For the last month and a half, I have been conditioning for the start of CTR, Competitive Trail Riding. Lots of field riding and trotting to get the extra weight off of my horse, Finny. Hosting a Centered Riding Clinic, with some CTR friends, to work on correct body positioning. Even conditioning myself with lots of posting and 2-pointing at the trot. The first ride was this past weekend at Cherryvale, Kansas. A beautiful place to ride. Trees and forest. Just like I grew up with. Throughout the ride, we rode next to the lake or saw the lake through the trees.
One area of CTR is P&R's, Pulse and Respiration, checks. The horse needs to come into P&R's and stand quiet for 10 minutes. After that time, the pulse and respiration is taken, and the horse needs to be below a certain number or he will be held for another 10 minutes and another P&R is taken. The horse loses points if he is held for an additional 10 minutes. During the 10 minute rest period, you cool off your horse. Most times, I loosen the girth, and then I stand back from my horse, allowing him to relax. Other riders remove the horse's saddle. Some riders wet their horses down with water and a sponge or water from a squirt bottle. Some riders even fan their horses in very hot weather. The rides have unique ways of tying on their equipment they use to keep their horses cool! Finny had great P&R's this CTR, lower than I had expected.
Another area of CTR's is Obstacles. Both the rider and the horse is judged on how well they perform the obstacle individually, as well as together as a team. Is there a partnership between the horse and rider, or is the horse not listening to the cues? Is the horse rushing the obstacle? Do you, as the rider, have enough contact with the horse? Are you riding centered, or are you heavy in the saddle or behind the horse's motion?
Our first obstacle was a judge mount. Finny knows how to stand still, except on the first day of a CTR! He was heads up and ready to go! He did not stand still at the step stool, but he did stand still as I mounted from the ground. All 15.3 hands! It is so much easier mounting when using a step stool! Other obstacles during this ride were: 1) walking over a large log, 2) walking past the waters edge of a lake, as the waves were lapping at the shore, 3) walking down a hill and stepping between logs, stopping and counting to 5 (which I did out loud, so that there would be no mistake that I didn't rushed the obstacle), 4) trotting a large circle while the vet judge checked for lameness, and 5) handling the horse during check-in and check out.
Another area is making time. You have a 30 minute window to complete X number of miles within a set amount of time. One important area to consider is whether you are giving your horse enough time to graze so that you are keeping the intestinal tract moving. This ride, I had diminished gut sounds. I questioned the vet judge about this. We even had diminished sounds after our 7 hour trip to the CTR, after eating the whole way and for an hour after getting there! She said that there could be numerous causes. One could be the stress of the ride and the anxiousness of the horse. Another could be not enough grazing during the ride. Another cause could be decreased water consumption. After talking with friends Virginia, Sheri and Sandy, all who have competed in this event, they gave me some great advice and their recommendations. I will begin to add electrolytes to my horse's water before and during the ride. I will add beet pulp to his diet to increase fiber and water. I will water down his grain the day before and during the competition. I will try to make up time during the ride to allow for more 5 minute stops to allow my horse to relax and graze.
The horse needs to stay sound and to go through check-in and check-out without any signs of lameness. The vet judge checks for the capillary refill of the gums as well as checking for dehydration. If she presses on the gums, making a white area, and within 1-2 seconds, the area returns to a pink color, the horse has sufficient blood flow. If she pinches the skin of the neck and the skin returns to normal, the horse is hydrated. The vet checks for any fill or puffiness on the legs. The vet judge watches the horse move at the trot in a straight line, trotting away from her and towards her, as well as watching the horse lunged in a circle at both directions
The next CTR is soon. I continue to condition my horse 4-6 miles per day, 5 days a week, at the walk and trot. I ride for an hour to 2 hours at a time. I stop and allow my horse to graze, hoping to develop a habit for him! Which woulde be a great habit! I practice trail maneuvers calmly. I will add electrolytes and beet pulp to his diet, to increase his fiber and water content. I will get him to stand still on the first day! And I will continue to read, learn, and educate myself about a horse's health. I want my horse to be a happy, healthy CTR horse!
Come along on a CTR with me! You'll love it!