The Pacific Northwest is a land filled with a myriad of exciting venues to be enjoyed from atop a horse. The casual rider can easily trailer to State Parks, private facilities and public lands within the Willamette Valley of Oregon and take in the majestic scenery of mountains, valleys, waterways, forests and plains. Just about any horse comfortable on a trail can be used for leisure trail riding. But if you want to push yourself and your horse to greater heights of skill, strength and bonding, then competitive trail riding may be the activity for you.
Competitive trail riding is a much-used catchall term for many forms of indoor, outdoor, short, medium and long distance and obstacle riding challenges. There are many organizations, both regional and national, that sponsor events for riders and their mounts, but none hold events in Oregon yet.
Competitive trail riding is a timed and judged trail ride with pre-determined obstacles and various terrains, which challenge both horse and rider. The sites for these competitions often take place on public lands and may last one or several days. This sometimes requires you to trailer in and camp with your horse without corrals or fences. There are also one and two day indoor events and private ranch lands that sponsor riding challenges. Each event has its own rules and regulations, so check with the person in charge before you commit to a particular event.
The horse and rider are judged for their teamwork in pacing, addressing obstacles, trust through new situations and general horsemanship. Judges may be placed along the trail and may ask the team to perform specific gaits or maneuvers. They note how the horse reacts to commands and how the rider handles the horse, with a view toward consideration for the animal and its attention to its rider.
A CTR, as these events are abbreviated, require your horse to be in good riding condition, which assumes a period of training and conditioning prior to the event. Veterinarians may examine your mount at some events to assure that it is handling the stress within acceptable limits for pulse and respiration.
Pre-event conditioning and training should include a gradual building of horse stamina on a variety of terrains, beginning with flat, level ground and working up to hills, gullies, rocky patches, water, trees and random animals. The horse must learn to trust the rider implicitly, especially in new or emergency situations, and to respond immediately to any command given. This can only be accomplished by regular and repeated exposure to different experiences, so it will take some time to prepare a horse for competition.
The very best opportunity to be introduced to CTR for Willamette Valley and Salem, Oregon horse owners will be the First Annual Perrydale Trails Challenge, planned for July 20 and 21, 2013. Rebecca and Mike Herron, of Perrydale Trails, LLC, are hosting this event on their farm. They have arranged for event judges who are well educated in the discipline of CTR, are friendly with participants and will give fair ratings to each and every rider and horse. This promises to be an extraordinary experience for those who are looking for a new way to build skills and memories with their horses. Check out emerging details on their website or Facebook page. Challenge yourself to a new level of riding and experience competitive trail riding at its local finest.