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Kenzi Brost and her horse, Aspen, competed in the Smoky Mountain Trail Challenge at the Southern Equine Expo Feb. 21 as a practice run for the Mountain Trail Challenge at this year’s Midwest Horse Fair.

Competing at the Southern Equine Expo, held amidst the hills and hollows of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was as a practice run for Kenzi Brost and her horse, Aspen. The two are preparing to compete in this year’s Midwest Horse Fair’s Mountain Trail Challenge.

“I wanted to take Aspen to this competition (SEE) so he could get a feel for the expo atmosphere and see a few obstacles that he hasn’t had the chance to see yet,” said Brost. “The atmosphere at the Midwest Horse Fair is basically unparalleled, so I thought what better form of exposure than to compete (at SEE). I also have a love for obstacles and have competed very successfully in trail classes previously.”

The horse and handler team placed sixth out of 11 competitors entered in the in-hand division classes held Feb. 21-22 at the Tennessee exposition. Having successfully completed one competition, they are now looking forward to their next challenge at MHF April 19 in Madison.

The 11-hour drive to Murfreesboro brought Brost and Aspen to the expo grounds a few hours before they were to compete. Their day-of-the-event arrival was too late for them to make practice runs held the evening before.

“He kept his cool the entire event and tackled some new obstacles, such as a balance beam and teeter totter,” said Brost. “I was very impressed with his composure, and being that we still have two months until the Midwest Horse Fair, I am excited to see how much progress he will have made by then.”

The MHF is partnering with the International Mountain Trail Challenge Association to hold the competition. Handlers and riders of all ages, levels and backgrounds and their horses vie for cash prizes by navigating a course of natural and manmade obstacles of varying difficulty. The classes include in-hand and mounted categories. One of 46 teams entered in this year challenge, Brost and Aspen will again compete in in-hand classes.

“I originally made the decision to compete at the Midwest Horse Fair because I wanted to give Aspen a new experience,” said Brost. “I started training him when he was just a foal, so he has a very strong foundation. However, I wanted to push him out of his comfort zone and really give him a beneficial learning experience.”

Brost started her horse experience nearly 14 years ago when she was just 7 years old, taking dressage lessons at a local boarding stable.

“My passion for riding and training grew from there,” said Brost. “I really developed my own training style based on the influences of my personal trainers, as well as any other knowledge I could gather from videos and books.”

She first started training horses professionally when she was 15 years old and continues to offer her knowledge and experience through her business, Hollywood Horse Training.

“Hollywood Horse Training all began when I decided to enter a trainer’s challenge which I saw advertised on Facebook that was put on by Pony Tales Refuge and Rehab, Inc.,” said Brost. “The nurse mare orphan foal I ended up getting to train was Aspen.”

To prepare for the trail challenge, Brost tries to spend an hour a day working with Aspen, working on basic ground maneuvers as well as practicing with the few obstacles she has set up. The potential obstacles at the MHF include suspension bridges, water crossings and raised back-throughs.

Now coming five, the Warmblood/Thoroughbred cross is being started in under-saddle training. Brost hopes to eventually compete with him in dressage and possibly eventing.

Along with preparing for the trail challenge, Brost attends UW-Stevens Point, majoring in biochemistry and pre-veterinary medicine; she has recently been accepted to UW-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

The concept of Mountain Trail Challenges started in 2001 at the Oregon Horse Center as an indoor winter trail show. Mountain Trail has flourished and expanded over the years in the USA as well as Australia, Canada and Europe.

Courses are designed to mimic the terrain and obstacles riders and horses might encounter during a ride in nature, which can include bridges, ponds, teeter-totter bridges, four-foot jump up and large logs to step over. The trails are designed with three levels of difficulty to challenge with a goal to not intimidate or create unsafe conditions.

Trail challenges are open to all horse breeds as well as mules and donkeys and all riding styles, and amateurs can compete as well as professionals.

“We are very excited to show off exactly what a rescue horse can do at these events,” said Brost. “We know what we need to practice up on and will be coming into the Mountain Trail Challenge as prepared as we can be.”

Information about the MHF Mountain Trail Challenge can be found on the event’s website.

Brost can be contacted by emailing kenzibrost83@yahoo.com or on her Facebook page at Kenzi Anna Brost.