Hood River Saddle Club hosts Mountain Trail contest

rider Kurt Osbourne takes part in a Hood River Saddle Club event over the weekend in which they were challenged with different tasks on an obstacle course.

The Hood River Saddle Club hosted a Mountain Trail clinic over the weekend that drew riders from as far away as Seattle to participate in clinics and a friendly competition at the club’s 10-acre facility.

Mountain Trail, an increasingly popular form of equestrian competition, challenges horses and riders with a variety of obstacles and set tasks, for which they are judged and scored as they navigate.

A first for HRSC, the event started Friday evening with a social gathering and an introduction of Eugene-based clinicians and trainers Mitch and Jolinn Hoover, who have been involved with Mountain Trail for more than 10 years.

Saturday the Hoovers gave a sold-out clinic and followed with a round of challenges for horse-rider duos on the club’s half-acre course of obstacles created over the last decade. Ranging from inanimate obstacles like a rocky hillside and a series of logs to more involved ones like a mock campsite, a trash pit and a gate, the obstacles are meant to simulate the wide variety of situations riders and horses would commonly confront in the mountains and on trails.

Participant Yvonne Peterson explained that Mountain Trail is a serious sport in some circles and there are large-scale competitions across the country with elaborate courses and highly experienced competitors.

For others, like Hood River rider Mike VanSisseren, it’s more about developing experience and trust as a horse-rider team.

“For me, it’s so I can ride somewhere like Post Canyon and my horse doesn’t freak out when something comes along like a group of bikers,” he said before taking his turn around the course Sunday morning.

Sunday’s contest started with a set course riders had to memorize and then navigate and tasks they had to accomplish along the way, like going through a gate, dragging a bag full of noisy tin cans, and passing by a stuffed bear jumping out of the bushes. Contestants then had a Gamblers’ Choice round in which they had five minutes to complete their best 10 obstacles in front of two teams of judges.

Taking the overall win in the open division was Jan Standley of Clatskanie.

“We were blessed with perfect weather and strong attendance,” said Greta Hein, Hood River Saddle Club president. “Participants and audience members are already talking about next year.”

Hein thanked award sponsors for their support in providing prizes for the event.

n The Hood River Saddle Club is located at the corner of Country Club and Belmont. It is a 10-acre facility that has been a center of horse activities since 1945. Learn more about the HRSC through its website at www.hoodriversaddleclub.org, phone 541-386-5913 or email at hrsaddleclub@yahoo.com.

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