By Jaime Polmateer / The Times
Clearwater’s Smokin’ True Ranch held the opening day for its new extreme mountain trail course on June 29 where it offered an orientation for the course, safety guidelines and a course demonstration.
Extreme mountain trail has a horse and rider navigate trail obstacles, much like regular mountain trail, but with more extreme challenges and obstacles.
“It’s an up and coming sport called Extreme Mountain Trail. It’s becoming quite popular, it’s gone to crazy levels all across the world,” said Dawn Beach-Spencer, who hosted the event.
“We have a course we just built and opened up here and we’re pretty excited. There’s water features, bridges, tunnels, all kinds of stuff going on.”
According to information provided by Beach-Spencer, Extreme mountain trail calls for a good mix of delicacy and daring, with the added pressure of finishing the course as fast as one can.
The obstacles are often harder than one might experience on a traditional trail ride or horse show, popping up one after another and often simultaneously.
When mountain trail obstacles are combined during competition and a rider has to tackle them quickly, the challenges are increased exponentially.
One example is negotiating either a gate, cowboy curtain or pond; each one is a common mountain trail obstacle on its own, but when all three are brought together as a single obstacle that has to be navigated quickly, it turns into one extreme mountain trail obstacle that could be difficult for seasoned horses and riders.
One of the main points in the sport, along with conquering obstacles quickly, is doing it in a smooth manner.
Completing the obstacles awkwardly is obvious to any spectators and when the horse and rider aren’t working together well enough, the performance looks forced.
Completing the course smoothly only happens when there is good synergy between the rider and horse.
“It was a pleasure to help Dawn and Ted open their new extreme mountain trail course on Friday,”said Debbie Hughes, mountain trail trainer, competitor and coach.
Hughes added the Smokin’ True Ranch setting works perfectly for an extreme mountain trail venue.
“They have used the natural terrain with its sandy slopes, hills and very large pond, added bridges, saw-bucks and overhead obstacles, making it both fun and challenging to ride,” Hughes said.
“This course offers endless training opportunity for the very green horse and rider to advanced Mountain Trail Competitor… I hope to train on it many times in the future.”