So last week I told you all that on Sunday I would be heading out to volunteer at an endurance event. I learned when I arrived that it was not an endurance event, but rather a 25 mile competitive trail ride. What is the difference? I learned that while both endurance and competitive trail riding evaluate the horses well being, fitness and soundness you actually get about an hour less to complete a competitive trail ride.
I had signed up to be a scorer, but because I knew I had a horse show this weekend I didn’t want to miss a chance to ride last weekend. I spoke to woman who was putting the whole thing together and asked what jobs I could do if I could not get to the place until after 2pm. She told me that being a scorer would be perfect because you can’t score until the end of the ride. So I was able to ride Phoenix, see Gen and still have plenty of time to come out and volunteer. When I showed up to the event I knew I was not in Kansas anymore. My endurance riding friends often joke about what people wear to a ride, but after stepping out of the car I could see why…and I was totally jealous.
People had on riding tights in bright bold colors. Everything was coordinated though. There was one woman who had bright red half chaps! I was so jealous! She also had black and red tights, saddle pad and bridle! You could always tell which horse went with which rider because of how well matched they were. There was a kid who had lime green and turquoise for her colors that even had a cooler to match. It was awesome. I am so bored of being a black and white dressage rider that I think I might have even drooled in jealousy watching them all! The other thing I noticed was how many men in my area ride endurance. You normally see a handful of guys at the schooling shows, more at recognized, but here at this right it almost seemed like they made up half the riders.
So I walked through the fun colors of people and went to check in. On my way I passed the final vet check. It was amazing how happy these horses looked after 25 miles on the trails! I paused for a moment to listen in to the two people talking to two more people on clip boards and then headed over to where the scoring was taking place, on my way passing a giant table of ribbons. You would think after my 2 blues the day before I would be over ribbons, but no…I stopped and admired how beautiful they were. When I showed up, a good 20 minutes before expected I was greeted with the news that the ride had a very low turnout so they didn’t really need me. I told them that I wanted to hang out for at least a little bit so they gave me something to do.
I was a runner for the scores. Just like in upper level dressage there were 2 judges. One was a vet, and one was the layjudge. My job would be to go to their scribes (who were easy to identify because they had giant wooden boxes to write on hanging off their neck) and pick up the ride sheets. I had to make sure that I got the same number from each judge and when I had a matching pair I would go inside and give the 2 sheets to the scoring table. The sheets were really big and had lots of information on them such a heat rate, respiration, and even a diagram of a horse noting any all lumps and bumps they had before and after the ride.
Once all the scores were collected a really nice woman sat me down and explained the scoring system to me. At the start of the ride each horse/rider combo was evaluated by those two judges. They had to trot the horses out for a lameness check, go over all the vital signs and evaluate how the horse looked. Were they chipper? Did they move well? All of those things were written down on a sheet. At the end of the ride (since the ride was only 25 miles and done in such a short time it was only a pre-and post-ride evaluation) they did all the same things and noted on the sheet any changes.
For example, one of the horses looked a little sore on their left front when they finished the ride. They had no problems on the left front when they started. The judge evaluated the horses lameness on a scale on the sheet and said that on the lameness scale the difference in how the left front was moving from the start of the ride to the end was a change of two. So on that riders score sheet they got a one in the area next to movement. This same horse also had an elevated respiration from the start of the ride. Because the horses respiration was over the maximum allowed the scorers used a chart to find out how many points over the horse was and give them the point value indicated. So the horse and rider got 2 for the lameness and a .5 for the respiration.
In a competitive trail class they take that score of 2.5 and subtract it from 100 (which is a perfect score) to give the rider a total score. So this person ended the trail ride with a 97.5. Once you had a riders score you would put them in a ranking in their weight category. At this ride there was a light, medium, and heavy category which is decided by how much weight the horse is carrying on its back. I thought it was pretty cool because some riders have really heavy tack and some do not, it was just the total amount the horse would be carrying. If I were to do the ride I would clearly be in the heavy category, but it was neat to know that I would only be judged against other horse and rider combos who were also carrying similar weight. Because this was a competitive trail ride and not an endurance rider they then had an awards ceremony.
When I sat down with them at the table and they told me that endurance rides do not give our ribbons I knew that endurance would never be for me. I am fully aware that I am shallow and I know myself…finishing is not enough of a reward to me! I think it might be neat to try a competitive trail ride some day (I don’t think I am ever going to do a judged trail ride because those seem a bit scary). They even have an award for the best Appy! Overall it was a really fun time, and while I was only there for a little bit I learned so much. If you ever have a chance to go out and help out at a competitive trail ride I say go for it!