The North American Trail Ride Conference held one of its 2021 Competitive Trail Ride events over the Labor Day weekend in the Tehachapi Mountains. The ride is part of the 60-year-old nationwide organization's many sanctioned events.
Many of the Labor Day participants arrived Friday afternoon and camped overnight, enjoying the cool mountain air at the 5,000-foot level of the Tehachapi Mountains. Saturday morning had additional riders arriving and by ride time, nearly two dozen riders were on hand for the 9 a.m. start.
This weekend ride was known as a Leisure Division Ride, open to experienced and novice adult riders, as well as younger, junior organization members. Saturday's course of travel was 10.4 miles long, to be ridden in an elapsed time of 3 hours and 52 minutes. The course was laid out to include various terrain challenges with trails through meadows, along dirt access roads, and even a water crossing fed by an artisan spring.
The ride is “not a race but a ride governed and graded by ride time between the start and finish point. Arriving back at your starting point too soon will cost you points. Arrive back too late and you will be docked points,” stated NATRC judge Lory Walls.
“At various points along the route, I will be observing how rider and horse react to each other, especially in this new riding environment for both the rider and horse,” Walls said. Points are given and are tallied at the end of the day’s ride.
Near the halfway point, or about an hour and three quarters out, a stop known as a P/R stop is scheduled. It’s here that each horse’s health is observed by Walls and other officials. Each horse's pulse and respiration are taken and must fall within certain parameters before being allowed to continue.