2019 Trail Master Certification Course Recap

The Wisconsin Horse Council presented its 14th Trail Master Certification course presented by Trail Design Specialists, Inc. (TDS) in part of the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest, DJ Mackie Picnic Area in Eagle, WI.  The instructor was Mike Riter of TDS.  The 4-day course was held May 8th - 11th.  Classes ran from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily.

The 2019 Trail Master Certification class was sponsored by the WHC and supported by the WDNR and GDHTA, and it was very successful. Employees from government agencies and trail volunteers came together to study and work side by side in class. The four-day trail school started each day with classroom time. This year we had a student come all the way from Alabama, who said it was well worth the money he paid to learn all that he did.

The students learned how to lay out a sustainable trail using the proper grade percentages, how to build that trail with a full bench cut and proper back slope. They were taught trail techniques (that work better than the old techniques) and why the old ways weren’t working in a sustainable manner. The students will never look at trails the same again. Have you ever been on a trail where there are stairs and the users walk alongside the stairs? What about a trail that goes up a hill that is eroding? This class teaches how to remedy those problems.

Students worked outside in the afternoon applying what they learned in class to real life trails. They built a short rerouted trail to replace an old eroded section of trail. All the students are now certified and have also been tested on their skills as a crew leader for when they lead a team of volunteers.

The WHC was commended repeatedly for organizing, sponsoring and hosting this event, and for the lunches provided to attendees. The students were enthusiastic and hard-working.


2018 Trail Master Certification Course Recap

The Wisconsin Horse Council presented their 13th Trail Master Certification course presented by Trail Design Specialists, Inc. (TDS) and was held in Magnolia Bluff Park in Evansville, WI.  The instructor was Mike Riter of TDS.  The 4-day course was held on May 16th through May 19th.  Classes ran from 8:00 through 4:00 daily.  Attendance was required every day in order to complete the course.

Wisconsin volunteers that work on trails,
all land managers and their staff (state, county, or town) and WDNR staff; 100% of their registration fees were covered by the DNR Parks Department and the Wisconsin Horse Council.   This was limited to first 12 registrations.

All non-WDNR participants submitted a refundable deposit of $100 to ensure their space in the course.

Included with the classes was breakfast, snacks, lunch and water.

2017 Trail Master Certification Course Recap

The Wisconsin Horse Council (WHC) sponsored a Trail Master Certification Class, also known as 'Trail School', from May 31st to June 3rd, 2017, which was organized by the WHC Trails Committee. This was the 11th successful class that the WHC Trails Committee has hosted. We worked closely with the Glacial Drumlin Horse Trail Association (GDHTA) who provided the tools used during the class and the LaRiviere Riders local horse trail riding group. We also worked closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to bring together trail volunteers and land managers. The WDNR obtained Recreational Trails Program grant money to assist in paying student fees for many of the class attendees. The cooperation of the WDNR shows their support of what we do to better trail sustainability and educate others.

LaRiviere Park is unique in the fact that the LaRiviere Riders, maintain the trails and campgrounds in this Park owned by the City of Prairie duChien. They helped secure a place to hold the morning classroom portion of the schooling and provided areas for the practical afternoon portion of the class. The LaRiviere Riders group further engaged themselves with the class by providing a dinner cookout one of the evenings.

The Trail School is filled with 4 full days of information on how to design and build sustainable trails. Once a person attends the class and learns the tried and true rules of what makes trails sustainable they will never look at trails in the same way again. We hire Mike Riter from Trail Design Specialists to be our instructor for these classes. Mike has built trails throughout the country and is well respected not only by equestrians, bicyclists, hikers and other trail users but also by land managers at County Parks, State Parks, National Parks and National Forest Services levels.

' Trail Design Specialists’ Trail Master Certification Class covers the latest advances in trail design, construction and maintenance with a focus on long-term sustainability and ease of maintenance. Participants are provided with a detailed booklet specific to each segment of the course. Topics include how to properly design and lay out a trail, how to avoid erosion and other environmental issues, how to handle user conflicts, proper construction techniques, how to rehabilitate existing trails, and a host of other topics. The course includes both classroom learning and hands-on practical trail experience.
 We look forward to continuing to provide this vital resource for the future of trails and connecting trail users and land managers.

Written by Margaret Kraege
WHC Trails Committee Member
GDHTA President


2016 Trail Master Certification Course Recap

It was a very successful year for the 2016 Trail Master Certification Course held at Governor Dodge State Park, July 15 through July 18 sponsored by the Wisconsin Horse Council (WHC) Trails Committee and cosponsored by Glacial Drumlin Horse Trail Association (GDHTA). We had so much interest this year that the class filled up long before the registration deadline along with names of people to contact for future classes. Kricket was instrumental in setting up the paperwork for the class description and registration.  
 The class fees went up again this year which rendered us unable to sponsor the fees for all 16 of the students, however, we had people from the Minnesota DNR who paid their own fees to attend enabling us to have a full class. We are fortunate enough to work with the WI DNR who attain grant monies for education from the federal Recreational Trail Program.

This year the attendees mainly consisted of equestrians and land managers who are currently working on key areas of equestrian use and future expansion, improvement, or securement of horse trails. These areas include a horse trail expansion in the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway which very recently had it's Master Plan approved by the Natural Resource Board. The land manager from the LWSR is excited to now have the knowledge to construct these new trails in a sustainable manner. Rock County Parks employees, with horse trails in Gibb's Lake Park and Magnolia Bluff Park attended and can more easily address erosion issues in sandy soils that they have been struggling with. DNR workers from Governor Dodge State Park that have been working with the Governor Dodge Equestrian Group, to improve trails and fund raise to relocate the horse camp there, already are thinking about how to upgrade their park. GHDTA members working in the Nicolet National Forest have a new perspective on trails and signage options and will continue to work on securing signage there.

An equestrian volunteer from the Clip Clop Riders, in Marinette County, has the know how to lead others in her area and continue to enhance those horse trails. There were also students that are part of the State Trails Council, appointed by the Governor, which advise the DNR of Natural Resourses on recreational trail use.

 We are also happy to announce that new horse trails have been constructed and in the Loew Lake unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest . The DNR land manager of that area attended our class in 2014. 

Written by Margaret Kraege

Over the past 11 years the Trails Committee of the Wisconsin Horse Council has provided training in trail creation and maintenance.

We have brought to the state of Wisconsin a trail expert to educate individuals in the construction of ecologically sound and sustainable multi use trails.

We are considering another 4-day trail school and are soliciting for interest in this comprehensive, hands on program. To understand how you might benefit from participation, I have included a testimonial from a past participant.

“I am a member and officer of the Northern Saddle Club in Florence WI. I was fortunate to have attended a trail building class that was offered by the Wisconsin State Horse Council in June of 2009. This was a four-day course presented by Trail Design Specialists LLC. It was held in Luck WI, and Ken Carpenter of the Wisconsin State Horse Council set everything up. The course was taught by Mike Riter and included Trail Design, Trail Construction, Trail Maintenance and Crew leader Training. The training was very informative and I have since used many of the techniques that I learned in projects involving the three equestrian trails our club helps to maintain in Florence and Marinette counties.

I would highly recommend this course to any one involved in trail building and design. The trails we maintain now. Halls Creek, Bush Lake Flats and Horse Shoe Fall's would have been different and better if I had attended this training sooner.

I am confident that I can solve almost any trail problem encountered with the training I received.
Thank You for this Opportunity”. ~Pat P

If you are interested in the Trails Committee providing the opportunity to participate in this incredible training program, please contact Floyd Finney ( or 608.868.4543) to insure a spot in the proposed 2016 Trail Master Certification Program.

Trails Committee
Wisconsin Horse Council


2014 Trail Master Certification Course Recap

Design SchoolThe Wisconsin Horse Council presented its 10th Trail Master Certification course presented by Trail Design Specialists, Inc. (TDS). It was held in Lowes Lake Park, in Monches, WI. Lowes Lake is a unit of the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest and is located west of Germantown. The instructor was Mike Riter of TDS. The 4-day course started on July 9th and ran through July 12th. Classes ran from 8:30 through 4:00 each day, with all days requiring attendance in order to complete the course.

The course covered the latest advances in trail design, construction and
maintenance with a focus on long-term sustainability and ease of maintenance.

The last day covered field application on the concepts that were covered on the previous days, interspersed with leadership techniques for working with volunteers. A detailed booklet, specific to each segment, was provided. The course consisted of three interactive classroom sessions covering the topics listed below.

Trail Design and Layout

We covered advances on how to properly design and layout a trail. We discussed how to avoid erosion, user conflicts, and impact problems through design. This session gave a good working knowledge of what causes trails to erode through water/soil relationships. An outdoor session consisted of a series
of flagging and layout drills designed to utilize the concepts covered in the classroom.

Trail Construction

We covered proper corridor clearing for all types of use and proper construction of a durable tread surface. Various types of tread construction, cribbing and raised tread sections, switchbacks and a section on bridges and boardwalks was also included. An outdoor session consisted of construction techniques that were covered in the classroom. A demonstration of tread construction machinery was included.

Trail Maintenance

We covered maintenance issues on trails. We discussed how to make longterm repairs and lower environmental impacts. Trail hardening techniques along with rehabilitation of disused trails were also covered. The outdoor session consisted of maintenance techniques that were covered in the classroom.

Crew Leader

This portion of the program was held entirely outdoors and gave each student the opportunity to lead a crew. The day was broken into three sessions. At the end of the third session certificates for those that completed the course were issued.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in this year's Trail Design School!

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