Forging a New Trail

When an injury retired Peponitas Top Gunner from the show pen, he seamlessly transitioned into competitive trail riding.

Jan Garvin of Ocala, Florida, didn’t lose hope when her former world champion cutting horse, Peponitas

Top Gunner (Gunner), sustained an injury that would keep him from returning to the competitive arena.

Instead, she forged a new trail with the Paint stallion, thanks to the American Paint Horse Association and the American Competitive Trail Horse Association.

Smooth Transition

The 2003 sorrel overo stallion started off his career as a National Cutting Horse Association competitor, then went to the 2003 National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity, where he placed in the Limited Open Top 10.

In late 2003, APHA member Jan Garvin purchased Gunner and moved the good natured stallion to her Ocala ranch. In 2004, the stallion won the APHA reserve world championship in junior cutting. In 2005, he won the amateur cutting world championship.

But when Gunner tore his suspensory ligament in late 2010, Garvin retired him from the show circuit and decided to breed a few of her mares to the stallion.

“When Gunner was well enough for me to ride again, I decided competitive trail would be something fun for us to do — just go trail riding and do some fun little things,” Garvin says.

The pair began competing in ACTHA events, obstacle challenges, and ranch horse shows. Quickly finding success, they were named ACTHA 2011–2012 Florida champions in the open division. They currently hold ACTHA Silver and Silver Elite medals.

“It’s just so much fun,” Garvin says. “I’ve always enjoyed trail riding my horses. Gunner has been good at everything and does everything you ask of him. He’s great to ride, so smooth and comfortable, and just a really nice horse.”

A Good Foundation

Garvin prepared for the challenges of competitive trail from her long-ago experiences with arena trail classes. She says horse-show trail classes used to be more similar to competitive-trail events than the modern version of the class.

Garvin adds that Gunner’s experience as a show horse prepared him for unpredictable trail environments.

“I ride him the same way I did when I was cutting,” she says. “He was a show horse, so nothing bothers him, and he’s great on the obstacles.”

Garvin focuses on navigating the obstacles with precision and works to train Gunner to be patient for cues. Fortunately, Gunner remains a soft, attentive mount.

“Gunner is just the nicest horse,” Garvin says. “He waits on you to tell him what to do — he’s got a great mind.”

Garvin keeps track of Gunner’s success through the APHA’s Paint Alternative Competition program. (For more on this program, see below.)

“I love it,” Garvin says. “You can show in all these different venues and get more credit for your work.”

Trail riding has kept Garvin’s horses’ minds fresh, and has helped her slow down and enjoy the ride.

“You get tired of going around in circles,” she says with a laugh.

“We go out in the Florida Greenway. You can ride for a long time out there. It’s relaxing and you have a good time because there’s no pressure.”

Exclusive Opportunities

The American Paint Horse Association offers membership levels specifically designed for recreational riders: 

The Trail Boss ($80):Includes a one-year APHA membership, annual enrollment in the Ride America program, a free gift, and a one-year subscription toThe Trail Rider.

The Wrangler ($40): For current APHA members, includes annual enrollment in the Ride America program, a free gift, and a one-year subscription to The Trail Rider.

The Day Rider ($15): For current APHA members who are already enrolled in Ride America, includes a one-year subscription to The Trail Rider.

To enroll in the Ride America program, go to, and click on “Enroll in Ride America.” 

Ride America

Enjoy riding your Paint Horse outside of competitions? The American Paint Horse Association’s Ride America program chalenges you to set riding goals and rewards you for your time spent iding or driving your Paint Horse — on the trail or wherever your 

Paint takes you! 

Achievement awards are given at levels ranging from 100 recorded hours to 10,000 hours; you can earn additional hours by participating in APHA trail rides. 

All hours are recorded on a horse’s permanent APHA performance record. ACTHA trail rides qualify for double hours. 

To learn more about Ride America, visit, or send an e-mail to To find an ACTHA event near you, visit

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