Schooling Challenge FAQs > Judging and Scoring > How are IMTCA Mountain Trail competitors judged during a Challenge?

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A competitive event for Mountain Trail and Extreme Mountain Trail is known as a ‘Challenge.’ Challenges are judged events designed to show the confidence, boldness and athletic ability of all breeds and all disciplines of horses, ponies and mules while being challenged by trail obstacles. A Challenge tests a horse and rider’s ability to safely navigate obstacles as they move forward in a natural gait that covers ground as if they were on a long day’s ride. Judges evaluate rider and horse pairs on technical accuracy, finesse, forward motion, confidence, and horsemanship. In Challenges contestants are required to navigate a course with at least 6 approved obstacles and no more than 16. Mountain Trail requires navigating obstacles at a walking pace. Extreme Mountain Trail requires navigating between obstacles at all gaits. Extreme Mountain Trail is not a race, but the combination of loping, cantering, trotting, jogging and/or gaiting makes this sport move along at a faster pace than Mountain Trail.


The IMTCA Scoring System is recognized as one of the leading formats for fair and equitable judging of an equine event that combines technical and stylistic elements coupled with consideration of “degree of difficulty." Scoring is based on the ability of rider and horse partnership to safely navigate the course, moving boldly forward with a willing attitude, negotiating the obstacles with calmness, patience, and finesse. It is recognized that each breed may have a different head set, speed of forward motion or gait. Refer to attached 2018 Judges Scoring Reference sheet for more information.


Scoring Overview — Every rider/horse pair starts with 70 points. Points are earn and deducted as Pairs complete each obstacle. The same judging criteria are applied to each obstacle without exception.

The Anatomy of an Obstacle — Each obstacle is judged in three sections: the entry, navigating (the body), and the exit. A gait between obstacles, other than a walk, is itself considered an obstacle and is also judged in three sections. Points can be earned or deducted while completing each section of an obstacle.

Point Deductions For Each Obstacle — Up to 9 points can be deducted while working each obstacle; up to 2 points for the entry; up to 5 points for the body; and up to 2 points for the exit. When no mistakes are made in any section of the obstacle then the pair earns a zero. After 3 refusals for any obstacle, 9 points are deducted and the Pair is asked to move on. If a Pair misses an obstacle or chooses not to attempt an obstacle 18 points are deducted. Refer to 2018 Judges Scoring Reference sheet.

Wow (Plus) Points For Each Obstacle — Pairs can earn up to 3 Wow (or Plus) points for each obstacle, 1 point while navigating each section. If a pair navigates an obstacle in such a way that a judge experiences a Wow factor then they may Plus the pair’s score, 1 point for each section. Refer to 2018 Judges Scoring Reference sheet.

Horsemanship Points — Pairs can also earn up to 5 Horsemanship points. Refer to attached 2018 Judges Scoring Reference sheet.


Schooling Challenge Information and Registration Packet which includes the Competition Cheat Sheet and Judges Scoring Reference Sheet:

Last updated on September 22, 2018 by happyhoofbeats