We Ride Sport and Trail Magazine July 2016 - Page 25

AHCA; what is it you ask? I have heard and read many such questions since it’s founding in December of 2011. The way I describe it to new people is like this: imagine using a horse on a real working ranch and the things you might encounter such as: ditches, hills, bridges, water, brush, cows, gates, etc. You may have to pull brush off a fence, jump a log, carry an injured calf back to the barn, shoot a snake, rope or cut off a calf, cross a creek, or lead a horse home. It may be raining, hot, cold, with varied terrain. Then imagine all of the competitive events that are part of the equine world: barrel racing, pole bending, hunter over fences, roping, working cow horse, cutting, reining, dressage, trail riding, trail class, mounted shooting, any pleasure division, and the list can go on. AHCA takes aspects from as many as 13 different disciplines and will combine them into a course of up to 13 obstacles, depending on the division. This is truly a great way to challenge each horse and rider team. The courses are designed to help the horses and riders succeed, not fail. By doing this, it allows growth as riders, trainers and well-rounded horses. Another unique aspect of the American Horsemen Challenge Association is that it is open to any breed of horse, pony, mule or donkey including those that gait.

I have never done anything like this and my horse is inexperienced?

There is a division for all riders and horses, no matter what level you happen to be. The Wrangler division is for riders 12 and under, while the Youth division goes up to 18. There is an English division as well as Novice, Amateur, Legends (those over 55), and the Open division. In 2014 the Green Horse, open to any age horse in their first year competing on obstacles under saddle, and an In-Hand division, any age horse or handler, were added. I have yet to meet any member who is not willing to help any and all of the competitors. We will even call out the pattern for you, if you need help remembering it. All affiliates holding AHCA sanctioned events are required to pay back 50% of the entry fees in money or prizes in the case of the Wrangler & Novice divisions.

What are the judges looking for?

First of all, they want to see a nice team completing obstacles to the best of that particular teams ability. In other words, they would like to see good horsemanship: smooth transitions, correct leads, bending properly and round circles. Slower with proper technique is better than faster and sloppy. Horsemanship and Safety are of the utmost importance. Ultimately, speed with proper technique is the final goal. Keep in mind this takes practice, patience, and time. Most horses and riders will not start here, but all of them can end up here.

American Horsemen Challenge Association

Deanna Boyd and her horse Shiloh

In addition to riding with AHCA, Deanna's horse Shiloh recently received the 10,000 hour Ride America award from APHA. Congratulations, team!