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Horse Trails, Camping & Competition 
With Tammy Vasa

Statistics would probably show that a majority of those who participate on the Horse Trails & Camping Across America Facebook Community, and this online magazine, subscribe because they like to travel and camp with a horse. 


Members enjoy riding national and state parks, staying at lovely campgrounds and looking forward to seeing new and exciting trails.  Just as important is buddying up with new friends around the fire. 


Did you know there is a sport associated with trail riding activity which captures all of the above and more and it has nothing to do with “endurance”? 


Competitive Trail Riding (CTR) is not an endurance race... 


It is a paced event on some of the same trails used for pleasure riding.  You aim to complete the marked and mapped course within a 30-minute window of time, with penalties for being too early or late. In this sport, trail safety and courtesy are of the utmost importance. 

Riders are judged on horsemanship as it applies to competitive trail riding, while the horse is evaluated on condition, soundness, trail manners and its “way of going” down the trail. 


A licensed veterinarian will watch your horse navigate the trails, check its hydration, pulse and respiration, and other key metabolic indicators.  From girth rubs to gut sounds, under the judge’s watchful eye, you will learn more about your horse than you ever imagined...  


And best of all, you see the beautiful countryside along the way. 


The Novice classes (for those “novice to the sport of CTR”) are generally 15-20 miles per day of trail with stops along the way for judging observations and pulse and respiration checks.  Most often the pace is 4 mph, which some horses can do at a walk. 


Many of the scheduled events offer both a one and 2-day competition.   


I have dabbled in CTR over the last 10 years.  I am not real competitive in nature but I do enjoy competing against my previous score card for improvements in my riding skills. 


The bonus has been a rewarding relationship between my horse and me. 


I’ve become a better rider for my horse and she is a trusted partner.  Through competition, we have grown as a team and it pays off in all of my horse/rider activities. 


No, you don’t need an Arabian or gaited horse; come as you are!  You will see everything from a pony to a draft horse on the CTR trails.  No requirements for specific tack:  Western, English or your own eclectic blend.  This sport promotes safety first!  

The camaraderie among the riders in the sport is second to none; smiles and helpful advice abundant. 


Sanctioned by the North American Trail Ride Conference (NATRC), this is a national sport.  The oldest ride in the country at Indian Cave State Park in Nebraska will host its 45th year of continuous competition.   I would be afraid to guess the average age of the competitor, but I may be in that category!   While the minimum age of competition is 10, you will find more mature adults than you will the youth crowd.   It is, however, a wholesome family-fun event. 


Competitive Trail Riding is a great way to turn trail riding up a notch and the skills you learn in this sport are important in every day trail riding.  Most of all, it is beginner friendly. 


Find out more information by visiting or join the discussion on the NATRC Facebook page








Tammy has been published in Horse & Rider, The Trail Blazer, Trail Rider Magazine, The Mane Event and Saddle-up Nebraska.  A trail advocate, she is a active member in the Nebraska Horse Trails Committee and chairs that organization's Horse Trail Riding Expo each March in Omaha.  She and her husband John live in Saunders County Nebraska.  Especially fond of quarter horses, her main mount is her home raised mare, Windy.  They have 6 horses, 3 dogs and 2 grown sons.

Click HERE to read bout one of Tammy's Favorite places to ride!



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