Why Not Try Ride & Tie?

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Meet Julie, our Digital Marketing & Affiliate Coordinator for Riding Warehouse. Julie is an original crew member, going back to our origins as Long Riders Gear. She grew up in Alaska riding a spitfire Morab mare won by her dad playing poker. When she wasn’t chasing moose through birch woods on horseback (not a wholly safe activity albeit a memorable one), she was quenching wanderlust on horseback…forever seeking the thrill of a newly discovered trail. Keeping in line with this sense of spontaneity and adventure, Julie recalls her first Ride N' Tie experience below.

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What in Heavens is a Ride N' Tie?

Ride & Tie combines trail running and endurance riding with the objective to get two people and a horse across a 20-100 mile cross-country course, strategically alternating riding and running.

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Ride N' Tie, essentially a strategic leapfrog relay race combining trail running and horseback riding!
One team member starts running; the other starts on horseback, estimating how far their partner can run. At that point, the rider ties the horse to a tree or fence post and continues on foot. The first runner soon approaches and mounts the horse. Continuing the swaps, they can either exchange upon passing or ride and tie beyond their running partner.

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2014 Ride N' Tie Championships in California

The Calm Before The Storm

We drove into camp at the Coolest Ride & Tie, and I was completely oblivious to the fact that I would be a competitor the next day. A friend was competing and I came along with her simply to enjoy a weekend of camping and hiking. I had long known of ride and tie, and was fond of the crazy and unique notion of it — essentially a strategic leapfrog relay race on horseback. I even considered it a must-do “bucket list” item. However, I was out of shape and unlearned as to useful details of the sport. I wished to acquaint myself with it more before making any commitments. I’m a dip-your-toes-in kind of gal.

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The Coolest Ride & Tie is located just outside Auburn near the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.

Ride camp was an electric environment, alive with supportive camaraderie, a common love for horses, the outdoors, and fitness and much anticipation for the next day’s dawn. My traveling buddy was making arrangements by phone with a teammate whom she had never met. They determined they would do the short race, 10 miles. This all came together over the airwaves and was solidified just that afternoon before the event. The relatively unknown woman would be arriving with her unknown horse the next morning. I thought, “Wow, that’s a bit wild and crazy of these two. I’m not that adventurous.”

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A typical Ride N' Tie scenario...these competitors' sense of adventure is a force to be reckoned with!

With Dawn Came Drama

That next day’s dawn came, and so did drama. The other rider arrived after many miles with her horse in tow to learn that her race partner had withdrawn entry from the race. While other riders/runners were warming up and preparing for the tough, hilly terrain, I stood with these two in a small circle of palpable tension, as they debated how to handle the awkward situation. The unknown woman was already angry to the point of tears.

To my horror, it was suggested that
I be the replacement for my friend.​

Somehow I soon was left standing with the unknown woman and her unknown horse, and the frustration of the situation now felt as if it was shifting toward meHey, I’m an innocent bystander, I just came here to camp!

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I then heard myself say, “Listen, you came all this way, and I don’t blame you for being mad. If you want to do the race, I’ll do it with you.” Oh dear God. I really just want to separate myself from this very distraught person, I don’t know her horse, and I am no runner or natural athlete. However, I felt a slight degree of tension lift with my offer, and after a few still-uncomfortable moments, she grudgingly agreed. We would partner. Now.

Sink Or Swim

The starting line was clear of competitors already in motion by the time we registered and nervously got our numbers pinned on. My new partner started on horseback and I took off running across the clearing toward the trail where I felt resigned that this bucket list item, once so glorified in my mind, would have its way with my body and emotions.

How do I even DO ride and tie in all of its practical details? What if the horse is legit crazy (did I mention the horse was also new to ride and tie)? May I please go back to camp and hide in our tent? Better yet, can I please wake up from this absurd dream?

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I jogged down the trail with nobody in sight for they were all long gone in front of me. Right now the trail was relatively easy with level stretches and some gently rolling hills. I eventually came upon the unknown horse, very obediently waiting in spite of his confused, “Um. Where did she go?”, expression. From a horse’s perspective, imagine your rider quickly bailing, tying you on the trail, and running away out of sight!

He was a tall paint, a bit uncommon in these circles. Horse and human made their greetings and I jumped on board quickly pointing him down the trail with convincing confidence, as if I rode him daily. Within moments I exclaimed with glee — “Oh, wow. Niiiice!!” It was easy to determine this was an exceptionally mannered, sweet boy. His gaits were long and smooth, he was eager to move out with energy and power to spare, yet politely submitted complete control to his rider. We flowed easily along the winding trail and I cautiously acknowledged, things seemed to be looking up!

Finding Our Stride

As pleased as I was with the horse, next came the first passing with my human partner. Given our decidedly rocky start, a measure of dread was involved. Yet when we greeted each other I was relieved that even though spirits and chemistry were not warm and fuzzy, they were improved. Yes, things are looking up!

I rode onward under an assumption that my partner would soon look forward to having her horse back underneath her. I chose a safe limb to secure my new equine friend. I gave him a friendly rub and soft voice of assurance before I took off at my best pace.

The ten miles of this short race were overall pretty tough ones, at least by my inexperienced standards. I speculate that was a known factor since the short race was slated for 10 miles, well below the typical 20-mile minimum.

Interwoven into those miles were varied challenges (note the common factor):
  • Traversing steep hills while in a state of exhaustion
  • Daring to do my first **tailing up a very steep incline while in a state of exhaustion (ultimately a success, thanks to this fabulous horse)
  • Skidding down steep hills on loose, roly-poly rocks while in a state of exhaustion
  • Getting lost on the trail (for the record, a shared experience) while in a state of exhaustion
  • Mounting a tall horse numerous times while in a state of exhaustion – if you think this sounds silly, think again. When all of your limbs are shaking from fatigue, the simple act of mounting is a surprising challenge!

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The short race of just 10 miles was almost enough to slay me, but shout-out to my drill-sergeant of an aerobics instructor in high school who taught me how to work hard - really hard - when performing physical fitness tasks. I gave it my best effort. As one of the older participants, my partner absolutely rocked it with her physical ability. I was perhaps a decade younger, but if we graphed out the numbers, she probably showed me up.

We grew in positive words of encouragement
with each rider to runner encounter.​

Before we knew it, the end of the race was upon us. She was atop her horse, and I was beside them on foot when we crossed the finish line together, all smiles. We finished two places ahead of where we started, so we can perhaps even claim a job well done considering a late start and my lack of conditioning and getting lost!

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Just as soon as we had started this great adventure, the finish line was upon us!

To New Friends and New Experiences

I’m trying to find words for the vast gap between negative vibes at the starting line and positive ones at the finish line. It is phenomenal what only ten miles of truly challenging teamwork can do. Throw in a triple dose of centering offered by exercise, nature, and horses, and you have a 360-degree psyche turnaround.

After the race, we sat on the ground with our sticky, dirt-caked bodies leaned up against her trailer tires. I noted, and enjoyed, that we sat closely like friends. This stood in stark contrast to the atmosphere just a couple hours prior. Our shared accomplishment was all that was relevant. We reminisced details of the race and openly acknowledged with awe how FAR we had come.

Not in miles, but in camaraderie, a fondness
and respect
toward one another, and a
righted perspective as fellow horse lovers
doing life and supporting one another.

She thanked me for being kind to her horse, expressing that if such care hadn’t been evident on the first tie, she would have quickly pulled us all from the race. This meant the world to me. I returned kudos the glowing hero of the day: her incredible horse.

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There is nothing like a triple dose of nature, exercise, and horses to bring two strangers together in camaraderie!

We soon loaded up and travelled our separate ways. There are no photos as evidence of this awkward yet sacred partnership. However, this little team of three doing their best together despite difficulties and odds will forever be a special moment for me. The memories will be cherished, chock full of lessons learned, confidence gained, and one item checked off the proverbial bucket list.

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