This page was written after Katherine's first NATRC ride
in 2004. We have kept it here to encourage others to try this FUN and awesome sport and "Come
Ride With Us."
Katherine has wanted to compete in a North American Trail Riders Conference
(NATRC) competitive trail ride for several years. Previously, she had taken her horse, Jazz's Sierra Lady (shown
with her son, Sparky, on the Our Mares page), to the beautiful "Autumn at Biltmore" ride in Asheville,
North Carolina. They could not compete at the last moment because of a shoeing problem, and instead earned the
"Hard Luck Award." It has taken almost two years to once again get to a ride.
This year, she was determined to go to the "Ride the Edge" NATRC Ride
held at East Fork Stables in Jamestown, Tennessee. A mere 90 miles from home - what could go wrong?
History appeared to be repeating itself as Wendy (Jazzwynd K. on the Our Mares page) unaccountably came up with a girth sore that was apparently an allergic
reaction to a cinch cover that was on her for only one hour! Determined to go to this ride, Katherine decided
literally at the last minute to substitute another horse, Little Grey's Osage Star (aka "Pumpkin") and go anyway.
Pumpkin is a wonderful horse, but we doubted that he was in condition
for a competitive ride. There was no time to do the things we needed to do to get him ready. He had been
ridden for no more than about two hours at a time, so we thought he might not be in shape for a 20+ mile ride.
Determined to try, we set out - Katherine wanting only to finish her
first NATRC ride, and Pumpkin wondering where in the heck he was going. Imagine the shock for Pumpkin pulling into a
busy horse camp with hundreds of horses, trailers, wagons, mules, tents, noise and seasoned horse competitors. He did
what any "country bumpkin" horse would do - holler at everyone he saw until he was "hoarse!"
Katherine wisely selected a parking space right by the bathrooms, so
Pumpkin continued to "greet" everyone using the facilities throughout the night. In the morning, Katherine was bleery-eyed
and sleep deprived (having spent the night "sleeping" in the truck) - but Pumpkin was ready to go!
The day could not have been more perfect for a ride. The weather
was absolutely beautiful, and the morning coolness perfect for riding. The One-Day Novice ride was 22 miles in very
hilly terrain and included many overlooks with spectacular views of the East Fork of the Cumberland River. In addition,
the rain from the preceding hurricanes had ensured that there were many bogs to cross with mud, mud and more mud. There
was also very rocky terrain with large slabs of boulders to walk across. The open riders competed on the more difficult
"Edge" trails, while the novice riders stayed on the plateau and along the overlooks.
The start of the ride was staggered, so each horse started individually
rather than in a big group. The first judged obstacle was not far - a big jumble of logs in a mud bog that the horses
had to negotiate safely. Pumpkin slogged through this log obstacle course with no problem. The trail obstacles
that followed included more bogs, water crossings, weaving through narrowly-spaced trees, fallen logs, steep trails, and walking
over huge (and slippery) bolders and rock slabs. Pumpkin negotiated these conditions with complete sure-footedness and
confidence. For most of the ride, Pumpkin traveled in a very comfortable flat-foot walk at up to 6 mph.
The real surprise came at the first Pulse and Respiration (P&R) check
at 11 miles out. After only a 10-minute rest, Pumpkin's pulse was 10 and respiration 3 in 15 seconds. This rate
is what could be expected only in a well-conditioned horse who had been in distance training for several months (or even years). At
the second check at 20 miles, his rates actually decreased to 10 and 2! At the end of the 22-mile ride, Pumpkin seemed
ready and willing to go out again (unlike Katherine!).
As wonderful as the ride itself was, the best thing about it was
the people. Without exception, everyone was anxious to help a first-time rider offering advise, information and tips
- the opposite of what you might find at other competitive events. The
NATRC volunteers and ride management Wayne and Ginny Tolbert did a superb job organizing and producing this ride for
the 60 horses and riders competing. The trails were well-marked, horses were processed quickly at the vet checks and
judged obstacles, and judges Jerry Weil, DVM and Richard Stone were outstanding and very helpful, offering valuable suggestions
It was very exciting and unexpected to have Pumpkin win first place at
the Awards Ceremony that evening for Best Conditioned Novice Heavyweight. He is now sporting a very snazzy combo halter/bridle
that he won, and looking forward to his next ride.
UPDATE - SOLD to a NATRC competitor, Mary Pat Smith of
Leavenworth, Kansas - watch for them at Region 6 Rides!