English Trail is a working class with between six to eight obstacles which the horse and rider must maneuver around, over and through while exhibiting confidence, curiosity and athleticism. Obstacles are taken from the original Western class so include bridges, gates, back-throughs and of course walk-, trot- and canter-overs. That said though, English Trail is not just Western Trail in an English saddle; the courses are usually spread out more than Western Trail to accommodate the longer stride of an English-type horse.
The event is designed to show the athleticism, willingness and overall training of the horse. It takes a lot of practice at home so your horse is prepared for the obstacles it might encounter at the show. The English Trail horse should be solid in its walk, trot and canter gaits and bold enough to get through the obstacles before starting out in this new event.English Trail gives an excellent opportunity for an English type horse to perform in a working class that is not a jumping or driving course. To excel in this event, horses must be able to stride out to a 4’ to 4.5’ trot and a 7’ to 8’ canter. Riders who typically work to that stride on the “flat” should also be prepared for a small jump, typically a cross-rail of no more than 2 feet (1.5’ for amateurs, 2’ for open classes). And of course, various other poles may be raised just as in the Western version of the event.
As with other English events, the horse is shown with two hands so this class is an excellent opportunity to work an inexperienced Trail horse that is beyond its junior horse years. Additionally English Trail horses need not be as collected as you’d expect of say, a Hunter Pleasure horse. The horse must be collected yes, but to a degree that gives them freedom to use their head and neck as they travel over and around the obstacles. English Trail can also be a welcome change for that ring-sour horse that’s learned to anticipate the announcer’s call!
To meet the requirements of this event, one must be in proper attire, meeting the USEF or breed specifications for the “flat” version of their English discipline. Today, a strapless hunt cap or derby is generally accepted but protective headgear may be worn without penalty. The horse must also be tacked up in its corresponding and proper flat class equipment. You’re currently not required to braid as you might for a flat class. This may evolve but I prefer not to braid as a tightly braided mane might inhibit a horse’s ability to lower his head in a walk-over or bridge.To post or not to post is also an evolving topic. Poles in trot-over obstacles will usually be set accommodate a posting English trot but I advise my riders to sit the trot when executing serpentines or any other trotting obstacle that requires arcing, circling or is too compact to accommodate a solid posting stride.
English Trail will continue to evolve out from under the shadow of Western Trail so if you’re looking for an event that can help you add miles to your green Trail Horse or that challenge the abilities and intellect of you and your old partner, check out the English Trail classes at your next local show. Talk to you next week! JD (And to see pictures of English Trail in action, watch for coming pics of Gina Heinricks and Montego Bay Star: Region V Champions in PB Western Trail AATR, English Trail Open and English Trail AATR - Congratulations Gina & Montego!)