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Trail Horse Riding Skills

PFHA Trail Horse Test Program

The Trail Horse Test Program (THTP) provides a way to demonstrate your horse’s ability to perform trail riding skills based on a series of tests that gauges the horse’s natural ability and training against a standard of performance. This is not a competitive trail obstacle course, but a measure of your horse’s abilities to complete the tasks normally performed before, during, and after a trail ride. The elements of the test are what we expect from a well-trained paso fino horse.

The program is also a great opportunity for both adult amateurs and juniors to connect with like-minded horse owners in a healthy, non-competitive atmosphere. We want to share the joys of horse ownership and the skills of our trail and pleasure horses.

The Objectives of the Trail Horse Test Program

  1. Highlight the pleasure of a trained and responsive trail horse.
  2. Set non-competitive goals for the horse in an effort to improve both horse and rider.
  3. Provide a structured method to judge a trail horse.
  4. Record the level achieved in the horse’s PFHA registry. This will assist individuals who are researching horses/bloodline that are well suited to the trail.

Horses that have been awarded titles in the Trail Horse Test Program

The Basics of the Trail Horse Test Program

Our goal is to provide a structure but fun program that guides you to improve your relationship with your horse and to improve your horse’s skills for the trail or as a horse anyone can enjoy. The horse is tested against standards set at three levels of performance: Junior, Senior, and Master Level. The exercises are basically the same for the three levels. The horse is expected to show more obedience and fluidity as it advances up the levels. The horse must receive a passing grade before advancing to the next level. You may choose to be tested at the Junior and Senior level during a single test.

The exercises are divided into 7 categories.

Category 1: Trailer Loading / Unloading
Category 2: Grooming and Tacking the Horse
Category 3: Performing Ground Work Exercises – leading, lunging, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches
Category 4: Performing Exercises Under Saddle – Walk, transitions to increase speed, leg yields, side pass, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches
Category 5: Performance on the Trail – Interaction with other horses.
Category 6: Maneuvering through Trail Obstacles – that test the attitude and obedience of the horse.
Category 7: Temperament and attitude of the horse.  Is the horse highly reactive? Is the horse disobedient?

Each category is further divided into test elements that are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. Each rider will receive a copy of their score card so they can see where they can improve for the next time.

Who can host a Trail Horse Test?

Any PFHA member in good standing may hold a Trail Horse Test.  The requesting member [the Trail Horse Test Host] may represent themselves, their farm or their PFHA region. The requestor must sign the THT Application Form, indicating they shall be financially and managerially responsible for conducting the THT.  The Chair of the PFHA Recreational Rider Committee will approve the application.

Who can participate in a Trail Horse Test?

The program is opened to all breeds and all riders.  You do not have to be a member of PFHA to take the test.  Your horse does not have to be registered with PFHA.  If you are a member and your horse is registered with PFHA, the level achieved will be recorded in the PFHA registry record of the horse.

What the Judge Will Be Evaluating?

A Junior Trail Horse is expected to show the disposition and temperament to be a trail horse. The Junior Trail Horse is expected to show reasonable obedience to its rider, to attempt certain tests and to have basic knowledge of normal commands. The Junior Trail Horse is not expected to be a fully trained horse but is a horse that shows willingness to obey the rider and does not endanger the rider.

A Senior Trail Horse is expected to show all the attributes of a Junior Trail Horse plus be willing and consistent. This horse must be able to obey most commands calmly but with reasonable speed. It is a horse that is comfortable in most situations.

A Master Trail Horse is expected to be a finished and experienced trail horse. A Master Trail Horse is expected to show obedience to its rider’s commands and should be able to be trusted in any situation. Master Horses’ fluidness in their trail skills set them apart. This is the horse we would like to own and ride anywhere.

What are the fees?

We want the Trail Test to be accessible to many horse owners at a reasonable cost. The Trail Test host will charge fees to cover ground use, stalls, the judge, the judge and marshal’s hotel and travel, etc. PFHA will assess a small standard fee per test from the host to cover the cost of the program and awards.

When and where are the upcoming tests?

Check the PFHA Event Calendar for upcoming tests.  Click here to access the calendar

A HUGE thank you to Rick Shaffer for developing this program and dedicating hours in refining it.

photo credit Stunning Steeds Photo

photo credit Stunning Steeds Photo

Information for hosting a Trail Horse Test

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