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The Atlantic Canada Trail Riding Association sanctions 6 kinds of competitions.
Competitive Trail Ride
Judged Pleasure Ride
Endurance Ride
Limited Distance Ride
Introductory Distance Ride
Ride & Tie


The ACTRA Rule Book is now available for download.
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What is a Competitive Trail Ride?

Competitive Trail is a sport where you and your horse become a team, each one relying on the other, traveling distances of 25 miles to 100 miles. You will be competing against other horse and rider teams in areas such as, fitness and horsemanship. This is not a RACE. There is a minimum time for completion and a maximum time for completion which will vary for different mileage amounts. The average pace is 7 miles per hour. You will have the opportunity to ride through miles of beautiful trails and meet many people that share your interests. This sport has proven to be a great bonding experience for horse and rider, and you will come away from each ride with experiences you will not soon forget.

Now lets turn to the more serious side of the sport. Judging is done in three categories. Conditioning is based 100% on each horse's physical conditioning on a comparison basis from morning check to evening check. Judging is done y a Veterinarian and Lay Judge. There are also Horsemanship and Trail Horse. Training and preparation are needed to be able to compete in any sport, including this one. There are many topic addressed on this ACTRA site. Distance riding can be stressful on horse and rider and this is not to be taken lightly, but don't let this intimidate you. The efforts you take to train and prepare will all be well worth it, when you successfully complete a ride safely with a sound and fit horse. Just remember the Competitive Trial motto: To Complete Is To Win!


To see A You Tube Video of a British Columbia Competitive Trail Ride Click Here


A Typical Competitive Trail Ride Day

8:00 am
Arrive at ride site. You will be assigned a number, which is put on your horse's rump with a stock marker. The horsemanship judge begins observing.

8:30 am
Present your clean horse in halter for your preliminary vet check. The vet will check your horse's legs, feet, tack areas, mucus membranes, pulse, respiration and dehydration. Be prepared to mention any blemish you feel he may have missed. You only lose points for abrasions, etc. that occur or deteriorate during the ride. You will be asked to trot your horse in hand. The horsemanship judge may also wish to check your horse at this time.

9:00 am
While others are being vetted, you may tack up. Fill a couple of buckets to warm to air temperature - one to wash the horse and one for him to drink from after the ride. Place items you will need at the halfway stop on the truck going there. After all horses have been vetted, attend the pre-ride briefing. You will be advised of ride time, type of trail markings used and given information on the route.

9:30 am
Make final adjustments to tack - it will be checked by the horsemanship judge. Mount in front of judges. The timer will advise you when to leave, usually at one minute intervals. Leave ride site at a trot. As you ride along watch for spots to water and sponge your horse. You may dismount at any time, but forward progress must be made while mounted. You may be observed at any time by the judges.

At a point near mid-ride there will be a compulsory stop of 10 to 30 minutes. Your horse's P & R's will be taken ten minutes after you have arrived. If the horse has not recovered, he will be held for a further 10 minutes, then retested. If the horse doesn't meet parameters on the recheck he will then be eliminated. Horses may be pulled for lameness or other difficulties at any time. You may blanket or sponge your horse. The timer advises you when to leave the halfway hold.

Your day is not over at the finish line. After you have been in 20 minutes, the final P & R checks are taken, you then proceed to the judge to trot out the horse in hand. After another 40 minutes you return to the judge for final vetting. The first 20 minutes should be spent assisting your horse's P & R recoveries. While final grooming done in the last 40 minutes. Horses are checked in order of finish.

5:00 PM
After the final horse is vetted, the after ride meal is served while the judges finish their computations. Awards are given. You will receive your score sheets for reference.

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What is a Judged Pleasure Ride?

A Judged Pleasure Ride is meant to be fun or a pleasure with a little competition. It is a great way to get a horse ready for competitive rides of longer distance. Many riders choose this type of ride to relax a horse normally used for ring work , schooling young horses or for people who do not have the timer or interest to condition their horses for CTR or Endurance rides. The distance is between 10 and 20 miles. With no time constraints the pace is slower and the terrain less strenuous. There is time to enjoy the company of friends, the scenery and perhaps take a few photos.



What is an Endurance ride?

An endurance ride is a test of a horse and rider team over challenging terrain over distances of 50 to 100 miles in one day, 150 miles over three days using one horse, and multi day rides of 200 to 300 miles where each day is actually a separate ride and multiple horses may be used. There is no minimum time for a ride. The maximum time is 12 hours per 50 miles or 24 hours for 100 miles. The winner of an endurance ride is the first person to cross the official finish line having followed the prescribed trail with a horse that is fit to continue on. Failure to meet veterinary criteria at any point in the ride including the finish, will result in no completion. All riders are held with strict veterinary controls to ensure the protection of our equine partners. The motto of endurance riders worldwide is "To Finish Is To Win."

To see A You Tube Video of Endurance Riding Click Here


A Typical Endurance Ride

Day Before
Arrive at the ride site the day before the Endurance Ride. Set up your camp and get your horse settled. Get your horse vetted early. After the vet check, your time is your own until the ride briefing. Take the map that was given to you when you registered and mark down any information from the ride briefing that you think will help you on the ride. Mark any danger points on the ride such as bogs and soft spots, and places where you can water your horse. After the Briefing, make sure your horse has plenty of food and water for the night. Many riders provide free choice hay. Most endurance riders "preload" electrolytes before the ride. Go to bed early and get a good sleep.

Ride Morning
Be tacked up early and warm up your horse for 15 to 30 minutes before the start time. Depending on the time of year, it can be very cold, requiring a slow warm up. Walk your horse for five to ten minutes. Then do some slow trotting, then go back to walking and settle in for the start.

The start of some endurance rides can be quite scary the first time out. Some riders start slowly, others start in a confused rush. Start your first ride slowly. It gets the fast and hyped up horses out of your way. Everyone should ride their own race. Ignore the competition, don't worry if people pass you. Your goal is to finish and learn the capabilities of your horse.

Vet Checks
If your horse is thirsty when you arrive at a vet check, then the horse should be allowed to drink before going to the pulse and respiration check. (Horses will cool down and their pulse will drop more quickly if they drink so you may actually save time at the vet check by allowing your horse to drink before trying to get the pulse down.) After you have met the pulse criteria and other vet criteria, you should ensure your horse has plenty of food and water available. Many endurance horses like a sloppy grain mix with bran, carrots, apples, potatoes, beet pulp etc. (Remember - soak beet pulp for 24 hours before feeding.) Also have a good quality hay available.

On Trail
Any time on the trail that you could walk as fast as your horse, get off and walk. There are several benefits to this, IT will give your horse a break. If you have a heart monitor, you will notice the difference. Secondly, it will give you a break and a chance to use different muscles and bet a stretch. You and your horse will be less tired and stressed as a result. Leading and jogging down hills and tailing up hills is of great benefit to your horse. Remember, downhill is harder on the horse's muscles, bones and tendons than going uphill.

Congratulations you made it. Remember the motto of endurance riding, "To Finish Is To Win."

After The Finish
There is normally a vet check within one hour after you finish the ride. When you come in at the finish line, have your horse's pulse checked as soon as you think the ride parameters have been reached. Once this is down, prepare the horse for the post ride vet check. If the horse was ridden hard, do lots of walking to cool the horse out. Let the horse graze and get lots of water and sloppy grain mix in. Groom the horse and check for any anomalies. Ice the lets if appropriate, blanket the big muscles to avoid cramping, massage the big muscles, make your horse comfortable. After the vet check, tie him up and provide free choice hay, water and grain. Let your horse rest but keep a close check on your horse after the ride to make sure there are no problems. Your horse may have worked hard on the ride. IF so, and you have a long way to go, it is wise to let your horse rest overnight before packing up and trailering home.

Do not try to be first to finish on your first ride. It takes at least two years of conditioning before a horse is ready to compete seriously in an endurance ride without undue risk of breakdown. It is a good idea to start a new horse (or a new rider) on short rides before attempting to do an endurance ride.

You may use any kind of saddle and bridle that you wish. It should fit both the horse and rider well. The lighter the tack, the better.

Wear comfortable clothing. Avoid new clothes or rough materials. Many riders (including males) wear panty horse or other undergarments, chaps and half chaps to avoid chaffing. Many riders wear running shoes or other soft shoes to assist in occasionally running with their horses, leading, railing, or beside them depending on terrain.

Yield the trail to overtaking riders when asked, and ask for the trail when passing. Since dehydration can be a major problem, encourage your horse to drink on the trail whenever water is available. If other riders are with you, do not ride on until all the other horses have finished drinking. When riders leave early, the other horses will not drink since they will want to leave as well. Leaving when others are trying to bet their horses to drink is a serious breach of trail etiquette.

Carry a plastic scoop and/or sponge on a string to cool your horse and yourself at water holes.

Ask for advice from other riders and pit crews if you are uncertain about any aspect of the ride. Take an opportunity to ride along with more experienced riders if your horses pace matches theirs. People love to talk on the trail and you will learn a great deal. Tell the veterinarians and ride management you are a new rider. They will be glad to help you out and provide advice. However, you are responsible for your own horse and for setting a pace that will allow your horse to finish the ride in good condition.

We hope to see you on the trail this year. Remember, endurance riders love to talk so please ask questions.

Learn more about Endurance competitions in Canada


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What is a Limited Distance Ride

ACTRA ride managers can host endurance type rides of less than 50 miles. These Limited Distance Rides are sanctioned by the Atlantic Canada Trail Riding Association following the AERC general rules. The Limited Distance Ride is between 25 and 35 miles in length. The Limited Distance Ride managers must provide a specific amount of time which will include all stops and holds, and within which competitors must complete the ride to qualify for placing or completion. At the finish, the competitor's ride time continues until a preset judging criteria of 60 heartbeats per minute or less is met. While AERC rules determine that a Limited Distance Ride must be held in conjunction with an Endurance ride event, ACTRA does not. An ACTRA sanctioned Limited Distance Ride can be held on its own. To learn more but Limited Distance Ride rules a link to the AERC Rules & Regulations is provided here.The rules specific to Limited Distance are currently on page 12.



What is an Introductory Distance Ride

ACTRA ride managers can host rides with a maximum distance of 20 miles. These rides are designated as Introductory Rides with the intention of offering riders a starting point of entering the sport of distance riding. IDRs are to be ridden at 4 miles per hour plus an additional 20 minutes for the halfway check. Competitors may complete the marked trail up to 15 minutes either side of the established ride time, without penalty. Even horses with maximum time faults are still eligible for mileage provided that they pass the final exam, but are not eligible for placing. The ACTRA Introductory Distance Ride is judged using the same conditioning score sheet as that used on a Competitive Trail Ride.



What is a Ride & Tie

The Ride N' Tie is an unique type of ACTRA ride that uses one horse and two people as a term. ACTRA has adopted many of the AERC rules for Ride N' Tie. Each team must consist of two people and one horse. While one person walks or runs, the other rides ahead on the horse. After a few miles the rider will tie the horse to a tree and continue on foot. The person who began on foot will catch up to the horse, mount it, and ride past the second person. Again the horse is tied, and the relay begins again. this gives each person a chance to rest as they ride and some time for the horse to rest as it stands waiting for the next rider. Introductory races can be 5 miles long, but ride n' ties can cover twenty miles or more of rugged trail. In most ride n' ties you must tie the horse at least once on trail, but you may other wise plan your strategy as you like. For the horse's safety there is at least one veterinary check on the trail. Horses will get an examination during the race to make sure they are not being over stressed. As the ride n' tie is a race, the first team with all members crossing the finish line wins.


What to expect on a Ride N' Tie

Before the race begins the veterinary team will examine your horse. The trail master describes the features of the trail, how to follow the trail markers, where vet checks and water stops are during the pre-ride briefing. All horses and runners will line up at the starting line and begin at the sdame time. This can be an exciting and confusing time and you may be allowed to start a few minutes later to avoide the melee.

Before the race you will have planned your strategy; either stay together, or run a certain distance or for a certain time before tying the horse. At the vet check your horse will be throughly examined to ensure it is not being over worked.

Your placing will be determined when your last team member crosses the finish line. The vet team then examines your horse again. If your horse finishes lame or is other wise over stressed you may be eliminated.





Sponsoring a Ride

ACTRA provides a sanction kit package to clubs, groups, farms, or individuals wishing to sponsor one of our recognized events. Included are judging and management guidelines, score cards, master score sheets and trail marking materials. Prize lists and entry forms may be included in our newsletter to help you defray costs. ACTRA has a fee schedule charged for sanctioning. We have people who are willing to assist anyone interested in putting on an ACTRA sanctioned event.



ACTRA Horsemanship

One of the objectives of ACTRA is the encouragement and promotion of good horsemanship with respect to long distance Riding.

ACTRA has a separate category on Competitive Trail Rides and Judged Pleasure Rides for Horsemanship. It is scored out of 100 points and points are deducted for infractions. Judging is equal for Junior and Senior riders and placings are awarded to the top six in each division.

It is not mandatory for ride management to offer horsemanship at a Competitive Trail Ride. If over 50% of CTR rides are not offering Horsemanship for a given year, then there will not be a year end award for Horsemanship for that year.

It must be remembered that distance riding is a different entity than the show ring, pony club, 4-H, eventing, dressage or rodeo, but good basic horsemanship is similar to all

The basic principle in judging horsemanship is that we are looking for the person who best practices the fine art of trail horse care and riding. Competitive riding requires certain special riding techniques which may not be seen in other disciplines, i.e., standing in the stirrups and leaning forward on steep climbs, using the mane as a hand hold. Other things long distance riders do that other riders consider incorrect is to allow a horse to drink all they want as long as they are continuing, to allow it to drink a bucket at the finish and be watered out in an hour or less. Allow it to trot on hard top (paved road) and to trot over footing that would not be considered by non-distance riders.

The prime responsibility of a good horseman is to bring his/her mount through the ride in the best possible condition and to aid the horse in obtaining the best possible P&R recoveries. They must see to it that their horse would be able to carry them mile after mile should the need arise. In order to assist the competitor to help their horse as much as possible, management provides a vehicle so that the rider may send buckets, grooming equipment, feed, blankets, etc., to the halfway or compulsory P&R stops. Weather conditions may change drastically while one is on the trail, and the use of certain equipment is vital to the welfare of the horse at compulsory stops.

The ACTRA score sheet has several categories to assist in judging the overall performance of the horseman; a) grooming, b) in-hand presentation, c) tack & equipment, d) trail care, e) trail equitation, f) trail safety & courtesy, g) stabling.

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Knowing Your Horse

One of the most important aspects of Competitive Trail is knowing your horse. Even though your horse will be checked by a Veterinarian throughout the ride, you should be able to notice subtle changes in your horse's behavior such as, fatigue or any changes in the way your horse generally travels. These may be signs of a problem. Caught early is always better than caught to late.

Some more specific signs may be: slight head bobbing, irritation or refusal when asked to move out. A fit horse may not choose to drink at the beginning part of a ride but continues refusing may result in dehydration. These are just a few minor signs to look for. Some more serious signs could be: severe head bobbing signifying some sort of lameness,. reluctance to move, any sign of abdominal pain, muscle spasms etc. The point being that you should know your horse better than anyone, and your horse's safety and health are relying on that. So be aware of any changes that may occur.

If you feel that there may be a problem, discuss it with the vet, and have the vet evaluate any suspicions you may have. If the time should come, when you do not think that your horse should continue, whether it be due to fatigue or injury, and you have discussed this with the vet, know that what you have done is in the best interests of your horse, and you'll both will be back to ride another day.


Packing for the Ride

Tack List

saddle saddle bags or fanny pack
saddle pad sponge & scoop
extra saddle pad grooming equipment
extra girth/cinch lead rope and halter
bridle easy boot
extra reins spare horse shoe(s)
breast collar protective boots (endurance only)

Supplies List

hay sponges for vet checks
grain stethoscope
bran/beet pulp hoof pick
grain pan water bottles
water buckets knife
cooler (for horse not your drinks) matches
blankets flashlight
shipping boots trail mix - on trail snacks
minerals/vitamins/supplements helmet (required for ACTRA events)
electrolytes sunglasses
horse/people medications sun screen
fly spray coat/shell/extra cloths
heart rate monitor dry socks
rule book safe shoes to ride and run


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