The trail class is judged on the performance of the horse over obstacles, with emphasis on manners, response to the rider, and quality of movement.
Horse going through gate for Judging

  • Credit will be given to horses that:
    • negotiate the obstacles with style and some degree of speed, provided correctness is not sacrificed
    • show attentiveness to the obstacles
    • display high quality of movement and cadence
  • Horses shall be penalized for:
    • any unnecessary delay while approaching or negotiating the obstacles
    • artificial appearance over obstacles

Class Requirements

  • Horses must not be required to work on the rail.
  • Horses must work all three gaits (walk, jog, lope).
  • Western and English may show together, depending on show regulations.


The course contains six to 10 obstacles, including mandatory and optional obstacles.
Trail Horse Class

  • Mandatory obstacles are:
    • Open, pass through, and close gate
    • Ride over at least four logs
    • A backing obstacle
  • Optional obstacles are:
    • Water hazard
    • Serpentine at walk or jog
    • Carrying an object
    • Ride over wooden bridge
    • Put on and remove slicker
    • Mailbox
    • Side pass
  • Unacceptable obstacles:
    • Tires
    • Animals
    • Hides
    • PVC pipe
    • Dismounting or ground ties
    • Jumps
    • Rocking or moving bridges
    • Water box with floating parts
    • Flames, dry ice, fire extinguisher, etc.

Judge’s Responsibilities

The judge must walk the course to make sure it is safe, logical, workable, and meets requirements. Any adjustments can be made at this time.


  • Based on the AQHA scoring system
  • Basis of 0 to infinity, with a score of 70 as an average performance
  • Each obstacle is scored on a range from a +1½ to -1½
  • Points added or subtracted from the maneuvers:
    • -1½ extremely poor, -1 very poor, -½ poor, 0 average
    • +½ good, +1 very good, +1½ excellent.


Trail Horse Logs

  • Contains ½-point, 1-point, 3-point, and 5-point penalties, with the most severe due to:
    • Dropping slicker or object
    • Letting go of gate or dropping rope gate
    • Use of either hand to instill fear or praise
    • Stepping out of, falling, or jumping off  an obstacle with more than one foot
    • Blatant disobedience (kicking out, bucking, rearing, striking)
  • Obstacle score of 0
    • Ride outside course boundary
    • Wrong lead through entire obstacle
    • Fail to complete an obstacle
    • Wrong line of travel
    • Touching the horse to lower the head
    • Third refusal or evasion of the obstacle
    • Use of two hands when riding with a curb bit


  • Performs obstacles out of order
  • Fall to the ground
  • Failure to complete the course
  • Equipment failure that delays the completion of the pattern

Western Trail class for Judging

Sample Patterns and Measurements

Sample Trail Pattern

Trail Pattern, Sample

Sample Trail Ride