Competitive Trail Riding - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 01-01-2012, 11:37 PM Thread Starter
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Question Competitive Trail Riding

After a lot of thought and decision making, I have decided that I would like to try competing in competitive trail riding this year. I already know that my horse and I have quite a ways until we get to the point where I feel confident enough to compete. I have been trail riding many times before and have ridden western all my life. I love trail riding and the whole sense of adventure you get from it. I have never really competed/shown before (a couple local shows). Where I am from/live, the main showing opportunities are either barrel racing or western pleasure. Because of that, most of my riding is done in a casual setting around the farm. I see competitive trail riding as my way to compete without being confined to an arena and doing the same thing at every competition.

The only exposure I have to competitive trail riding is judging a few trail obstacle classes at shows, watching the extreme cowboy races, and seeing a family friend compete. I would like to find out more about the sport. If you can help me, I would greatly appreciate it. I am looking for advice/information on every aspect from the training of horse/rider to the actual competing to required tack and equipment. I want to find out as much as possible before I start training and practicing for it.


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post #2 of 15 Old 01-02-2012, 08:52 AM
Green Broke
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Have you looked at ACTHA? It is a fun organization and is very family oriented. They have competitive trail rides all over the US and have different levels at which to compete.
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post #3 of 15 Old 01-02-2012, 08:54 AM
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When I got back into horse years ago, I looked around and decided, I didn't have an arena, So practicing for Arena sports was out. I didn't have room to keep cattle so roping, cutting, penning etc was also out. But I did enjoy the mountains so I looked into distance sports. Competitive Trail Rider had more horsemanship skills than the endurance races. So I got involved with it.

I learned a tremendous amount about horses and horsemanship. It was a great experience. My one caveat is that you are really at the mercy of what types of CTR you can find close enough to attend. For me the ride were about every two weeks and scattered across Colorado, New Mexico and a little in Utah. So it ment long hours towing a trailer across western states. But I got to see some wonderful trails that I probably would never have bothered to see if I did not have the motivation to travel to compete. I enjoyed the sport, but got tired of the credit card bills for fuel arriving in boxes delivered by the UPS man instead of envelops in the mail.

I joined and participated in NATRC events. They are weekend events. Usually show up Friday afternoon and check in. Ride starts saturday morning and continues thru Sunday, with an awards presentation sunday afternoon and a late trip home sunday night. Their rides are usually designed for 40 mile for Novice and 50 mile for the Open competitor over the weekend. They will average 4-6 mph in the saddle. So you will be out for 6-8 hours per day on the trail. You are judged by 2 judges, A horsemanship judge that looks at how well you and the horse can deal with challenges of the trail. And a Vet Judge who looks at your horses conditioning, and how well you care for the horse.

CTR is more like a road rally. The fastest horse does not win as in a endurance race. All horses in a CTR will need to rate their speed to finish in the alloted time. Not too fast/not to slow. Judges will be looking more at the horse willingness to deal with obsticles, your ability to control your horse, and the horses conditioning. It's a level playing field. Sp having a fast horse is not part of the critera, but having a well trained and well conditioned horse is more important

Since we spent the weekend, Rode 40-50 miles over the weekend and were in the saddle most of the day, I was excited to participate. It was worth my time and the effort to drive several hundred miles to attend. Vs a horseshow where I was in the ring for 2 minutes during a class. Even some of the newer competitive trail ride groups with their 5-6 miles rides just don't justify the effort and cost to travel to ride for an hour or maybe two of actual trail riding.

You will have to consider what you enjoy. If you enjoy camping with your horse, want to spend more of the weekend in the saddle actually riding down the trail, and be judged on your horsemanship skills. Then NATRC is a great organization to join. Conversely, if you prefer a half day event, shorter trail rides and sleeping in your bed at home at night, you may want to consider ATHCA.

Bottom line is that it will depend on what events are close to you and what type of events you enjoy.

Last edited by Painted Horse; 01-02-2012 at 08:59 AM.
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post #4 of 15 Old 01-16-2012, 01:39 AM
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I also would recommend NATRC. If nothing else, read their information, great tips for trail riders. If you are looking for competitive obstacle riding, those are local sponsored events. AQHA also just started a competitive trail riding challenge, awarding merits that will be recorded on your horses papers.
Your main focus should be to enjoy your horse and the ride!
My site also has a lot of basic information on trail challenges and working trail obstacles.
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post #5 of 15 Old 01-16-2012, 02:18 AM
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This is also something I've been considering lately. Not the hard core kind that painted horse is talking about, just the small arena obstacle course ones. There's a festival that comes to town every year that does a competition, and I would really like to do at least that one. I figure if I have all year to work out Sky's kinks (and mine), it's definately something she can do. She's already an awesome trail horse. Then there's the prize money for everyone that places lol. So I look forward to reading what others have to say as well.
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post #6 of 15 Old 01-19-2012, 09:52 PM
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If your interested hunter paces are pretty much competitive trail riding. Usually in teams its lots of fun!

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post #7 of 15 Old 01-19-2012, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by VT Trail Trotters View Post
If your interested hunter paces are pretty much competitive trail riding. Usually in teams its lots of fun!
Not only that, it's a real competition with a time or other riders to beat.

Some of the so called "competitive" trail riding I've seen on youtube is worse than watching grass grow.
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post #8 of 15 Old 01-19-2012, 10:40 PM
Green Broke
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From a NATRC-ers point of view:

Some people think it's boring. If you're riding and not competing, you might think it a little dull. But it's a thinking game; strategy is key. If you like strategy, CTRs are fun and challenging. For people like me, who think NATRC is serious business, it's the most exciting thing ever. And if you don't think people take this stuff serious, talk to an Open division rider. They're nuts. XD

You have to time yourself perfectly, present your horse in the best way possible, train and think ahead to obstacles even though you have no idea what you'll be asked to do. When presented with an obstacle, you have to activate your sharp computer like mind: take it in, look around you, think up a plan, play to your horse's strengths, tone down weakness, finish with showmanship. When you get into serious CTR, it's competitive. It's hard.

That's just obstacles. There is also conditioning. NATRC is "the art of conditioning the trail horse." Getting perfect P&Rs, learning the tricks to keeping fill out of legs, learning how hard to push, learning how to keep up gut sounds (which are frickin irritating, let me tell ya!), how to keep a horse hydrated who doesn't want to drink, ect, etc. The little things kill you. You would have never thought of half the insane stuff you have to watch out for.

And the people you're trying to beat. They get 99 points out of a 100. Even 100s, sometimes. It comes down to plusses sometimes; bonus points you get for doing something really well. It becomes like a 35 mile equitation class! You learn to work the system. You know what particular judges like and how to be just THAT much better.

If you like that kind of craziness, NATRC is for you! *cheesey thumbs up*

Last edited by Brighteyes; 01-19-2012 at 10:42 PM.
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post #9 of 15 Old 01-20-2012, 05:11 AM
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VT Trail Trotters mentioned hunter paces as another form of competitive trail ride. It occurred to me that maybe not many trail riders know what a hunter pace is.

So basically, it's a timed ride over country similar to what you would ride over in a fox hunt. The organizers will ride the course and set optimum times for each division (faster/slower/non-jumping groups).

Teams of two to four riders go out and run the course. The goal is to come the closes to the optimum time for your division. Any second over or under is a penalty. BTW, no one but the organizer knows the optimum time until it's all over.

The paces put on by the hunt I belong to welcome all riders regardless of tack or discipline. If you don't want to jump, there's a go-by every fence. You just gotta wear a helmet. And if you liked it enough the first time around, pay the re-ride fee and go again.

These two videos show what one of the hunter paces put on by my hunt look like from the rider's view.

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post #10 of 15 Old 01-20-2012, 10:53 AM
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Mildot, I really enjoy yours vidéos!

Faites de lui un compagnon, pas un esclave.
Nuno Oliveira.
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