Contributions by Stan Kent and Korinne Sharp
Do you love to run? Do you love horses? If so, Ride & Tie is the sport for you! Two local horse lovers and runners are working on making a sport that is popular in California and the East Coast a reality in North Texas.
Korinne Sharp just moved to the DFW area last year and has competed in Ride & Ties in Virginia. Missing the sport, she has started the process of planning a Ride & Tie in the North Texas area.
Stan Kent is located in Sulphur Springs and is another runner/rider that is interested in getting the sport started in Texas. Kent is an avid runner and competes locally, but also loves riding as well. He was training for an event in Oklahoma, but was unable to compete due to his horse getting injured. I had never heard of the sport until Stan Kent contacted me about writing a story for The Northeast Texas Equine. I’m so glad that he did, as this may . be one of the most interesting equine sports I’ve seen.
What Exactly is Ride & Tie?
Ride & Tie has actually been in existence since 1971, but it’s still relatively unknown across most of the US and is most popular in California The goal is to get all three team members (two runners and one horse) across the finish line by alternating running and riding. Rides can be anywhere from 20 to 100 miles across the countryside and here’s how it works.
One team member starts running. The other team member starts riding down the trail as far as they think their team member can run while keeping a decent pace. At that point, the rider ties the horse to a fence or tree and starts running. The first running team member gets to the horse and rides to catch up with their partner. At this point, they can switch positions or the rider can keep going further up the trail.
This is where the real strategy starts. Every runner has their strengths and weaknesses, as does every horse. The trail and the weather plays a factor as well. The team needs to strategize when it’s best to exchange, stop and tie, or keep running.
The horse adds a whole other level to the competition as well, as the horse can’t be treated as a car to get you from one spot to another for an exchange. The horse is just as much a part of the team as the runners are. They know it’s a competition and they know their job.
Many endurance riders find the sport interesting and fun because they are used to riding over terrain through a variety of conditions and asking a lot of their horses. Now, as runners themselves, they are experiencing much of the same conditions from the ground, just like their mounts. It also makes the rider pay attention to their own fitness level and skill. It’s not just about getting your horse in shape, but also you as a runner. Together you have to train and prepare for the rigors of long distance, cross country running and riding.
Motivation is a huge factor in these races. You not only have to be motivated to get in shape to be a runner, but as you’re running down the trail, your horse may be tied and waiting for you – you can’t let him down.
“To finish is to win” is the popular motto of endurance riders and the same is true for Ride & Tie. A race can easily be lost in the first few miles after the start as hundreds of riders and horses jockey for position on the trail.
It can take five miles until the excitement of the start is over and runners and equines find their pace. Of course, you never know what you might find along the trail. Horses may be tied. Horses may be loose. They are all looking for their runners as the pattern of riding and tying begins to take place. Horses may be marked with grease or paint so that they can be easily identified, as well as wearing brightly colored endurance tack. Some riders even use glow in the dark saddles and tack for night Ride & Ties.
The topography of the land changes and you have to recall the landmarks and meeting places that you agreed on in the ride meeting. This is where strategy is put into action. Interestingly, Sharp finds that runners tend to outpace the horses, so the horse actually ends up being the limiting factor in the race. So, knowing your horse and your own running paces can also play a factor in your strategy development.
Halfway into the race is a mandatory vet check. Each ride must have at least one vet check, but there are usually two or three depending on the length of the race. The vet check is intended to protect the horse from abuse and each horse must meet predetermined respiration and pulse criteria. The horse is also examined for fatigue, dehydration, illness and lameness. Horses that don’t pass the vet check are not allowed to continue.
Finishing a Ride & Tie is truly a team effort. For most, it’s not about winning the race, but having the drive and fortitude to finish together.