Although it may sound like a rodeo event and at times can take on the atmosphere of a rip roaring’ rodeo, it has nothing to do with the sport of rodeo. Ride & Tie is an endurance race, run on trails and cross-country, generally 20 to 40 miles or more in length, involving teams of one horse/two humans, competing against 10 to 50 other like teams. The humans alternate riding the horse a mile or so, tying it to a tree, and taking off running, while the other human catches up to the horse, unties it and rides past the other human, and so on. The human teammates are mixed or matched pairs: young, old, female, male, fast and not-so-fast, all racing the same course. They work closely with each other and their equine teammate throughout the race, including mandatory veterinary checkpoints.
That is entirely up to you and your partner. Some teams feel they make better time by running longer intervals between ties, say a couple of miles or more. Most teams these days seem to prefer shorter intervals ranging from 1/2 to a mile or so, depending on the terrain (shorter on uphills, longer on downhills, for example). The strategy you decide on will depend on the relative running abilities of the humans, and the speed and condition of the horse.
No, you don’t! Of course, the faster you are, the more competitive you can be. But there are many teams who just get out and Ride & Tie for the sheer fun of it…some even walk during their time on the ground. “To finish is to win” applies not only to endurance riding, but to Ride & Tie as well! Ride & Tie is really more about teamwork, endurance, commitment, and determination than about speed.
This is probably the most important factor, besides having a horse that is in good shape. You don’t have to be a great rider, but you do have to know how to handle an excited horse, especially at the start. You need to have confidence and not be afraid of your horse, and you need to know how to be a safe rider. Remember, there are runners and other riders sharing the trail with you, so an out of control horse and rider can be a serious safety hazard.
No! There are Ride & Tiers who have a conditioned horse (or mule!) but do not know anyone who runs and rides with whom they can partner for a race. The Ride and Tie Association maintains a list of runners looking for partners with horses, and folks with horses looking for partners (see Finding a Teammate). Mentors (see Learning from a Mentor) and race managers (see Race Schedule) can help you hook up with a partner and horse who fit your riding and running skill level.
The Ride and Tie Association helps people find teammates of both the human and equine variety. Simply go to Finding a Teammate and review the listings. If you don’t find someone in your area, place an ad so that others can contact you. Also, you can contact the race manager for the event you’d like (see Race Schedule) who may be able to find a team for you or you can contact a Ride & Tie mentor in your area (see Learn from a Mentor).
Any breed, including mules, can do Ride & Tie. Since it is a long distance event, however, the lean-bodied, sleek-muscled types such as Arabs and Thoroughbreds tend to excel. Appaloosas, Morgans, Walking Horses and Quarter Horses, among others, have also done well. The key to a successful Ride & Tie horse is not so much breed as conditioning. It is imperative, for longer distance events (25 miles or more) to have a healthy well-conditioned horse. If you want to try a shorter novice race (say 10 miles), just to get your feet wet, you still need to have a healthy horse in decent shape.
Generally, there is ample time to finish for even those participants who would just like to enjoy the event and may walk much of the race. The more competitive participants usually average better than a 10 mile per hour pace, but most of us aren’t that fast. Figure you can take somewhere around 5 to 6 hours max to do a 25-mile race, or 7 to 8 hours for a 40 miler (a walking pace for most people). Race veterinarians and ride management will set finishing cutoff times based on terrain, weather, and other local factors.
Most well-conditioned, healthy horses seem to really enjoy the sport! Horses have evolved with a “fight or flight” response behavior. They can rest while grazing, but be ready to bolt and flee at the first sign of danger, then rest briefly, recover, and be ready to flee again. The stop and go nature of Ride & Tie mimics this pattern. The horse sprints, rests for a few minutes while tied, then sprints to the next tie. Inexperienced Ride & Tie horses can take a race or two to get used to standing tied while other horses and people fly by. But you often see an experienced Ride & Tie horse anticipate his approaching runner by calmly watching back down the trail, and when he sees his runner approaching he orients his body facing the direction he will be heading, eager for his next sprint. It is definitely a good idea to practice before a race, by tying your horse to a tree while other horses go trotting or galloping past. And there are a few horses that just never like Ride & Tie. We respect their feelings and find other ways to enjoy our time with them.
Generally, Ride & Ties start with a “shotgun” start. That is, all horses and runners congregate in a large open area, such as a grassy opening or large dirt road intersection. At the sound of a shout or a signal of a flag, all racers start at once. Horses, of course, are positioned ahead of the runners, so as not to stampede over them! Ideally, the first mile or so is a wide dirt road or trail that allows the faster horses to get out ahead, while others of varying speed get lined out easily without running into a bottle neck when the trail narrows down. After that, it’s relatively low-key, with each team setting its own pace. Teams establish friendly rivalries with other teams running at a similar pace, as they repeatedly pass and are passed by the same competitors throughout the day.
Team members do not have to physically cross the finish line together, although most teams find it is more fun (and affords better finish-photo opportunities!) if they do. It is, after all, a sport of camaraderie and teamwork. Besides, a team’s finish is not logged until all three team members have crossed the finish line, so it does not buy you anything to finish ahead of your partner.
Ride & Tie is a sport with an enthusiastic and diverse following. There is a growing number of sanctioned Ride & Tie races in various states (see Race Schedule), not just the West Coast, where the sport originated, but also more and more races in East and Midwest as well. There have even been Ride & Tie events in Sweden, England, France, Germany and Canada! There are also non-sanctioned, informal “fun races” just for fun and practice. If you would like to organize one of these yourself, contact the Ride and Tie Association.
Generally, a Ride & Tie courses are on running trails and logging roads in usually in hilly terrain in forests but also in flat grasslands. Of course, a setting with plenty of trees affords more opportunities for places to tie the horse. National forests, state and county parks, BLM lands, and private lands are common locations.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions and cause for the most concern for new people. Obviously a Ride & Tie would not work in the desert, but you don’t need the entire course to be in a forest either. Part of the challenge and strategy of Ride & Tie is finding suitable places to tie your horse. Early in the race when your equine teammate is full of energy, you’ll probably want to tie to a fairly substantial object like a tree or fence post. Some races even allow for members of your crew to be along the trail to serve as your first tie (called a hand tie). During the race you may be have to at times go several miles to find something suitable. Exposed roots, tree limbs, sign posts all will work. Later in the race or with more experienced ride and tie horses, bushes and even clumps of grass will work for a tie location.
Yes, in fact, teams MUST make an exchange at the vet check. The rider who brings the horse into the vet check must leave the horse with the crew and must run (or walk) out of the vet check; ie, a runner can’t run in and then out of the vet check.
An artificial tie is anything that is not existing along the trail for all participants to tie to. For example, a contestant cannot carry a metal stake and hammer with them and create an “artificial tie” as they go. Trees, fences, roots, bushes etc. are all allowable ties since all contestants can use them. A “hand tie” is when a crew person holds the horse for the team. Some races allow hand ties along the trail near the start due to excited horses or unsafe tie conditions. Usually the crews are not allowed to go beyond a certain point on the course.
As a member (see Joining the Ride and Tie Association) you will receive bimonthly newsletters which cover upcoming events, race results, annual point standings and informative articles to improve your abilities as well as the abilities and health of your horse. You will also save on race fees and be eligible for the annual points competition. You must be a member to participate in the World Championship Ride & Tie, the most fun event each year. You can use the Association to help locate a partner and/or horse (see Finding a Teammate) and find a mentor (see Finding a Mentor) to receive coaching and assistance from experienced members who live near you. Membership in the Association helps ensure the stewardship of the sport and the Association’s work in helping members better understand and take care of their equine teammates (see About Ride & Tie).