For those friends and family reading who aren’t OCTRA riders, CTR or Competitive Trail is a judged ride and not a race. Everyone completes the ride at the exact same speed, and the horse with the least amount of penalty points at the end of the ride is the one that wins. You get points for things such as high heartrate (each beat above 44bpm), lameness, poor hydration, cuts and scratches earned on trail, using boots, poor presentation and attitude etc. So it all comes down to which horse is most fit for the job. I have once heard “CTR is to Endurance as Hunter is to Jumper” as it develops your trail skills and guides you in your conditioning, helping you improve your horsemanship so you are prepared to do the longer/faster distances.
I had made the decision going into the weekend that I would do the CTR instead of the set speed because of my desire to do RNT. I was very nervous about this because Bentley still doesn’t like to be sponged with water. We have been practicing it lots, but even though he will stand still for it, hes very unhappy about it. The point of sponging is to cool the horse so his heart-rate goes down, since he finds it so unpleasant, it would have the opposite effect. So no sponging this weekend! Plus hes bigger and not full Arab. I can expect lots of points for heart-rates, so not go get my hopes up. As long as they are low enough to complete I would be happy. Also, after the last weekend, his attitude at initial vetting may not be so great either as its still very exciting to him. At least the novice division was a slower speed, so we could go slower and cool out longer.
When I went to register, I asked how many people were in novice: only 3! And I was the odd one out, I was set to ride with Linda who was riding in the Open division. Not to worry, I can just wait at the water trough before the 1/2 mile trot in to make up the difference (so I don’t come in too early) Well, we learned at the ride talk that it would be a 45 minute difference. No way! Enough people were around to hear my dilemma and convince me to ride Open. How did I get here again? Yikes, we have our work cut out for us!
We started showing some promise at the pre-ride vetting, where Bentley was well behaved and got all A’s (despite me accidentally circling left twice – I swear I wasn’t VUI!) The big surprise was Bentley’s heart-rate at 32bpm. Very impressed with him as I expected him to be strung!
We went to bed, although I didn’t sleep too well, as occasionally I would hear “loose horse” and sit up in a panic, looking out the back window of the Roadtrek. I couldn’t see him, but the panels of his new corral seemed to be in place and Sable was quietly standing facing his direction. He must be hanging out behind the trailer. Linda had mentioned before bed that they were just standing there making lovey eyes across the fence all evening, and that’s how we found them in the morning too!
Our Out-time was 8:02 and we had no issues getting there in time. The whole morning was pretty smooth. Our first loop was good, we always expect the first 6 miles to be a little chaotic as they settle into the ride, but after the first water trough, they seemed to hit the reset button and wanted to go again. We walked the road as Bentley’s young joints arent ready for the concussion from the trot, but the rest of the trail was pretty soft so we were able to make up the time and come in a little early which is always our strategy – go fast on loop 1, slow down for loop 2. Its easier to waste time than make up time.
When we came into our first hold and while everyone sponged, I just stood there with Bentley as he chugged water from the trough. We only had 4 minutes to get our heartrate as low as possible, so when I heard “17” come from the pulse persons mouth, I thought “Darn that’s high, do I get eliminated?” But then I realized it was a 30 second count. Yes, he had an unbelievable heart-rate of 34bpm with no sponging! So very proud! Came through the check with all A’s. The hold was allotted for 30 minutes, we could take more or less, but we chose to take the 30. Lee and Rick had arrived before our hold and were helpful, bringing gatorade and holding the beasties while Linda and I did all our stuff.
They were still feeling fresh on loop 2, but soon settled into a nice trot, Bentley had his neck nice and low and he was no longer giving me the 14 mph trot that launches me from the saddle. So that was a relief! The bugs at the troughs weren’t as bad second time around, a breeze had started and it was just beautiful! It helped because Sable is a picky drinker so we often wait a lot at the trough for electrolyting and begging her to chug. Bentley is an eager drinker and practically drains the trough each time – certainly contributes to those great recoveries! We had run into a few motorized bikes and ATVs along the way, but all the ones we met Saturday were very nice, stopped, shut of the engines and listened to our advice of “talk to the horses so they know you are human not monster”
We came in early to the timer, and had some time to get off, loosen the girth and allow them to eat and drink before our trot-in. This was helpful for Sable as she was drinking a bit better, but needed some more gut sounds. Our trot-in went splendidly, Bentley was listening and giving me a nice slow dressage trot, Sable kept pulling away from us so every so often he would get upset and quicken, but overall I was happy with it.
Our heart-rate wasn’t as fantastic as after loop 1 – 50bpm after 4 minutes and 46 after 30 minutes. Still great, kept us low in the points. Also it was to be expected because they of course were more tired than when they had just done 1 loop! It was at this point, where we had the lameness scare, which was later determined to be “Pee Lame”
With the Pee Lame, we only amounted to 5 penalty points, a great result for our first CTR! We ended up coming in tenth place and won a T-shirt! Linda and Sable didn’t do as well, they must have been going for the “High Point Award” it seems, Linda had missed pulsing before going to the vet (there was a bit of confusion around this, I dont think anyone was really to blame here) and got nicked 12 points for that, and her heart-rates were a lot higher than Bentleys, and some missing gut sounds and a bit of dehydration from the drinking troubles. They still completed though!
Overall, we both got our completion and were happy with that. I think Bentley is going to develop into a wonderful distance horse!
Here is our card for anyone who wants to see: