Friday, April 25, 2014

Just What is Extreme Trail?

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Mark on CheckersPeople often ask, "What's the difference between Mountain Trail and Extreme Trail?" In a word, Extreme Trail is like Mountain trail on steroids.

The sport of Mountain Trail requires the horse and rider to navigate trail obstacles with skill and finesse against a ticking clock. This is in contrast to other equestrian sports like the Extreme Cowboy Race, which is essentially a speed trial where horse and rider must move from obstacle to obstacle as fast as possible. Finesse and precision are not important because scoring depends on swiftness alone. The sport of Mountain Trail is especially exhilarating because it challenges horse and rider to navigate trail obstacles with technical accuracy, subtlety, and speed. There are graded levels of difficulty, where the most challenging are designed for the most experienced horse and rider.

Extreme Trail is not yet formalized into a competitive sport of its own (although this will likely occur). It's a type of trail riding also called Extreme Trail Riding. It's similar to Mountain Trail but with far more difficult challenges in terms of the obstacles and time requirements. In fact, the obstacles frequently are way more challenging than you would experience on a real trail ride or other horse shows. And they come at you one after another, and often together!

When various obstacles are combined in Mountain Trail competition, the challenges are elevated to a whole different level. For example, negotiating a gate, cowboy curtain, or pond each is a common Mountain Trail obstacle on its own. But when all of these are united into a single obstacle, it constitutes an Extreme Trail obstacle that tasks even the best horse and rider.

A primary focus of both Mountain Trail and Extreme Trail is not only to properly negotiate the obstacles in a timely manner, but to execute them with finesse; something that only a true partnership between horse and rider can create. Lack of subtlety is obvious to anybody watching. When the horse and rider disconnect, it seems like the rider is forcing the horse to perform the task of negotiating obstacles.

Finesse is gained by a partnership where mutual trust has developed. When this occurs, the horse and rider appear as one single living being, an image few feats of man and beast can rival. It's like a virtuoso violin performance, where the boundary between the human and the instrument becomes blurred and beautiful music results. So are the horse and rider who mutually trust their instincts, and together, negotiate seemingly impossible obstacles with the unmistakable beauty and delicacy of a trusted partnership.

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