California Riding Magazine • January, 2012

American Competitive Trail
Horse Association
Association promotes employment for
and enjoyment of all horses.

At a time when the economy and a growing unwanted horse population are bearing down on the equine industry, the American Competitive Trail Horse Association is coming on strong. Its mission of promoting the fun and excitement of trail riding is inspiring many to do more and/or different things with their horses, and hopefully enticing some to buy a horse or take on one in need to join in the fun of the equestrian lifestyle.

America's Favorite Trail Horse is ACTHA's marquee project and its first season was deemed a big success. Aired on RFD-TV, the show began with video of the 100 first round finalists aired weekly over several months. Viewers were asked to vote on their favorites and these finalists were pitted against each other on a final show aired in November. Mary Miller Jordan and her 6-year-old formerly wild Mustang, Lindsay's Faith, emerged the champion vote-getters, for which the North Carolina pair earned $30,000 cash. Curly Man McCue and Ronald Sullivan of Alabama earned $20,000 for runner-up votes and The Bailef and Wendy Stephens of Louisiana scored $15,000 for third place. Our handful of California contestants didn't finish in the 2011 money, but there's always this year!

Mary Miller Jordan and Lindsay's Faith. Photo: Aponi Studios

Auditions for this year's America's Favorite Trail Horse will be held throughout the country. California auditions include March 23 at the Hidden Valley Wildlife Area in Riverside and April 19 at Running I Ranch in the North Central Valley's Dunnigan.

The TV show was new in 2011, but the backbone of ACTHA, the Competitive Trail Challenges, have been going on for some time and are building in popularity. These typically six- to eight-mile rides feature six judged obstacles and four categories in which to compete or participate: Open, Pleasure, Junior and Buddy. Open is the most challenging and the Buddy division is for newbies, green horses, etc., who want to ride along but skip the obstacles.

The rides are not timed, but are usually completed within two to three hours. Obstacles include crossing streams and bridges, jumping over a low log, walking on or around a plastic tarp or bag and more. Judges' criteria for what will merit a high score at each obstacle are discussed with competitors before each competition.

Several ACTHA-sanctioned CTCs are already scheduled in California for this year. At press time, there were six California Challenges on the calendar, beginning January 28 in Cherry Valley and continuing through June in Pinon Hills. Visit ACTHA's website often for updated schedules. Hosts of these rides agree to honor ACTHA's mission either by donating some of their proceeds to organizations helping horses in need and/or to groups that promote enjoyable activities
with horses. "Full employment" for more horses will mean fewer horses in need, the organization stresses.

Mary Miller Jordan and Lindsay's Faith. Photo: Aponi Studios

Challenge participants accrue points toward ACTHA Medals. Each completed ride earns one point and victory equals six. Medals range from 500-point Hall Of Fame status, which nobody has yet attained, to the bronze level of 50 points. There's a Silver Elite category for riders 55-and-over and a Diamond In The Rough category for horses that were rescued.

Based in Austin, TX, ACTHA was founded by Carrie Scrima and Karen Van Getson. "They were tired of long drives to multi-day, timed competitions," says the organization's website. "They wanted a venue where they could enjoy their horses and the wonderful scenery around them. Of course they wanted some challenge and a chance to learn as well as show off their horse's talents. But most of all they wanted beauty, camaraderie and fun!" Nothing they found fit that bill, so they created their own program.

For more information and updated Challenge and audition calendars, visit