test elements that are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. The horse must receive a passing grade before advancing to the next level.

The program is opened to all breeds. For PFHA registered horses, the level the horse achieves is recorded in the horse’s PFHA registry record. Any PFHA member can host a Trial Horse Test. The test is managed much like the regional shows are. The requestor is responsible for organizing and managing the event. The requestor keeps whatever profit is earned from the event.

The PFHA Recreational Rider Committee, under Judi Bradbury’s chairmanship, is administering this program. It has been in development for several years. We thank the numerous trainers, judges, and amateurs that have contributed to the refinement of the program, especially Dick Teachout who came up with the original idea; Rick Shaffer who donated countless hours setting the frame work; Liz Sherman who edited and re-edited the documents I produced that describe the program; Nola Haupert-Keill who hosted and judged the first beta test in 2015; Judi Bradbury who hosted the second beta test and all the participants who allowed us to use them as guinea pigs. In 2017, the program took off to a great start thanks to the generosity and hospitality of Peggy Tanner, who hosted the first official test at her Paradise Farm in Bixby Oklahoma on March 26, 2017. (And believe me her farm is paradise.) Seven participants elected to be tested at the Junior level. One opted to be tested at the Junior and Senior level. We are happy to announce Rick Shaffer, the judge, passed the following seven horses at the Junior level: Rico ridden by Rebecca Hoover; Chico ridden by Michele Rader; Birdie ridden by Tonia Colburn; Diego ridden by Leigh Ann Hoover; Calesita ridden by Margaretta Mays; Prince ridden by Tom Mays; and Silver ridden by LeeAnn Dreadfulwater.

Each were awarded a certificate, a small medal bridle tag with the words “PFHA JR Trail Horse”, and a patch with the PFHA Logo. They were also provided with a copy of their scorecards, so they know where they excelled and what they need to work on.

These are comments from the participants and spectators of the first test.
“Give this program a try before you judge it.”
“I learned a lot. I have a step by step plan on what I need to work on.”
“I thought it was just going to be pros showing off, making me feel dumb. It was not that. It was all of us learning how to work with our horses. Rick was fantastic!!”
“I wish I had brought a horse.”
“I will be back in October for the next test.”

We encourage members to submit suggestions for improvement to the Rec Rider Committee Chair, Judi Bradbury at This is your program, Rec Riders! Let’s show the world what great trail horses we have.

From left to right – LeighAnn Hoover, LeeAnn Dreadfulwater, Peggy Tanner, Rebecca Hoover. Tonia Colburn, Rick Shaffer, Virginia Foster, Margaretta Mays, Tom Mays, Michele Rader


PFHA Trail Horse Test Program

Rick Shaffer judged the exercises under saddle while Virginia Foster recorded Rick’s scores for each horse for each test element.


PFHA Trail Horse Test Program

Rick Shaffer judged the ground work exercises.


Rick Shaffer gave Tom Mays training tips on how to use the wall to train turn on the haunches.


Chico ridden by Michele Rader scored a perfect score on the dreaded water obstacle.


Birdie ridden by Tonia Colburn kept a consistent speed at the corto and scored high for it.


Calesita ridden by Margaretta Mays scored well at the mailbox.


Silver ridden by LeeAnn Dreadfulwater stepped lightly through the poles and received a high score.


Rico ridden by Rebbecca Hoover scored high on this obstacle that tests Rico’s ability to obey commands to move all parts of his body.


LeighAnn Hoover received all 5s (perfect) for grooming and tacking. Diego never moved a muscle.

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