Competitive Trail Riding with NATRC

Ever dreamt of riding part of the Pony Express trail or trails where Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid travelled? How about following old stagecoach roads, abandoned railways, riding near Revolutionary War or Civil War battlefields? What about passing outlaw hideouts or American Indian winter camping grounds? Ever been to private ranches where only you can ride? Competitive trail riders attending North American Trail Ride Conference (NATRC) sanctioned rides have experienced those dreams and more.

The Facts, Ma'am, Just the Facts

A competitive trail ride (CTR) is a distance event where the competitors cover a marked and measured distance within a designated "30-minute window" of time; i.e. so many hours and minutes to complete the ride give or take 15 minutes. In rides sanctioned by NATRC, approved veterinary and horsemanship judges evaluate the performance of both horses (meaning horses, mules, donkeys) and riders. NATRC sanctions more than 75 rides and clinics in some 50 different locations a year. Rides are of three types, 1-, 2-, and 3-day, with any combination of four divisions - Leisure, Novice, Competitive Pleasure and Open.

Choices for All Sorts of Riders

The Leisure division, only offered in 1-day rides, is for those dipping their toes in the sport or for people with "limited free time" (translation: encumbered with work or family responsibilities leaving little room for conditioning a horse for distance riding or for getting away for a long weekend). It is a great division in which to start a

new horse, introduce and mentor children or grandchildren to the sport, enjoy an aged equine companion in competition again, ride shorter distances or speeds, for just plain fun, or whatever!. These riders can arrive, compete and go home the same day! The Novice division is also for riders getting started in NATRC, people riding younger, inexperienced horses or horses coming back from an injury, have time for camping overnight at a ride and have time for conditioning their horses. Competitive Pleasure (CP) is for experienced CTR competitors who choose not to ride at the Open distance and speed. CP riders usually compete at the same distance and speed as Novice but have obstacles that are more challenging. They often ride with and mentor new competitors. This division often has the best and most experienced riders and the competition is much more intense than Novice is. Open is the division for experienced competitors. They ride further and faster than any of the other divisions, have the most challenging multitask obstacles, and are eligible to earn NATRC's most coveted award - the President's Cup for the highest point horse in the nation. It is also the only division allowed in 3-day rides.

What is It Like Out There?

Competitors are briefed on and follow a map. They ride a marked course that will take them through the most beautiful areas and scenic views. Safety riders and personnel follow behind in order to assist anyone - horse or human. There are at least two pulse and respiration (P&R) condition checks per day along the trail (one for Leisure) as well as metabolic and soundness exams. Horse and rider teams negotiate natural obstacles along the route, being judged on such things as handling tech nical terrain, opening and closing a gate, sidepassing a log, etc.

Icing on the Cake

Riders receive their scorecards after awards! In the Leisure division, horse and rider are scored as a team and their combined scores are additive. One certified judge evaluates the team performance. Teams receive awards through 10th place. In all other divisions, horse and rider each start with 100 points. A licensed veterinarian thoroughly evaluates the horses before, after and during the course of the ride for condition, soundness, trail ability and manners. A certified horsemanship judge scores the riders on care of the horse, in-hand presentation, trail equitation, safety, and teamwork with their equine partner. Scorecards list any point deductions. They are also educational. Judges make suggestions for improvement and encourage the competitor by highlighting well-done performance. While NATRC awards the top six placings for each class in these divisions at an event, some riders simply compete against themselves to improve their own best score.

Hey, I Want to Hop On This Bandwagon!

NATRC CTR is welcoming and inclusive. It is a family sport open to ages 10 and over. It is open to all equines from any background, ridden with any style of tack. "Newbies" find friendly and helpful competitors, judges, management, and volunteers. Volunteer! It can be just as much fun as competing! Volunteers can see friends or family out on the trail. Volunteering happens to be the best way to learn about the sport and to ask questions before starting to compete. There are many roles to fill such as P&R team member, judge's secretary, safety rider, driver, timer, gofer and more!

The Grand Finale

NATRC presents annual awards at its national convention. First and foremost is the President's Cup, the highest award for the high point horse in the Open division. Open and CP riders can earn National Championships. There are several special, combined horse and rider, high average, and breed awards. National and Regional placements by adult weight and junior classes are awarded. NATRC tracks the competition miles for every horse and every rider and rewards mileage milestones.

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