The Mountain Pleasure Horse is one of the premier trail riding horses for several reasons. Some of the major reasons that this breed excels at this event or sport is simply because they have been bred to have a relaxed, patient and hard working disposition matched with a gentle, even gaited stride that seems to eat up the miles and makes even the roughest ground seem smooth. The horses, through history, have been developed in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky and have naturally hard hooves, strong legs and the ability to work in poor footing and difficult conditions with ease.
Not only were the Mountain Pleasure Horses originally developed as a riding horse they were also historically used for working the small patches of farmland in the area. Strong legs and good depth of chest and body were required for this difficult work and these traits have further added to the stamina, endurance and sure-footedness of the breed.
A trail riding event can be a friendly get together or a more formal judged trail ride. At these events there is a set path or course that the rider and horse must complete within a specific time frame. In order to compete in a Mountain Pleasure Horse ride the horse must be considered to have been pure Kentucky stock, which has some very strict regulations as per what defines a Kentucky born and bred horse. For less formal fun trail rides any horse and rider may complete, even if the horse is not a registered Kentucky Mountain Horse of either the Mountain Pleasure Horse or Rocky Mountain Horse breed.
The trail ride is set up with the trail master, or course designer, setting up specific types of obstacles along a set path. These may be logs to cross over, streams or water obstacles, bridges or other types of obstacles that a rider and horse in rough terrain could expect to have to navigate. Judges are located at each obstacle and will evaluate the horse and rider's ability to cross or maneuver through the obstacle within the time allowed and without leaving the trail. Each rider can choose to by-pass an obstacle but they will not be awarded points if they do not complete the obstacle. There is also a minimum and maximum time allowed for the full course. Mountain Pleasure Horses excel at this type of event since they can use the smooth, gaited movement to easily move between obstacles on the trail while still staying within the time lines allowed. Most competition type trail rides offer different categories for young riders, senior riders and even novice riders.
In most of the events there is a general sense of appreciation of the breed and most riders work to improve on their own horse's ability, not as much as a direct competition against each other. In the informal or fun trail rides the temperament and reliability of the Mountain Pleasure Horse makes it an ideal mount for those that are new to horses or those that only ride once in a while. In addition, they are excellent horses for experienced riders that can choose more challenging levels and types of trail rides knowing they have an agile and athletic horse under them.