What is Ride & Tie? 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.
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How far is it between ties? 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
Do I have to be a good runner? 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.
Do I have to be a good rider? 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
Do I need to have a horse? 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.
How do I find a teammate? 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).
What kind of horse does Ride&Tie? 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
How much time do you have to finish? 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.
Isn’t Ride & Tie hard on the horses? 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.
How does a Ride & Tie race start out? 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
Do you all have to finish together? 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
Where are Ride & Tie events held? Ride&Tie is a sport
with an enthusiastic and diverse following. There is a growing number
of sanctioned Ride&Tie races in various states (seeRace 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,the Ride and Tie Association can help. (see Contact the Ride and Tie Association)
What are the courses like? 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
How or where do you tie the horse? 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.
Can the runner keep running while the rider and horse are at the vet check?
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.
What is an artificial tie and a hand tie? 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.
What are the rules of Ride & Tie? The rules of Ride&Tie are few and primarily are for the safety of the participants, both
horses and runners (see Rules of Ride & Tie).
How can I join the Ride and Tie Association? 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 Purpose of the Ride and Tie Association).
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