The MTRA holds several trail rides each year, some of which cross the entire state, and some which use only a portion of the trail for spring (Blossom Ride) and fall (Color Ride). Trophies are awarded to individuals who complete the entire shore-to-shore ride with the MTRA on scheduled rides. Horses which complete the entire ride can be registered as Michigan Trail Horses.
It's the modern-day version of a wagon train, only today it comes complete with motorhomes, pickups, and "rigs". Riders gather at the first trail camp, sign in, picket their horses and set up camp for the night. Early in the morning they break camp - leaving their horses behind, and move their rigs to the next camp. The MTRA bus brings them back to their horses, and the day's ride begins. Each person or small group rides at its own pace, following the "blue dots" on trees and posts which mark the trail. The ride can be as quick as four hours or as long as ten, depending on you, your horse and how much time you take to enjoy the scenery, stop for lunch or a swim, etc.
The Trail Boss holds an early evening pre-ride meeting to describe the following day's ride and bring up any other important business. Campfires are always available for friendly evening gatherings (usually complete with a guitar player and sometimes a popcorn maker). Often small groups will go into the nearest small town to shop for supplies, have dinner or two-step at the local saloon.
Sometimes the shore-to-shore rides number more than 100 riders with almost as many "rig jumpers" (friends or spouses who don't necessarily ride horses, but who move the "rigs" to the next camp so their riders don't have to get up so early)! Rides are usually limited to a maximum of 160 riders in order to not overstress the trail and campgrounds. Rides are either 11 days (riding to a new camp every day) or 16 days, with "layover"(rest) days every 3 or 4 days. Toward the end of the ride there is usually an "awards night" at which humorous "awards" are presented to various riders who experienced some amusing incident along the trail.
The summer rides tend to be more families with smaller children while the spring and fall rides are usually mostly adults. People have come from all over the U.S. and Canada, as well as from as far away as England and Holland to make this ride. There are usually people along on the ride who make their living as farriers and veterinarians. If they are not strictly "on vacation", their services are usually available.
We work with both the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the United States Forest Service. Without the cooperation of both agencies, this trail would not be possible.