Distance riders in the US have a new, relaxed option for taking part in the sport, following the addition of a Leisure Division by the North American Trail Ride Conference.
Riders can arrive in the morning, compete in the ride, and travel home the same day. The Leisure Division is the fourth division option in one-day rides. It consists of 8-12 miles of trail with an average pace of 3-4.5 mph, has one pulse and respiration condition check and up to five judging observations.
Unlike the other divisions – Open (O), Competitive Pleasure (CP), and Novice (N) – this division has a lower entry fee, does not require camping, has no stabling checks, and hoof or leg protection is unrestricted. An NATRC approved judge evaluates the equine and rider as a team. The judge assigns placings, through 10th place, based on the combined equine and rider scores, thus rewarding their partnership. Equines must be at least four years old, and junior riders must be at least 10.
Competitors can earn points toward regional year-end awards and accrue mileage credits toward chevrons and mileage milestone awards. Credits are ten miles per completed ride.
NATRC board president Angie Meroshnekoff said the organisation expected the division would appeal to a variety of riders, ranging from the seasoned equestrian to those just starting in trail competition.
“Examples of these competitors are those with limited free time to condition and compete because of work or family responsibilities, those starting new horses in our sport, or those just wanting to ride their aged horses in competition again and visit with old NATRC friends and family.
“And let’s not forget those who are bringing bright-eyed, energetic youngsters into our sport (I’m thinking parents and grandparents), or those who prefer shorter, slower rides with lots of natural trail challenges.”
In 2019, NATRC is again offering free competing memberships to riders who have never been members. “Take pride in your ride. Come ride with us!” says Meroshnekoff.