Insider Tips From Trail Course Designer Tim Kimura

Designing trail courses is simply something Tim Kimura does.  He knows it.  He dreams about it.  He’s really darn good at it.  

Shows are just really big puzzles; puzzles filled with riders, horses, arenas, and courses.  There are so many moving parts, and Tim has spent 30+ years living and breathing all of these moving parts.  He knows how they’re supposed be set up and run.  Simply put, he just gets it.  He gave us some really good insights into his big areas of expertise in the world of trail riding.  


Tim travels worldwide running clinics to help riders improve their craft.  The best clinics are when similar skill levels are grouped together.  This allows the flow of the clinic to run much smoother because all of the participants can handle the same courses, tests, and obstacles.  Every clinic is unique and designed to fit the group that is attending.  Tim may base his plan upon the size of the arena, number of poles available, weather, region, timing, and skill level.  So much of what he does is intuitive that the pretesting at the beginning of any clinic is crucial for him to make gut decisions on how to craft the rest of the clinic.  

Designing Courses

There is an art and science to how Tim sets up a trail course.  Each one includes elements from other courses, but each setup is unique.  He admitted that he sometimes even wakes up with the vision of what the course should be.  The design of the course is not simply based on how a rider can flow through the course.  Of course, that’s the obvious thing.  But, Tim’s been doing this long enough to know that a course needs to flow well for the show to flow well.  A course that has too many obstacles that need to be picked up between riders is not conducive to a well-flowing show.  Also, Tim always considers how many people will be practicing at the same time.  You want to visualize it so that people aren’t running into each other or crisscrossing too much.  

Managing Flow At Shows

Tim argues one of the hardest working individuals at a show is the person managing the back gate.  Why?  It’s a constantly changing puzzle of spaces and timing.  Many show managers will simply put a volunteer at the back gate and that is a BIG problem!  That poor volunteer doesn’t know that they are in the middle of work order issues, breaks, and type-A horse personalities!  Tim has a good understanding over how long each rider takes in his arena, knows how many people to have ready, and also knows how to also keep tabs on what’s going on in other arenas.  All of these moving pieces can affect the others, and you need to have someone running the back gate that understands all of that.

Tim’s Advice To Trail Riders:

The best little tip Tim gave us to share is that the paper maps of the courses are still invaluable compared to looking at the map on your phone.  You may think that technology is helping you out, but it’s really not doing you any favors.  The paper printouts are larger than what you can see on your screen, allowing you to focus on the trail, and not on zooming in and out on your device.  Also, tuck your folded paper copy in your saddle to keep with you!  You can take a last peek at it before you begin your ride and then tuck it away safely during your ride!

Bonus Advice!  The horse arena is no place to be hunting for Pokemon!  Pay attention to what’s going on around you, rather than hunting Pokemon.  It’s not only annoying to other horse riders, it’s not safe!  

Go show Tim some love by following him on Facebook and get all of his updates from his different shows, courses, and clinics!

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