Barely Domesticated on ETS

Equestrian Trail Sports (ETS) in the Wine Country

I wanted to jot down a few thoughts and memories of our experience early this month in Healdsburg, CA. My Mustang partner in crime, Tim, and I had a great time competing in our first ever Equestrian Trail Sports (ETS) event. The event was held over 2 days at Hoofbeat Park.


I personally had a blast exploring a new-to-me area and facility, camping in my trailer for the weekend (camping!), and hanging out with my horse, my friends, and making new friends. There were also 6 Mustangs participating, which was so amazing. As expected, they were all different, but each was loved dearly.

FullSizeRender 25   FullSizeRender 19



Tim is not much for human made obstacles, so these kinds of events is an excellent challenge for both of us. He’s getting better over time, but is still so suspicious of noodles and tarps and such. My goal for our weekend is to try. We were going to at least try everything.  As you can see here, we were not exactly on the same page on Saturday…..

The weekend began on Saturday morning with a Judge’s clinic, and we were fortunate to have Mary Sutherland, the ETS Southwest Director, there to show us how it all works.  Potential judges and riders interested in learning more in depth gathered to observe and practice judging 6 riders complete obstacles. The scoring system, judging criteria and judging responsibilities were all discussed. Each rider had the opportunity to ride the obstacle, and receive constructive comments from the judges, discussing what was correct and what could be improved.

Personally, I found judging to be challenging because I wanted to help the person with the obstacle, not just stand there and watch them struggle. I commend all the judges for being fair and constructive the entire weekend!

The first day of competition began in the afternoon. ETS has a great scoring and judging system, I’ll try to explain.

  • Variety is the spice of life! There were 8 obstacles, which you could complete in any order.
  • Everyone plays!  No restriction on tack or attire, so any discipline, any breed can participate.
  • Clear and consistent scoring. Each obstacle was worth 5 points for the rider and 5 points for the horse.  No time limitations, so sloooooow down.
  • Pick your level! There are 3 levels of competition, and the rider can decide which level they want to compete PER OBSTACLE. I think this part is genius.
  • Clear instructions!  The rider is provided with clear instructions for each level of competition for each obstacle in a meeting before the competition begins. You can decide how you want to plan your competitive strategy based upon how you think you and your horse will perform PER OBSTACLE.
  • Kindness wins.  In addition to completing the obstacle, the horse and rider team is judged on softness, kindness, correct equitation, etc.
  • The team is rewarded for the try. I love this.
  • Challenge with common sense and safety in mind. The obstacles are common sense, but more challenging than they appear.  Sure, Tim can side pass all day long at home, but can he do it in a field with 15 other horses milling around?  Ya….  about that….

Some examples of the obstacles; a bridge, backing around a pole square, weaving in and out of poles, ranch gate, gait changes, drag, backing an L, side pass, tire pedestal, noodles, etc.  Each of the obstacles had 3 levels of competition.  The weekend scrapbook image gallery contains lots of examples of the obstacles.IMG_20160605_110720_380


The second day of competition we all had a little better idea of what is required and put a plan together for our competitive day. I don’t have a competitive spirit, but we were getting the hang of it, for the fact it was all in good fun.





After each day’s competition and LUNCH, there are awards, shout outs from each judge, and lots of applause because it is a friendly competition.


For those who are more competitive, you can join ETS and have them track your achievements and compete at the national level. Very nice perk for having a good time with your friends!

I think we all had a great time, lots of smiles, lots of happy horses, and we all want to know when is the next one, Cherie Cross???


FullSizeRender 27



We are getting ready for the next adventure….  Cowboy Dressage™ Practice Gathering in Novato, CA.  Onward!