Article By Shawna Bowin, Photo courtesy of jwynnephotos.smugmug.com
People that have heard of endurance sometimes think it just means “let your horse go as fast as you want.” The truth is, it’s much more about management of your horse, including its speed. If you enjoy trail riding, but find yourself trotting more than walking, and really enjoy learning more about your horse and its needs, you should try endurance! True endurance mileage is 50 miles or more in a single day, up to 100 miles, but our local rides have “limited distance” rides of 25-30 miles and training rides of 10-15 miles at each event as well.
There is a maximum time limit (12 hours for 50 miles, 24 for 100), and there are standings, so technically it’s a race, but most endurance riders consider the main race to be themselves and their horse against the clock, the conditions, and the horse’s previous records.
The rules are minimal (any equine, any tack as long as the horse is under control, any rider attire, etc.), but are mainly about the safety of the horse. The ride vets in attendance check each horse before, after, and during the ride to ensure it is “fit to continue,” and will pull a horse from the ride if it is not deemed fit to continue (yes, even after all the miles have been ridden). Riders, on the other hand, are allowed to continue down the trail no matter how lame they are.
If you’re interested in learning more about endurance, check out www.AERC.org, a long-standing national organization. There is also www.PNER.net (a northwest-only organization that hosts its own awards and yearly conference) and www.EquineDistanceRiding.com (a newer organization that started in the northwest but is hoping to grow nationally). Each has a calendar of events, rules, and education materials.
Competitive Mounted Orienteering
Do you like trail riding, but just find follow-the-leader too boring? Want to get lost in the woods with only a compass to guide you? Like treasure hunts? Competitive Mounted Orienteering (CMO) might be the sport for you!
No fancy GPS devices needed, all you’re allowed to take on the trail is an old-fashioned compass and pen and paper. You’ll be handed a map of the local area, with circles on it indicating roughly where you can find markers. Once you’re in the vicinity of the circle, you start looking for the landmarks noted on your sheet. A “frog in a tree” might mean markings that look like a frog, or a stuffed or ceramic frog. Other landmarks can include natural (but distinctive) to man-made things, normal to ridiculous. From each item, you’ll sight a line using the sheet you were given and your compass, triangulating from at least two points to where the marker should be. Once you locate the marker itself, you jot down the secret code written on it. Those codes from the markers are your proof to the ride organizers that you found the markers. Prizes are awarded to those who find the most markers in the shortest amount of time.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any rides here in Central Oregon at this time, but contact the organizers and let them know you’d like them, or go to some in the northwest, learn how it’s done, and put one on here yourself! The national organization is www.NACMO.org, and www.WACMO.org is actually supposed to be for both Washington and Oregon.
Equine Trail Sports
The name isn’t very descriptive, but Equine Trail Sports (ETS) are various levels of obstacles over a course of varying distance, from arena-only to 10 miles or so. The clever thing is, you can choose the difficulty of each obstacle as you go, right up until you begin the obstacle, and each difficulty level is performed at the same obstacle.
For example, a bridge to cross—level 1 might just be walking across the bridge, level 2 might include stopping halfway across for a few seconds, and level 3 might mean stopping just before the end of the bridge, then backing off. Riders (or handlers—there are in-hand events, too) are judged on their ability to control the horse with minimal visible cues, and the horses are judged on their willingness and attitude.
Obstacles can be anything from natural terrain (hills to back on, logs to step over, brush to walk through) to completely ridiculous man-made things (inflatable toys to pass near, popping noises to stand still for, pool noodles galore) and everything in between (simple setups with ground poles or a barrel or two can be devious obstacles with the right instructions!) There are bonus multipliers for the more difficult levels, and standings both for each event and at the end of the year. What a great way to build teamwork with your horse!
There are a couple of local events scheduled, with more in the works—go to www.EquineTrailSports.com for a calendar of events and all sorts of other information.
Cowboy Mounted Shooting
Are the above events just too tame? Is it not a real horse event if you’re not dressed in full cowboy, or cowgirl, garb and shooting pistols you draw from your hips? Cowboy Mounted Shooting is a fast-paced but safe event. Riders shoot blanks (provided at the event) at balloons. These targets are pretty forgiving of aim, since it’s the hot gases from the blast that pops the balloons and not an actual projectile. But it’s still plenty challenging—you have to draw, shoot, and re-holster your weapons (one on each hip) while galloping around a set course. The clothing and weapon requirements make it the nearest thing to re-enacting a shoot-out from an old western movie.
The national organization can be found at www.CMSAevents.com, and there’s an Oregon organization at www.OregonMountedShooting.com. While showing up at an event to observe can be done any time, you will need to desensitize your horse to shooting (there are online step-by-step guidelines for doing this) before just showing up to ride.