Photo by Michelle Gazely,

Seven acres. How long would you enjoy riding on a piece of property that size? Well, if the property was Twisted Terrain Horse Park located near Hope, B.C. it might be longer than you’d expect.

Twisted Terrain Park offers numerous clinics and courses geared around a new equestrian sport called Mountain Horse Trail. “We have all sorts of man-made and natural obstacles packed in our small space,” the park’s manager and co-owner, Laurie Thompson, explains. “There’s a trestle bridge, suspension bridge, teeter-totter, balancing beams, poles for backing up or stepping over, staircases, turn-around boxes, rocks, brush, and water obstacles such as Piggy Dip Pond.”

Thompson and her husband, Fred Fandrich, became interested in Mountain Horse Trail after watching a demonstration of the sport at Chilliwack’s Mane Event several years ago. “We said ‘Holy smokes, this is cool!’” Thompson laughs. “We immediately got hooked on the sport, but think its name should be changed to ‘Expect the Unexpected Trail’ because that’s what it’s all about — preparing your horse to handle the unexpected natural obstacles with control and safety in a fun way.”

Photo by Michelle Gazely,

The couple purchased the property in 2006, and then went to great lengths to plan and build the various obstacles. “For a while United Rentals was Fred’s best friend!” Thompson says. “And the place still keeps us busy. Why, most weekends we have to haul in 5,000 litres of water to keep the water obstacles full! But I think the work has been worthwhile. I used to work for the ski industry, and lived through the creation of specialized snowboard parks, where snowboarders could get a lot of bang for their buck in a small place. Twisted Terrain does the same thing for trail riders.”

“Some people are interested in Mountain Horse Trail because they want to compete at the sport,” Thompson continues. “But many just want to improve their horse’s skills. Twisted Terrain emphasizes safety, communication between horse and rider, and proper form. And we don’t do everything at blazing speed. Remember, Mountain Horse Trail is not the same as Cowboy Extreme Trail.”

Twisted Terrain has something to offer horses of every breed, size, age and discipline. “You can bring a horse, pony, donkey, mule, draft horse or miniature; it’s doesn’t matter as long as he’s sound,” Thompson says. “And the rider can use Western, English, Australian or even Side-saddle tack, as long as they’re comfortable and safe. In fact, the driving people are pretty excited because they can take their driving horses through our obstacles using long lines, and the miniature horse people are keen to do the course in-hand. Twisted Terrain is about having fun with your horses. Think of it as horsemanship in a lumpy, bumpy arena!”

Photo by Michelle Gazely,
Photo by Michelle Gazely,

“Even the simplest obstacles can be used in multiple ways,” Thompson says. “Consider our 16 inch wide balancing beam. Our novice horse people might start by leading their horse across that beam in a straight line. The beam isn’t high or dangerous, but to walk on it the horse must lift his shoulders and place one foot in front of the other, and that takes practice. When a more experienced horse and rider does the balance beam, we may ask them to ride half way across the beam, pause, and back up a few steps. A really advanced team will have an even bigger challenge — perhaps we’ll get them to lope up to the obstacle, stop, turn around, and back across the entire length of the beam. These things give the horses a purpose and a job.”

2014 will be Twisted Terrain’s third season. Thompson estimates they had 400 clients ride at their facility last year, with many attending more than one clinic. “A lot of our riders came from B.C. but we’ve also had people from as far away as Washington attend specific clinics,” Thompson says. “We have a six bedroom guest house for our clients, plus lots of space for anyone who wants to stay in their horse trailer or pitch a tent. We have a summer kitchen, BBQ, showers, and individual outdoor pens for the horses. I can also give clients the names of nearby hotels or campgrounds if they’d prefer staying off site.” Thompson notes the park has a few rules. “We don’t allow stallions, and we also don’t allow pets on Twisted Terrain,” she says. “We love dogs, but some horses don’t.”

“Many people enjoy trail riding, but they might have problems with their horse running downhill, or refusing to cross gumbo,” Thompson concludes. “A clinic at Twisted Terrain can help solve those problems. Some of our obstacles are technically difficult, but that doesn’t mean they are steep, deep or slippery. They’re safe and they’re fun. And that’s what Twisted Terrain is all about.”

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