The All-Breed Trail Challenge started like many other horse clubs and groups, around a kitchen table. It was initially conceived by Blaine Nicholls, Brenda Donn, April Souwand and Pat Carter on January 18, 2000 as a trail futurity, called the Pat Carter All-Breed Trail Challenge. Trail course practice days were held as fundraisers for the Challenge. In the early years, some practices were held in the morning, with a show in the afternoon. The first clinic with Tim “the Trail Man” Kimura from California, was held at Hellyer’s (now Fletcher’s Horse World) in spring 2000 as a way to generate interest in the trail futurity. Rules were developed and equipment (poles, bridges, waterboxes, flowerboxes) was scrabbled together from the directors of the club. Over time, funds generated from clinics (featuring Pat Carter and Tim Kimura) and trail practices were used to purchase a substantial amount of equipment.
The first All-Breed Trail Challenge was held on September 17, 2000, with 38 entries competing on an outdoor course in the morning and then an indoor course in the afternoon at Hellyer’s. It was held in a futurity format, with pre-entries required. The show was subsequently held at the Paris Fairgrounds, in concert with the Quarter Horse show at the Fair on Labour Day weekend, until 2010 when it moved to the Rockton Fairgrounds for a couple of years and eventually to Ancaster Fairgrounds. Initially, there was also a series of Trail Challenge shows, held in conjunction with other shows at Virgil, Ilderton and Paris, with overall champions recognized at the end of the season. In 2004, a trophy buckle was awarded to the winner of the Open Trail, a tradition that continued to the final edition of the show held on September 30, 2017.
The first All-Breed Trail Challenge was judged by Sue Koeffer and Harry Hurd. Judges over the years have included: Tim Abler, Lee Foster, Bonnie Miller, Pam Scott, Howard Rea, Gay Given Owens, Todd Bailey, Kim Hazlett, Mike Bednarek, Jamie Simpson, Scott Carmichael, and Shari Irwin.
Directors over the years have included the initial group of April Souwand, Pat Carter, Brenda Donn and Blaine Nicholls, joined at various times by Mary Prosdocimi, Judy Willson, Grady McQuillan, Jennifer Gower, the late Lorna Kerr, Terri Wetton, Kerry-Anne Janes, Sara Cromwell, Jeff Beam, Doris Melitzer, Jessica Croezen, Heidi Sauder, Erin Renner, Jenny Renner, Paige Carter-Fleetwood and Lynn Johnson.
The banner sponsor of the All-Breed Trail Challenge has been Home Hardware since day one. They have consistently provided both funds and the much sought after “product buckets” at every Trail Challenge. Other sponsors over the years have included: J.M. Schneider Inc., Covey Dodge, Bill Hawkins, Ontario Amateur Quarter Horse Association, Acappella Information Systems, Guidolin, Latta Crane, Equiline Apparel, Pleasant Ridge Saddlery, Nutrena Feeds, Dunveen Farm, Atwood Custom Trailers, Robert Janes, Bioniche Animal Health, Boehringer Ingelheim, Merial, Wellington’s Tack, Cathy Cox, Shari Irwin, Suzanne Pestano, Leslie Mastromatteo, Rick Fleetwod, Ontario Paint Horse Club, April Souwand, Ken O’Donnell, Sharpe’s Farm Supply, Cambridge Greenhawk, Arlene Hayes and Jenny Renner.
A newsletter, “Trail Tales”, was produced quarterly and mailed to members who had purchased $15 memberships. The cost of a membership remained steady at $15 over the 18 years the club existed, as mailing costs were replaced by costs to maintain a website. The website and Facebook page eventually replaced the newsletter (discontinued in 2016) as a communication tool for the club.
As the club built up funds over the years through practices, clinics, and workshops, it was able to sponsor trail classes hosted by other organizations like the Area 1 Quarter Horse Promotional Association, Ancaster Saddle Club, Western Horseman’s Association of Ontario
Over 100 practice days were hosted by the club and held at various facilities including: Hellyer’s in Waterford, Brenda Donn’s in Scotland, Dunveen Farms in Paris, Carter’s in St. George, North Bay, Paris Fairgrounds, Reid Farm in Caledon, Dawn-Mar in Ariss, Manestay in Clyde, and Twin Streams in Delaware. In 2003, an equipment trailer was built, which facilitated moving the club’s substantial supply of poles and other trail equipment around to shows and clinics year-round.
The All-Breed Trail Challenge has run as a club for 18 years. It started with a goal of providing a venue to showcase the trail class by providing an entire show with nothing but trail classes. It was a celebration of the mature stock horse, taking them to the next level of training and performance that trail classes demand. By making it all-breed, it provided exhibitors who traditionally show their horses at their own breed shows (e.g. Appaloosa, Paint, Arabian and Quarter Horses) to come together in a unique way. The Tim Kimura and Pat Carter clinics offered over the years have built the strength of trail enthusiasts in Ontario, who are now able to hold their own at very competitive classes across North America. Trail practices are routinely held at training barns everywhere, now that people are educated how to properly set courses, have the equipment and there is a good base of trail enthusiasts. The year 2017 brings the end of the club, as it has achieved its original goal and participated in the promotion and growth of trail as a premiere event, a far cry from the days when it was held at the end of the show, with limited participation and interest. The remaining funds will be distributed over the coming years as sponsorship of trail classes to reward exhibitors and their horses for their efforts and success.