A New Rider’s Primer: So, why NATRC?

By Mary Ashley McGibbon
Photos by Jim Edmondson of Optical Harmonics

Established in 1961, it is one of the oldest trail riding organizations in the country, with well-established membership, bylaws, and rides set up across the country.

A quick Google search returns at least ten large competitive trail ride sanctioning organizations in North America. Undoubtedly there are many more that exist on the state or local levels. With as much choice as the average rider has, why choose NATRC?

Simply, NATRC offers a nationwide community of competitors that feels like a family.

NATRC competitive trail rides are open to all breeds of equines and riders age 10 and above from any riding disciplines.

A good family plays well together. Riding distance is no small feat, and NATRC riders exhibit sportsmanship to the extreme—to the point where nearly all competitors would go out of their way to stop and check on fellow rider on the trail if something might look amiss. One of the most oft-repeated comments of first-time riders is “Everyone is so NICE!” While friendly faces can be found in every equine sport, NATRC in particular features an inclusive culture that seeks to build up riders, instead of putting competition front and center.

Families foster a strong learning environment. Health and safety of the horse and rider team is paramount to our sport, and a specific framework of veterinary and horsemanship checks helps to ensure riders are making sound decisions in the best interest of their equine partner. Yet NATRC’s rules are written and rewritten in the interest of educating horsemen and women, not setting unnecessary limits on what riders can and cannot do. Judges welcome questions before, during, and after competition. More experienced competitors also tend to make themselves available for friendly questioning and discussion. Truthfully, it would be difficult to leave a weekend ride without having learned something—even Open riders with decades of experience under their belt take home new nuggets of wisdom with each ride.

Because rides are held in all kinds of mixed terrain, smart riders trot their horses when the footing is good and the going is easy in order to make up for slower progress on hills and through forests and rocky footing.

Most families don’t stress a specific dress code; wear what works for you! While preferred trends in the horse show ring come and go, any clean, safe, comfortable gear that fits you and your horse is fair game for our sport. Watch a group of riders time out at any NATRC ride, and you’ll most likely see anything from dressage saddles to roping saddles; yoga pants to jeans; cowboy boots to trail running sneakers. It may take a few long rides of your own to patent your signature style of gear, but whatever safely works for you and fits the horse will likely be perfect for NATRC.

Following an afternoon of horses being checked in, the “family” members gather around for a briefing on the maps handed out showing trails, mileages, times and general information on the next day’s ride.

Following an afternoon of horses being checked in, the “family” members gather around for a briefing on the maps handed out showing trails, mileages, times and general information on the next day’s ride.A family celebrates its members for a myriad of accomplishments. You certainly don’t have to be the fastest horse and rider team to win a ribbon; in fact, you probably don’t want to be! Horsemanship is judged separately from the vet card, so both horse and rider can maintain high points somewhat independently of each other. Time is a factor, but only in that riders must keep pace to complete the ride in an achievable time window—there is no incentive to blast through a ride at high-speed, and no penalty for using your maximum allotted time. Ride your own ride and set your own goals for finishing. Competitors can expect scorecards at the completion of the ride to be detailed and useful for training for the next competition.

Expect a ride with NATRC to be a challenge, but also expect strong support along the way from your trail riding family. Our sport welcomes all kinds with a willingness to learn and a desire to lift up your fellow riders. We can guarantee you’ll leave knowing something new and having met a friend worth knowing.

Scorecards are finalized after the veterinarian has checked the horses for the final time, and the awards ceremony held. Hugs abound in the NATRC family!

For more information about upcoming rides or membership visit NATRC online: www.natrc.org

 

 

 

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