Competitive Trail is most often sanctioned and governed by the various national and provincial organizations such as OCTRA while Endurance Rides in Canada are sanctioned by Equestrian Canada Endurance, the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) and/or the AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference).
A Competitive Trail Ride is shorter than an Endurance Ride with events varying in distance between 40 to 65 km and multi-day events totalling upwards of 160 km over three days. Competitive Trail is more strategic in some ways when compared to Endurance as you must ride within a minimum and maximum time. It is the best conditioned horse found ‘fit to continue’ that wins, not necessarily the fastest. There are variances in the judging guidelines among the different organizations but the general principles remain the same: The horses are required to travel at a speed between 9½ to 16 kph (some endurance horses will average up to 25 kph). The speed may be altered by the head veterinarian at any time based on the difficulty of the terrain and/or weather conditions. Riders MUST complete within the limits or they will be disqualified.
A Novice Division is also run with a longer time or shorter trail, allowing the Novice to learn without the pressure of competing against seasoned competitors. Novices do not have weight divisions and are not required to weigh in. Participants take great pride in successfully completing a ride regardless if they were “in the ribbons” or not.
Veterinarians check the equine athletes before, during and after the competition. As in all OCTRA disciplines, prior to the start of each ride, all horses must pass a veterinarian exam (vet check). The results are recorded on a vet card which must be presented at each of the various vet checks throughout the Ride. After the Ride the final vet check is looking for any soreness, metabolic deterioration or change of attitude that may have developed during the ride. Unlike Endurance or Set Speed, points are deducted for high pulse, soreness, swelling, any irritations that may have been caused by the rider’s equipment and trail lesions. The winner of a CTR is the horse that completed the course in the allotted time, in the best condition as determined by the total point score following the post-ride exam.
Because of the strenuous nature of the sport and the competitors’ emphasis on horse welfare, drugs of any kind are prohibited in all horses participating in the event. In CTR, items such as bell boots, splint boots, bandages or anything that is considered protective (with the exception of Easy Boots) receive demerit points. Points are also deducted for interference marks. Shoes are optional.
Most organizations require that the horse be 48 months (4 years) to compete at a competitive level of over 40 km.