by Emily Waldrep
Western Weekend is a big event in Tyler County, and people come from all over to spend a day riding horses and having fun with friends. But, Western Weekend only comes around once a year and Tyler County riders often find themselves missing time spent in the saddle since there aren't many options for equestrian sports in the area. Thankfully, Tammy Ellis of the MT Ranch in Jasper realized the need for trail rides and competition in the area and hosted one of the first Arena Obstacle Challenges (AOC) in the area on January 19 and 20.
The American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) hosts several obstacles challenges throughout the country each year. Competitors can compete in several divisions including Buddy, Scout, Junior, Pleasure and Open. Competitions are held in either a large arena or 6-8 miles of trail. Obstacles are placed periodically throughout the ride, and judges are in place to judge the horse and rider as they pass through the obstacles in their path. Some of the many obstacle that riders see during a challenge are bridges, water crossing, backing through a maze, dragging an object or walking over a tarp. Ellis says the objectives of the challenges are to create a safe rider and horse, while having fun and earning points or prizes.
"It develops a really good, safe mount and the rider also has to really learn control," Ellis said. "You become a much better rider for your horse."
She says that she decided to host Obstacle Challenges because so many people in the area love to ride, but don't have a group to ride with or a fun place to ride.
"If you don't rope and don't want to barrel race and want to have something more to do with your horse other than ride up and down a trail, obstacles are a fun way to do that while gaining control of your horse and creating a safer horse," Ellis said. "We want people to realize that there is more that they can do with their horse. They can have a lot of fun, compete in a good family type sport and it is a fun way to get together and meet new people that are great to be around."
She says that she will be hosting more ACTHA events in the future, as well as several of her own events.
"I'm planning on hosting several more Obstacle Challenges in other locations in the area," Ellis said. "I will hold another AOC in July and will probably have some jackpot obstacle challenges every other month that are not associated with ACTHA so that riders can practice and win cash prizes."
For more information on ACTHA and their events contact ACTHA at www.actha.us. They have a rider community where you can talk to different people and ask questions, and have a contact area on the website.