Ride & Tie
I briefly mentioned that one of my goals this year was to complete a Ride & Tie event. I’ll elaborate more about this fun and fast growing sport… So many people have never heard of it, and if you like running and riding, it may be the sport for you.
Let me just start by saying that I’m not sure that I actually LIKE running… and I am most certainly NOT an athlete… but there are aspects and benefits of running that I definitely DO like. I never ran in my life until last winter. Seriously. Never. Not even in high school. I was that girl who made excuses to miss gym class. I continued to avoid structured exercise for years and years… until my amazing horse, Ink, inspired me to give it a try last winter. Ink isn’t a strong hill horse. Tough endurance rides with lots of hill climbing are hard on her, and I can tell she gets much more tired than usual, though she is always willing to keep going. We did plenty of hill training, but some horses just aren’t hill horses. I felt guilty asking her to do something so difficult while I sat up there and did nothing to help. I started tailing, which is when you dismount and follow the horse up the hill, holding the tail to help pull you up. Tailing is amazing, it takes barely any more effort of the person to climb the hill than walking on the flat. It is much easier for the horse to pull you up by their tail than on their back. Ink loved it. I could tell she was grateful and we felt more like a team than ever. I started thinking, maybe I should just stay down on the ground and run along side her between close together hills, whenever she seemed tired, or on blacktop road sections. Thus my running goals began. I haven’t made much progress, as I injured my IT band not long after I started running, thanks to my own ignorance — doing too much, too soon (I would never do this to a horse, why didn’t I apply the same principals to my own fitness?!? sigh…) and by not stretching properly. That took months of careful stretches to heal, but then life got crazy and I gave up running for a while. I’m back at it now, this time building my base slowly, strategically stretching after each run, and doing yoga occasionally. So far, so good!
Back to R&T. I heard about this awesome sport through the endurance world. R&Ts are often held in conjuction with endurance rides, which makes it really convenient and I can stretch my fuel budget further by doing both on the same weekend. Bonus.
From the Ride & Tie website:
Although the sport of Ride & Tie has been in existence since 1971, it is a relatively unknown sport that combines trail running, endurance riding, and most of all, strategy. The object is to get all three team members (two humans and one horse) across a 20-100 mile cross-country course by alternating riding and running. Sounds simple enough. One team member starts out running, the other starts on the horse and rides down the trail as far as they think their partner can run (or walk) and still keep up a decent pace. At that strategic point the rider stops, dismounts, ties the horse to a tree or fence post, and continues down the trail on foot. The team member who started on foot gets to the horse, unties it, mounts, and rides to catch their partner up ahead. When they get to their running team member they can either stop and exchange, or ride further up the trail and tie the horse and then continue running. When, where, and how a team exchanges is up to them, and this is where the strategy lies. Every trail runner has their strengths and weaknesses, and the same is true for horses. Factor all the strengths and weaknesses of two runners and one horse, along with weather conditions and the topography of the course, and you can understand why Ride & Tie is as much mental as physical. This is why such a growing number of runners and riders are joining the sport of Ride & Tie. It’s fun!
(continued at www.rideandtie.org/whatis.html)
Like endurance, R&T has vet checks to ensure horse welfare, which I love. Apparently the main difference is that there is no mandatory hold time, since the horses get to rest on trail while tied and waiting for their rider. Otherwise it is very similar to an endurance ride.
Officially, the website says rides are 20 miles and up, but I did see on many ride fliers there are shorter distances for newbies to try it out without being a super athlete. There was even a 4 mile division at one ride. You are also allowed to walk while on foot. So almost anyone could try it out: pick a short distance and walk if you get tired. Or go with my strategy and pick an athletic partner who can pick up the slack and let you ride more if you feel like you’re going to keel over dead from fatigue. I’ve heard numerous times that it is much easier than you would expect, since you are swapping back and forth you really don’t get tired of running nearly as quickly as normal.
My sister is a good runner and used to ride, and I am a good rider and am starting to run, so we figured we could meet in the middle and make a good team. Even better is that we use approximately the same length stirrups. The plan is to use Squidy, as she is the shortest horse (for all of the repeated on and off swaps) and the most sensible horse (less likely to get into trouble while tied on trail).
The only thing I’m hesitant about is leaving my horse tied on the side of the trail unsupervised with other horses flying by. This is something we will practice at home of course. I am also considering maybe doing endurance the first day and R&T the second day, so my horse will be slightly tired and more interested in resting quitely while waiting for her rider. Of course that would mean that I would also be slightly tired… We shall see. You can also swap riders on the fly without tying if desired.
Horses In The Morning endurance day podcast recently featured a segment on R&T. It was really fun to listen to, and I got even more excited about getting myself fit and ready. The R&T segment starts around 34:30.
There’s a FAQ page on the R&T website with more info.
There is also a facebook page for R&T, as well as other regional R&T pages your can search for.
Even if you don’t have a suitable horse, you can team up with someone who has a horse but needs another runner/rider.
Sounds like a great way to motivate riders to get in shape! Who’s in?