Mountain Trail Course Comes to Flag Is Up Farms


“It was an honor to meet the Roberts family and to design and build an International Mountain Trail Challenge Association (IMTCA) mountain trail course for them,” shares Lee Bolender, Mark Bolender’s wife and co-founder of IMTCA. “The course is beautiful and we cannot wait to go back for clinics and IMTCA challenges.”


Come ride along with me! Get your riding the SLO County Trails Hotsheet to get started and join the SLO Horse News Herd!


World-renowned Mark Bolender of Bolender Horse Park and the Bolender Method™ has built an IMTCA certified mountain trail course at Monty Roberts’s Flag Is Up Farms. This is the first IMTCA-approved course in the state of California.

The nation’s leading horse expert in Mountain Trail, Mark Bolender is a three-time National Champion in the exhilarating sport of Mountain Trail, that combines the thrill of natural obstacles found on wilderness trails with top-notch horsemanship skills.

Mountain Trail Course Comes to Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang

Mountain Trail Course at Flag Is Up Farm

The two-acre course is located on the in-field of Flag Is Up Farm’s race track and includes over 22 mountain trail obstacles. The new mountain trail course includes bridges, teeter totters, a trench, water obstacles, a gate, logs, fan, balance beams, crossbucks, Texas two-step and more. The full course will be used for clinics and IMTCA challenges.


Mountain Trail Play Days are scheduled through December 2022. Riders are invited to bring their horses to play on the course while being guided by an in-house instructor. Check out the schedule for dates and registration info.


Water Play – Photo courtesy of James Oliver

“We set out to create a better way to help horses become more engaged with us and to develop our Monty Roberts Mustang & Transition Horse Program for horses needing new homes through adoption. Mark Bolender’s methods and incredibly safe and beautiful obstacles stood out as the best option. Then, when I learned he had won three world’s championships after age 40, I was inspired,” Debbie Roberts Loucks, Monty’s daughter shared how she came to the decision.  IMTCA mountain trail obstacles are engineered to be safe for equines of all sizes and durable, to last many seasons of use. Mark Bolender designed each obstacle himself, using his steel manufacturing background to ensure each obstacle was not only well-made, but are safe for horse and human.

“I’ve seen a lot of unsafe trail obstacles,” shares Mark Bolender. “We want to do it right from the start and make sure we had sturdy constructions that would withstand a 1,000-pound plus horse and its rider.”

Through the Logs – Photo courtesy of James Oliver

Horses and Riders Experience the Mountain Trail Course

Hand-walk the stairs – Photo courtesy of Andrea Pighetti

Monty Roberts watched as over two acres of his farm became transformed in just five days. The sixth day, Mark and Lee Bolender taught a ‘Train the Trainers’ clinic for 10 trainers. The course will be open to riders outside of a clinic, but all must be trained on the course through a clinic first.

“Mark has convinced me more than ever that in-hand work prior to ridden work is critical to build trust in your equine partner. I watched today as every horse and every handler were challenged and then celebrated as they met the challenge of each obstacle,” Monty was pleased to share with the group. 

Upcoming Mountain Trail Course Clinic with Mark Bolender

Lee and Mark Bolender at Flag Is Up Farm

Mark has added the dates of June 20, 21 (sold out!) and 22, for a Mountain Trail Horse clinic on Monty’s farm during his 2022 schedule. Interested riders are welcome to participate. The fee is $350 for a single day or $650 for two days. Overnight stabling is available or participants can haul in for $20 a day. Auditors are welcome too! $100/day to audit and lunch will be available. See the Mountain Trail Clinic registration page to pre-register.

Bolender will be also be teaching with his wife, Lee, and Sir Rugged Chex – known as Checkers – who was given the honor of becoming the first mountain trail horse to be turned into a Breyer Model Horse in 2020. Mark and Checkers are demonstrating their championship form – bridleless – on Monty’s newly-built Mountain Trail at The Movement June 17-19 as well.   Attendance fee for The Movement is $495 per person for two days with lunch included, as well as a live concert, VIP bags and many other amenities.  

Meet Mark and Lee Bolender, Founders of the International Mountain Trail Course Association

Teeter Totter – Photo courtesy of James Oliver

Mark and Lee Bolender founded the IMTCA with the mission to unify mountain trail riders internationally by developing and maintaining suitable standards of performance and judging, fostering horsemanship and camaraderie, and providing a fun-filled and family-oriented atmosphere of competition at challenges, shows, and events. Consequently, in an effort to broaden opportunity for both rider and equine, the IMTCA provides formalized obstacle configurations, rules and judging criteria. The IMTCA promotes excellence by defining criteria for identifying highly skilled performance around the world in Mountain Trail.

The Bolenders have traveled all over the world creating courses in many countries, including Canada, Australia, Denmark and Italy. Courses created by them come with the full support of the IMTCA for creating, planning and hosting IMTCA approved events and clinics. This includes access to CAD drawings of their IMTCA courses for class patterning. IMTCA parks bring in money through play days, lessons, training, clinics, schooling challenges, regional qualifiers and a true World High Point program. All this allows mountain trail competitors to compete against each other across the globe through their in-person challenge scores.


Get going! Looking for trails to ride in SLO County? This hotsheet will get you going on a few of the top rides. Get this delivered to your e-mail and join the SLO Horse News herd to stay up-to-date on herd happenings. Click here > SLO County Trails Hot Sheet to get going!

Written By
More from Guest Author
Exclusive Educational Event & Trade Show : SLO Horse Expo 2019
Get ready for food, fun, shopping, entertainment and education! Free Admission to...
Read More

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.