You don’t have to horse show to show off your horse around Roanoke

Riders during the Glenmore Hunt Club hunter pace.
Photo by Glenmore Hunt Club.

When many people think of equestrian competition, they think of the classic horse show. Requirements for fancy clothes, fancy tack and even a fancier horse leave many horse owners feeling disheartened and left out of competition with their equine partners. However, there’s more out there in the equestrian community than riding in an arena in front of a judge. Here’s examples of some of the upcoming events outside of a show ring.


This event is held on a pre-set course cross country. A optimal time is set based on a “hunting pace.” Riders go out in groups and ride the set course at their own pace. Hunter paces offer different divisions depending on the host of the hunter pace. Some divisions are likely to require jumping, and other divisions do not. Usually the attire is casual with helmets required. The teams coming closest to the optimal time receive prizes.

Two hunter paces are coming up soon in the Roanoke area.


Any doubt of the popularity of trail riding is quickly put to rest with a trip to the Great American Trail Horse Sale at the Virginia Horse Center in the spring. Good trail horses are in hot demand and competitive trail riding is becoming more and more popular. Competitive trail riding is held over a trail with the goal of demonstrating partnership between horse and rider. There are many different sanctioning organizations for competitive trail rides. Rides that involve judged obstacles usually have staggered starts of groups of riders. Rides can be short or more than 100 miles, depending on the competition and organization. Some rides are to test the horses’ physical fitness, while others use obstacles to the judge the horses’ willingness, training and partnership with their riders as they negotiate obstacles along the trail.

Some of the organizations holding rides in the Roanoke area include:

Rider performs the “Hat Pick Up” obstacle. In this series, the judge
will toss a hat on the ground near the horse and hand the rider a stick
and ask therider to retrieve the hat from the back of the horse.
Photo via Facebook.
  • ACTHA: While there are no rides scheduled close by for the remainder of the year, this organization has held rides at local venues including Roanoke County’s Explore Park, the Virginia Horse Center and the Craig County Fairgrounds in the past. Rides can also be found a little further away including The Biltmore in Asheville, N.C.  A calendar can be found at the association’s website. ACTHA is casual competition on the trail. The competition has few rules and focuses on safety and fun. ACTHA offers two different types of trail challenges, the Competitive Trail Challenge (CTC) and the Arena Obstacle Challenge (AOC).  The trail is an easy 6 or so miles, and it has a minimum of six obstacles. Arena obstacle challenges are held in an arena and offer participants the challenge of navigating obstacles normally encountered on the trail, but in the confines of a safe arena or field. There are 4 divisions depending on experience level and prizes are awarded. The horses earn points that stay with them for life, adding to their value. ACTHA provides guidelines to ensure all events have the same basic structure as far as the competition, but ride hosts add their own twist, making each one special and unique. Hosts are encouraged to promote fun, friendship, and education mixed in with enjoying horses in a safe environment. It’s a great way to meet new people, learn, and just enjoy a weekend with horses. All breeds and disciplines are welcome. The cost to participate ranges from $35 to $78. 
  • Franklin County Equestrian Club holds competitive trail rides at Waid Park in Rocky Mount. They include two upcoming rides: Oct. 31 and Dec. 26. The Oct. 31 ride will include a Costume Contest and Truck N’ Treat from 2-3 p.m. These rides are about 2-and-a-half miles with five obstacles. Cost is $5 or $15 with lunch.


Riders set their own pace on a well-marked cross country course. During the untimed ride, riders pick up five playing cards along the route. The best Poker hands win cash prizes. The Rockbridge Hunt is hosting a Poker Ride on Nov. 8 at Broadview Ranch on Sunday, Nov. 8. Best six hands win cash. (1st $50, 2nd $40, 3rd $30, 4th $20, 5th $10, 6th $5.) Ride starts at 9 a.m. with the last riders out at 11 a.m. All riding disciplines are welcome. Entry fees (includes lunch): $35 Adult rider, $25 Junior rider


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