Trail Obstacle Series Rules

May 21 ~ July 16 ~ September 24 ~ October 22

Novato Horsemen, Novato, CA  (map)

Printable Version


Welcome!  This event is a friendly competition to enhance the partnership between you and horse, while having fun. Trail Obstacles are a great way to measure your progress, gain confidence, and expose your horse to new things.


  • Open to any discipline of riding and breed of horse, mule or pony as long as they over 3 years old.
  • There will be 10 obstacles with one judge per obstacle.
  • Approximately 20 riders will be allowed on the course at one time in order to keep the traffic moving smoothly.
  • You do not need to be a member of Novato Horsemen Inc.
  • This event is not timed.
  • A rider may enter and ride multiple horses in the Trail Obstacle Challenge.
  • A horse can only be entered and ridden one time with one rider at each Trail Obstacle Challenge event.


  • Junior (18 & under)
  • Adult
  • Senior (60 & over)


  • Every rider needs to check in to receive an entry number, a map and instructions for each obstacle. Check in station is near the snack shack.
  • Horses may not be on the course prior to competition on competition day. Riders may walk the course on foot prior to the competition.
  • Be sure to complete all ten obstacles. 


  • You may use tack or equipment that is considered to be standard in the industry and recognized events. It must be safe, humane and in good working condition.
  • Bareback riding or pads are not allowed. Gimmicks, Mechanical hackamores, tie-downs, draw reins, martingales are prohibited.
  • Shank/curb bits may be ridden with two hands.
  • Helmets are required for junior riders and recommended for adults and seniors. Boots with a heel are mandatory.
  • Clothing should be neat, appropriate and functional.
  • Show management and judges may check equipment and horses at any time.


  • You can choose to do whatever obstacle you like in any order.
  • Only one horse and rider at a time on an obstacle. Please wait for the judge to tell you when it is your turn.
  • Some obstacles will have transitions, side passing and backing, turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches.
  • The gaits will only be at a walk, jog, trot, or appropriate gait for gaited horses. Loping is not required.
  • Coaching riders is not allowed by other riders and bystanders.
  • It is the rider’s responsibility to pass an obstacle they deem beyond their ability. If you decide to pass on an obstacle your score will result in zero for that obstacle, not a disqualification.
  • If a horse and rider partially complete any part of an obstacle adequately they will receive points.
  • After you finish your obstacle proceed to another one. (Preferably, an available obstacle that doesn’t have riders waiting)


  • All judge’s decisions are final.
  • At every obstacle both riders and horses receive points (from 0 to 5). Rider points and horse points are combined for a total maximum of 10 points.
    • 0 passed on obstacle or fall
    • 1 Oopsy daisy
    • 2 Mediocre
    • 3 Good
    • 4 Excellent
    • 5 Perfect
  • Each obstacle is worth a total of 10 points for a total of 100 points possible for each event.
  • A judge may dismiss a rider from their obstacle for safety reasons.
  • Some of the factors that you will be judged on are horsemanship, safety, and control. Your horse will be judged on attitude and performance.
  • Riders should be considerate, patient and kind with their horses at all times.
  • Points are achieved by negotiating and completing obstacles smoothly, and with authority, and finesse.
  • An ideal trail obstacle horse is one that is willing, calm, quiet, and attentive and responds appropriately to light cues. These horses demonstrate fluid motion in various maneuvers and stand still when asked.
  • A refusal is a horse that moves their feet away (any direction) from the obstacle. Upon a third refusal or attempt a judge may tell a rider to move on to the next task in that obstacle or announce they have finished scoring and the rider should exit the obstacle at a safe place. Looking and snorting are not considered a refusal.
  • Pausing at an obstacle, water crossing or log crossing to sniff or investigate is allowed.
  • Horses should be guided willfully without anxiety or apparent resistance such as balking or evading.
  • Any movement made by the horse without rider direction or deviation from the pattern must be considered a lack of control.
  • Horses that tick an obstacle won’t be penalized as long as balance is maintained.
  • Horses that dislodge obstacles and trip from a lack of coordination may be penalized.
  • A fall is considered any involuntary dismount of a rider, a horse dropping to the ground above its knees, or a horse lying down in water, and will result in a zero score for the obstacle.
  • Horses will not be penalized for stopping and drinking water at crossings.


  • Show management may ultimately disqualify a horse if it is obviously lame, sick, injured or has unruly behavior.
  • Any misconduct, unsportsmanlike behavior or harsh treatment towards a participant, horse or judge will be grounds for disqualification.


  • At every event ribbons will be awarded for scores 70 and higher
  • Riders must compete in 3 of the 4 events to qualify for the High Point Buckle Series Award for each division (Juniors, Adults and Seniors)
  • Awards will be given out after all rider scores are totaled at each event
  • An award will be given to riders who earn 3 ribbons during the 2017 Trail Obstacle series.
  • High Point Buckle Series Awards will be awarded after the final event on October 22, 2017.


  • Juniors must have a parent or legal guardian present on the grounds.
  • Please abide by the rules of Novato Horsemen Inc, and clean up after your horse.
  • Non-members must sign releases at time of check in.
  • Snack shack will be open.

Good horsemanship is about staying safe! Pay attention, use common sense, and have a wonderful time!