If you're interested in Competitive Trail Riding but want more hands-on knowledge before filling out that first entry form, your area's CTR organization will gladly give you the chance to learn by volunteering at an upcoming ride. (Volunteering is also a way for non-riding spouses or friends to participate.)
A well-run CTR competition requires almost one volunteer per competitor, ride managers estimate. ECTRA (Eastern Competitive Trail Riding Association) volunteers get "mileage" credit toward volunteer awards, receiving a chevron patch for each 250 miles and an ECTRA volunteer belt buckle at the thousand-mile mark.
Some of the volunteer jobs essential to a safe, enjoyable ride:
- Recorders for veterinary and lay judges
- Food preparers and deliverers (a one-day ride typically includes breakfast, on-trail snacks and drinks, and a post-ride dinner)
- Timers for start, finish, and midpoint
- Spotters to check numbers and count riders at strategic points on the trail, providing a quick alert if a rider gets lost and ensuring that all riders are following the marked route
- Helpers to take horses' pulse and respiration at midpoint and finish
- Trail-cleanup crew to remove all markers from the landscape
For more detail on CTR, read "Miles, Smiles, and Fellowship" in the February 1999 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.
Sandra Cooke is managing editor of Practical Horseman magazine.