Riding is fun in and of itself, but having a goal to reach for adds another dimension to an already satisfying pursuit. For those interested in trail riding, there are multiple competitive objectives to explore.
One trail riding sport that is quite familiar to trail riders is that of endurance riding. The motto “To Finish is To Win” is the credo of the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), and one in which all involvedriders take pride--the accomplishment is about far more than who comes across the finish line first.
Endurance riding is an equestrian sport that pits a horse and rider team against completing a lengthy stretch of trail, either as a 50- or 100-mile event, or a multi-day event of 150-250 miles spaced over three to five consecutive days. A 50-mile course must be completed within 12 hours while a 100-mile course allows 24 hours for completion.
In each competition, the horse is given required rest time spaced at intervals along the trail. Each rest stop is immediately preceded by a rigorous veterinary exam that evaluates a horse’s soundness and metabolic ability to cope with the rigors of the trail, and to ensure that the horse is “fit to continue.” Competitors can strive for accruing high mileage awards or for points associated with speed and who comes across the finish line in Top Ten placing.
Other trail sports are available to interested riders. Several organizations are devoted to competitive trail riding, which is different from endurance in several ways.Most of these rides are two or three days long, with 15-40 miles of trail covered per day, depending on the category entered. Speed is not a critical feature in competitors’ placing positions. In fact, a set pace is desirable; horses that go too fast or too slow are given time penalties. Condition and soundness are key elements in earning placings. The horses are often judged along the trail for demonstration of manners in negotiating obstacles set up by a judge. Riders may also be judged for horsemanship skills both along the trail and by how the horse is cared for at the horse trailer during overnight camping.
Another exciting trail riding distance sport is the world of ride and tie. In this event, two runners share a horse along a 25-, 50- or 100-mile course.The human partners alternate between running and riding, leaving the horse tied to a tree to wait for one of the human partners to catch up to that spot. Then the runner jumps on the horse, rides a distance past the other human partner, and again ties the horse and the human takes off running. This leap frog process continually repeats over the length of the course. Veterinary checks and rest points are specified along the trail just as in the other distance riding sports.All three partners (two people and one horse) must cross the finish line to complete, and the horse must comply with veterinary criteria and exams throughout the ride and tie event.
If you like treasure hunts, then competitive mounted orienteering may be tailor-made for you. This sport tests your horsemanship abilities and your map reading and compass skills. The objective is to ride out on a prescribed course to locate as many hidden Objective Stations as possible, returning in the least amount of time. This is done over a 10-station long (8-25 miles) or 5-station (much shorter) course.
If you’re more comfortable in the arena, then there are also trail obstacle challenges at many venues. Your horse must perform many skill sets as you ride through obstacles that test your rider skills, the horse’s obedience and cooperation.
In the trail riding world, these many competitive options give sufficient opportunities for riders to select from that best sport that accommodates their personal abilities, breed and skill set of the horse.