Competitive Trail Riding
With Moosewood Farm
In this section of pages, I will introduce the curious to the sport of competitive trail riding. Since my experience is with NATRC, the pages will deal with the specifics of that organization.
NATRC is the North American Trail Ride Conference. Started in 1961, NATRC now has sanctioned rides from Alaska and Canada, through out the USA; and most recently, in Okinawa. NATRC has developed a philosophy of competitive trail riding with uniform judging being of paramount importance. Uniformity of rules aids management in conducting rides, and makes it easier for judges to evaluate each horse on a more objective basis. It does not require expensive tack, clothes, or a registered and professionally trained horse. All that is required is a fit and mannerly horse and rider that enjoy trail riding.
The philosophies of NATRC are:
- To stimulate greater interest in the breeding and use of good horses possessed of stamina and hardiness, and qualified to make good mounts for trail use.
- To demonstrate the value of type and soundness in the proper selection of horses for competitive riding.
- To learn and demonstrate the proper methods of training and conditioning horses for competitive riding.
- To encourage good horsemanship as related to trail riding.
- To demonstrate the best methods of caring for horses during and after long rides without the aid of artificial methods or stimulants.
NATRC uses time, distance and stress, not speed, as judging criteria and therefore should not be confused with endurance riding. No discrimination is made against any animal because of breed, type or conformation as long as the animal performs satisfactorily. Type and conformation will be reflected in the performance of a given animal.
Riders condition their horses by following a well-planned training schedule involving careful work over all types of terrain. Straight away trotting, walking up and down progressively steeper hills, and working in soft sand are a few of the methods used to develop muscles, heart and lungs to the utmost.
The rides are judged by a team of at least 2 judges, one veterinarian and one horseman. The Open Division, for horses 5 years of age and over, is divided into Heavyweight (rider and tack 190lb and over), Lightweight (rider and tack 100 thru 189 lb), Junior (riders age 10 - 17 yrs no weight restriction). Competitive Pleasure Division is for horses 4yr and older, with no age/weight restrictions. Novice is primarily for horses 4 and older and newcomers to the sport, with the same weight divisions as Open, or Senior/Junior.
Judging is based upon each horse starting the ride with a perfect score of 100 points. Sample score card. (opens in new browser window, close window when done), evaluated as follows:
- Soundness 45%
- Condition 40%
- Trail ability and manners 15%
While primary judging is on the horse, the riders also compete for Horsemanship awards and are judged on the care, handling and riding of their mounts through out the ride. The Horsemanship score card consists of:
- Grooming, In hand presentation, tack and equipment 20%
- Trail Equitation 50%
- Trail care, safety, courtesy. Stabling, and general comments 30%
NATRC provides for one-day (type B), 2-day (A), and 3-day (AA) rides. Daily mileage is between 15 and 40 miles to be covered in a preset number of hours riding time, depending upon the division entered. The main objective is to work all horses over an identical trail in the same length of time, thereby having a basis of fair comparison for determining the horse's soundness, condition, and manners. While this is not a race, judgement in timing and pacing is important; the winner being the one (among other criteria) who rode his horse at a consistant pace throughout the ride.
Go on to the next page for what happens at a ride.
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