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June 17, 2010

Event to put horse, rider to the test

Garner's Sronce to lead trail challenge at Bunker Hill Ranch, weekend shooting competition

MINERAL WELLS — MINERAL WELLS – Crossing streams and creeks on horseback and riding up and down steep hills could be part of any local trail ride, but add a few more obstacles, judges and prizes and the event becomes a sport called the competitive trail challenge.

On Saturday morning the American Competitive Trail Horse Association and “Trail Boss” Tammy Sronce, of Garner, will hold a trail challenge at the 1,200-plus acre Bunker Hill Ranch, or BHR, located on U.S. Highway 180 East, across from the Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway.

Competitive trail challenges are ideal for those interested in improving their horsemanship skills, Sronce said. Saturday’s event includes six judged obstacles spread out over six to seven miles of trail – each is placed about one mile apart. She said riders may travel at their desired pace and are not timed between obstacles. However, at each obstacle, a rider has 60 seconds and is judged on how they and their horse negotiate each.

Also dubbed a CTC, the trail competition scores the horse at each natural and man-made obstacle. These could include crossing water or a bridge, dragging an object, hill work, backing around obstacles, dismounting and mounting, trotting over a series of logs, walk around a tarp or plastic bags, opening and closing a gate and standing in place while a loud noise is present.

Sronce said there is something for just about everyone. The CTC has different competitive categories – open, pleasure and junior. In addition, those wanting to get a feel for the sport or who want to introduce a green horse to the event can enter the “buddy rider” division. Bunker Hill Ranch provides the variety of terrain for Saturday’s trail ride competition.

But next weekend’s event is not a one-time deal. Sronce has planned CTCs in July and August at Bunker Hill Ranch as well. At each CTC there will be prizes, including $1,200-worth next Saturday, and there will be series prizes for the high-point riders in each division.

Riders can register online at www.actha.us.

There are divisions for riders of differing ages and trail experience. These are:

• Open – obstacles are more difficult. Awards will be ribbons and prizes. A voluntary jackpot ($20) is available to all open riders at rider registration. Jackpot participants are also eligible for Open prizes.

• Pleasure – less difficult obstacles. Awards will be ribbons and prizes.

• Junior – 7 to 15 years old. Juniors are required to wear a helmet and be accompanied by an adult rider. One adult may supervise up to three junior riders and each junior must provide written consent  from their parent and or guardian. Awards will be ribbons and prizes.

• Buddy rider – may be a friend of a competitor, a person who wants to check out the competition before they decide to compete, someone who wants to take the opportunity to give their green horse exposure or a trail rider one who wishes to avail themselves of the scenic trails at BHR. Buddy riders must register, be ACTHA members and follow the rules of the competition. They will not partake in the obstacles unless local ride management allows. If they are allowed, they will not be not judged. The number of entrants will deter if buddy riders can practice on course obstacles.

The CTC begins with a rider’s briefing at 9 a.m. on Saturday. All riders must must be ACTHA members – $25 fee for new or renewing members – and and pay all fees by 8:30 a.m. Saturday (check in also takes place at BHR Friday evening). Fees for the event are $58 for open and pleasure divisions; $43 for juniors; $40 for an adult buddy and $35 for a junior buddy.

The CTC is not the only event Sronce has going on this weekend. She is offering a Friday night  practice at Bunker Hill Ranch, which is free and open to all.

“I’ll be available Friday night for obstacle practice and mounted shooting questions [and information],” she said, adding, “and you don’t have to be a member, just come.”

On Sunday, the multiple world and national champion Competitive Mounted Shooting Association cowgirl will share her skills in a casual mounted shooting clinic at her ranch. For more information on attending this, contact Sronce at (940) 859-6512.

Staff writer Libby Cluett can be reached at (940) 325-4465, ext. 3422, or lcluett@mineralwellsindex.com.

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