You Own A Trail Equine?
would you like to promote your favorite mule or donkey, and earn
recognition awards just for trail riding? Both the North American
Saddle Mule Association and the American Donkey and Mule Society
have trail riding programs in which you can log the number of hours
you ride and in turn receive certificates and/or patches for your
accomplishments. But theres also a new all-breed association
strictly for trail riders, the American Trail Horse Association,
(ATHA) which invites mule and donkey riders to join them in helping
to promote the all-around trail riding equine. Realizing that often
an equine used for trail riding was negatively labeled as just
a trail horse or mule, the ATHA has set out to promote and
recognize the true talents of these special equines. Therefore they
have established the American Trail Horse Registry open to all breeds,
colors, and sizes of equines. Registration is not based on bloodlines
but performance. Their goal is to promote well-trained, dependable
and willing equines that can meet the challenges of todays
by BEV CRAIGMILE
Even if you dont want to join ATHA, why not take the challenge
and see if your mule can qualify to become a Level 7 equine like
Otto Watch Ginger.
you own a Trail Horse? As an avid trail class enthusiast,
this simple sentence in a local horse publication captured my attention.
It was just a simple question, but to me it was an open challenge
since I ride a Trail Mule! Tentatively, I called the toll-free number
and said, I ride a Mule. Can we join your group? There
was a short silence, then an enthusiastic, I dont see
why not! Still, I was skeptical, thinking maybe this ATHA
was just a log the hours type group. But when I received
their paperwork, I was very impressed. They have a special Stamps
of Excellence program which provides a building block system
of awarding equines on their performance. There are seven levels
to the program with various tests that must be passed to advance.
Some of the tests are very basic, such as being able to catch, halter
and tie the equine, load him in the trailer and having him stand
quietly while being clipped. Other tests require the equine to work
various obstacles such as crossing water, working a gate, stand
for mounting and crossing a bridge. Though these may sound simple,
its amazing how many aged saddle equines cant
do these basic steps. But what impressed me the most was that in
order to achieve the top honor of Level 7, an equine must pass Level
6 which requires them to participate on an actual trail ride and
pass Level 7 where he has to work an obstacle course in the arena.
This really impressed me as I know many folks who own Champion Trail
Class equines that cant be ridden on the trail and others
who trail ride but cant get their equines in the arena. Personally
I feel a well-trained equine should be able to do both and was happy
to see that ATHA feels the same way. This is a big step in helping
folks produce quality trail equines. Think how much more it would
add to the value of your mule or donkey if you could present a prospective
buyer with registration papers that show your equine has been rated
on various trail skills.
To participate in the Stamps of Excellence program,
both equine and handler must be registered with ATHA. Theres
no time limit on how long it takes to work through the various levels
since they are geared toward developing equines with a sound, basic
foundation so even foals and inexperienced handlers can succeed.
ATHA is not a competitively focused association and each participant
proceeds at his own pace. Qualifying for the various levels can
be done either in person at an ATHA approved event or witnessed
by an ATHA Representative or done by video and sent to the main
Aside from the Stamps of Excellence program, ATHA offers a mileage
program where members can earn awards based on the number of miles
they have ridden. ATHA also has a registration system to help track
stolen horses and a freeze branding program. They have an interesting
website at www.TrailHorse.com and are looking for folks to serve
as State Representatives who would be interested in helping local
individuals with the Stamps of Excellence program and
promoting good trail equines.
Ive been the Idaho State ATHA Representative for two years
now and have really enjoyed the opportunities to meet with other
trail riders. Its also given me a great way to promote my
favorite breed. The mule I ride, Otto Watch Ginger, owned by Joe
and Bev Craigmile, is the first mule registered with ATHA and the
first Level 7 mule. Together we have miles logged with ATHA and
hours in the NASMA Versatility Trail Program. I always have a good
time when Im riding Ginger and wearing my representative tee-shirt
that has, Think you own a Trail Horse? embroidered across
the back. Folks always have to comment that Gingers not
a horse! That opens the door for me to tell them about the
reputation that mules have for being outstanding trail equines and
before they know it, those persons are being gently inducted into
the wonderful world of mules.
For more information on ATHA, you can visit their website listed
above or call 1-877-266-1678 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. central time.
Then, why not check out the requirements for the Stamps of
Excellence. Even if you dont want to join ATHA, why
not take the challenge and see if your mule can qualify to become
a Level 7 equine!