In her second installation of this three part series, Kristen Kovatch shines a light on the little-known sport of “Indoor Mountain Trail.”
I originally intended to cover Extreme Cowboy Racing in this second installment of lesser-known western activities, but instead stumbled across a unique and impressive competition held at the Oregon Horse Center. This facility appears to be the only venue hosting Indoor Mountain Trail, but the beauty and legitimacy of the course suggests that it won’t be long before it starts becoming popular.
If you are familiar with “conventional” arena trail, it’s really a far cry from what anyone would actually be meeting up with on a trail ride. In my experience trail patterns fall into one of two types: 4H-style trail, in which every pattern seems to include a plank or bridge, a single sidepass pole, a gate and a mailbox (how often do you check your mail on horseback, really?!?!) or AQHA-style trail, which essentially seems to be a glorified cavaletti lope-over contest. Indoor Mountain Trail is about as close to an actual trail ride as you can get while still being inside.
It’s a course designer’s dream: logs half-buried in the dirt, hills of varying grades, boulders, lots of shrubbery and trees, water everywhere, bridges, and, believe it or not, a waterfall—all indoors.
Competitors are expected to dress as though they are riding out for a day on the trails; helmets are encouraged. Neatness in turnout is appreciated though silver tack and show attire makes no additional impression (other than making one look quite silly at the indoor waterfall.) Horse and rider pairs are scored on each obstacle, with a score of zero for a refusal (three attempts per obstacle are allowed) and a score of ten for a perfect trip.
For a good idea of just how demanding these courses can be, check out this helmet cam video from Barnmice.com. This horse and rider pair navigate trenches, logs on slopes, big rocks and step-ups, some fairly terrifying bridges, and a carwash curtain (this last obstacle is a bit dubious to me in its authenticity, but it’s there in the course regardless.)
So for all of the trail-riding enthusiasts who might be seeking a creative way to test you and your horse’s mettle, start planning a trip to Oregon for the Mountain Trail National Championships. It would be hard to find a better test.