Distance Riding

Distance riding is a great sport for all ages and skill levels. It tests a horse's condition and stamina, rider intelligence and horsemanship under veterinary supervision on a cross-country trail. Most competitors own and train their own horses. Discipline, dedication and a sense of adventure are the most important ingredients for success. Competitive Trail and Endurance are the two most popular distance sports and Arabians excel at both. Other distance events include Ride & Tie competitions and Mounted Orienteering. 

The endurance competitor's motto, "To Finish Is To Win," applies to all types of distance events. Distance riding may be highly competitive and challenging or a recreational activity combining a camping trip with an extended trail ride.



Behind the Scenes of Distance Nationals


Distance Sports Overview

Endurance Riding

  • Is governed by the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC).
  • Endurance rides vary in distance between 50 and 100 miles in a single day.
  • The horse with the fastest time is the winner providing the horse meets the 'fit to continue' criteria as determined by a veterinary judge.
  • Horses are monitored by veterinarians throughout the ride at predetermined check points.
  • Horses are withdrawn from the ride if judged to be unsound or metabolically unfit.
  • Rides have mandatory rests or 'holds' for the horses throughout the ride.
  • Rides longer than 100 miles are completed over several days with the horses typically covering 50 miles per day.
  • One of the most famous of all endurance rides is the Tevis Cup. During a 100-mile, 24 hour endurance ride, Tevis Cup participants race through the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. In 2007, eight out of the top 10 participants rode Arabians.

Competitive Trail Riding

If you enjoy trail riding in beautiful scenery and making new friends, then you should consider trying competitive trail riding.

  • Competitive Trail Rides are sanctioned by several different groups in the U.S. and Canada. To see a list of the groups currently recognized by AHA, click here.
  • Horses are evaluated before the ride by the ride veterinarian on soundness, physical condition and way of going.
  • In some organizations, riders may also be judged on horsemanship as it applies to trail riding and horses may be judged on trail ability.
  • Trail courtesy, safety and manners are key elements along with the ability to care for a horse during and after a long day on the trail.
  • Speed is not the primary objective, rather strategy is the key as a minimum and maximum time will be given to cover a set distance.
  • Veterinary monitoring is maintained throughout the ride and checkpoints must be passed where horses must meet pulse and/or respiration criteria.
  • Points are deducted for any changes that occur in way of going, pulse, lameness, injuries, time violations, etc.
  • Rides can be 1-3 days in length, averaging 20-40 miles per day, at 4-7 mph depending on the sanctioning organization. Many offer novice or introductory rides of 12-15 miles to get you started.

Ride & Tie

  • Two riders with one horse travel on a pre-marked trail in a running and riding pattern.
  • Horse must pass a metabolic and physical standard at veterinary checks during and within one hour of finishing the trail.
  • Distances range from 10 to 40 miles in one day.
  • No minimum time restrictions, but a maximum time limit is set by management. Contact the Ride & Tie Association for additional information.

Mounted Orienteering

Competitive Mounted Orienteering is a timed event. The object is to find 5-10 markers using the provided map and a compass. Riders compete either individually or in teams of 2-6, riding at their own pace. Instructions and a practice marker are provided before the ride. It's easy & fun to learn - all you need is an orienteering type compass (ex: Silva 7), available at many camping supply stores for $10-$20. Rides are sanctioned by NACMO (Nat'l. Assoc. for Competitive Mounted Orienteering), which provides regular newsletters & year-end awards in several categories at the state and national level. Cumulative records of points earned are kept on both horse & rider.

Distance Rides

AHA Regional & National Championship Rides

Many AHA regions host Regional championships for both endurance and competitive trail, and AHA produces the National Championship Competitive Trail Ride, 50-Mile Endurance Ride and 100-Mile Endurance Ride. These championship rides are beneficiaries of the Arabian Breeders Sweepstakes program, which pays prize money to any Breeders Sweepstakes enrolled horse that makes the Top Five at a Regional or Top Ten at a National Championship.


Learn more about the National Distance Championship here.


Regional and National AHA Championship entry requirements are:


  • Horse must be a registered Arabian, Half-Arabian or Anglo-Arabian.
  • Rider and owner must be current AHA competition level members ($25 base membership does not make you eligible).
  • Horses must qualify by having completed a certain number of miles:






Regional CTR



AHA Recognized CTR or recognized Open Organization Rides

Complete 50 miles total consisting of:

  • Ride distance must be at least 25 miles
  • At least 25miles must be from a CTR
  • 25 miles can be from an AERC endurance ride

National CTR



AHA Recognized CTR or recognized Open Organization Rides

Complete 100 miles total consisting of:

  • Ride distance must be at least 25 miles
  • At least 50 miles must be from a CTR.
  • 50 miles can be from an AERC endurance ride

Regional Endurance



AHA, AERC, FEI endurance rides (no limited distance)

50 miles may be from a Regional or National AHA CTR

National 50-mile Endurance



AHA, AERC, FEI endurance rides (no limited distance)


National 100-mile endurance



AHA, AERC, FEI endurance rides (no limited distance)

100 mile must be from a single or multi-day 100 mile or two consecutive 50+ endurance rides

Local Rides

Local rides are sponsored by individual ride organizations and clubs. Local rides follow the rules set by AERC, a competitive trail organization or AHA. AHA members can earn points, mileage and qualifications for AHA programs and events from local rides. See the Event Calendar for a list of recognized rides in your area.


Local rides sponsored by AHA have the following benefits:


  • Receive greatly discounted event insurance through Equisure
  • Get listed on the AHA website calendar of events
  • Automatically record results for Arabians and Half-Arabians in the AHA event database to count toward programs and qualifications
  • Receive the free AHA Ride Management Guidelines with tips, checklists, timelines and all the forms
  • Receive free AHA score cards, pulse check cards and other helpful tools
  • A cost of $25 per local recognized ride distance and $30 for Regional rides
  • Simply mail the application to AHA at least 60 days prior to the competitive trail or endurance ride




Endurance rides consist of one or multi-day monitored races between 50 and 100 miles. The horse that finishes the ride first is the winner if it passes the post-ride veterinary exam. Horses must also pass veterinary checks throughout the ride at mandatory stops. Limited distance rides (less than 50 miles) are good introductions to the sport and have slightly different rules.


  • All AHA endurance rides follow American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) rules and are normally held in conjunction with an AERC-sanctioned ride.
  • AERC and Federation Equine International (FEI) rides can count toward Non-Breeders Sweepstakes AHA award programs even when they are not combined with an AHA endurance ride, as long as the competition reports their results to AHA using an open event report form.


Competitive Trail


Competitive trail rides require horses to complete a specified course within a specific speed and timeframe. The horse is scored at various checkpoints along the trail for conditioning and soundness. The winner is the horse judged to be the best-fit.


  • AHA rides are often combined with a ride sanctioned by another competitive trail organization.
  • Rides conducted by other ride organizations recognized by AHA can count toward Non-Breeders Sweepstakes AHA award programs even when they are not combined with an AHA Competitive Trail Ride, as long as the competition reports their results to AHA using an open event report form.
  • AHA currently recognizes 9 competitive trail riding organizations from across the United States and Canada, which includes the following: 


Distance Programs

Ride your way to great rewards with these AHA Distance Ride Programs.


Fee Summary

  • Distance Awards Program/horse - $50
  • Distance Awards Renewal/horse/year - $40
  • Back mileage fee/year - $100


Distance Horse Awards


  • A program for your horse!
  • Recognition for completed miles in endurance and competitive trail
  • Perpetual plaque awarded at 500 miles
  • Mileage markers at each additional 500 miles completed
  • $50 initial enrollment and $40 annual renewal fee
  • Purchase back mileage for $100 per year
  • Sign up online or find out more by clicking here


Competitive Distance Program


  • A program for riders!
  • Recognition and prizes for riders who compete in: Endurance, Competitive Trail and/or Ride and Tie
  • Ability to compete on multiple horses
  • Multi-level prize and award system
  • Totally FREE online program for members. Sign up and track miles by logging into the Members Only area and choosing "My Account"
  • Sign up online or find out more by clicking here


Frequent Rider Program


  • Record your non-competitive training hours and earn rewards just for riding your horse
  • Multiple horses allowed
  • Ranch work, parades, lessons, training under saddle or just riding or driving for pleasure count.
  • This is an online program for members. New participants are required to pay a $25 one-time fee to enroll. Sign up in the Members Only area and track your hours now.
  • Sign up online or find out more by clicking here


Competitive Trail High Point Program Awards


  • Year-end program held in cooperation with recognized competitive trail organizations
  • AHA provides nice blanket or cooler awards to high point horses selected by participating organizations
  • Winners must meet the following criteria: (1) ride a registered Arabian, Half-Arabian or Anglo-Arabian; (2) be current AHA members; and (3) compete in at least five rides sponsored by that organization
  • Click here for the CTR High-Point Award Application Form


Endurance High Point Program Awards


  • AERC high-point horses in the 100-mile and Middle Distance (50-99 mile) categories receive a nice product award at the Annual AERC Convention. Because AERC does not track points specifically in the 50-99 mile category, individuals interested in that award category must submit an AHA Endurance Horse High-Point Middle Distance Award Application Form and send it to AHA by December 31.
  • Click here for previous high-point winners

Distance Horse of the Year Award


  • Recognizes significant accomplishments of a registered Arabian, Half-Arabian or Anglo-Arabian in distance sports
  • Nomination deadline is November 1st of each calendar year
  • Click here for the Distance Horse of the Year Award Nomination Form


Horse Achievement Awards


  • Distance horses may earn Achievement Award points too
  • Sign up on line or find out more by clicking here.


Amateur Achievement Awards


  • Amateur riders receive awards based on points they accumulate
  • Multiple horses (ownership not required) all count in accumulation
  • Modeled after the Horse Achievement Awards program
  • Enroll online in the Members Only area or click here to learn more about this program


Breeders Sweepstakes


  • Breeders Sweepstakes is a comprehensive payback and breeders incentive program
  • Prize money payouts are for enrolled horses at AHA recognized rides
  • Find out more about the Arabian Breeders Sweepstakes Program

Distance Resources

Related Organizations

American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC)


Rides: Endurance and Limited Distance Rides 


Arabian Horse Distance Riding Association (AHDRA)



Rides: Endurance, Competitive Trail, and Pleasure Trail Riding

Eastern Competitive Trail Ride Association (ECTRA)


Rides: Competitive Trail, Endurance and Competitive Driving.

Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI)


Rides: International Endurance Rides

Great Lakes Distance Riding Association (GLDRA)


Rides: Competitive Trail & Endurance

Indiana Arabian Horse Club Distance Program


Rides: Competitive Trail & Endurance

Manitoba Trail Riding Club


Rides: Endurance & Competitive Trail

Middle of the Trail Distance Riding Association (MOTDRA)


Rides: Competitive Trail and Endurance

National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering (NACMO)


Rides: Mounted Orienteering

North American Trail Ride Conference (NATRC)


Rides: Competitive Trail Rides

Ohio Arabian and All-Breed Trail Society (OAATS)


Rides: Endurance and Competitive Trail

Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association (OCTRA)


Rides: Competitive Trail, Endurance and Ride and Tie

Ride & Tie Association


Rides: Ride and tie

Southeastern Distance Riders Association (SEDRA)


Rides: competitive trail, endurance and ride and tie.

Trail Riding Alberta Conference (TRAC)


Rides: Competitive Trail Rides

Upper Midwest Endurance and Competitive Riders Association (UMECRA)


Rides: competitive trail, endurance and competitive driving



"To Finish is to Win"

A Manual for the Beginning Distance Rider


This manual is a how-to-guide for prospective competitive trail, endurance and ride & tie competitors. You'll find 36 pages of insightful information covering the following topics: 


  • Getting Started
  • Ride Readiness
  • Competition
  • Words of Wisdom: Veterans Speak
  • Resources / Sources of Helpful Information
  • Distance Ride Organizations
  • Glossary
  • Distance Equipment Checklist




It addresses the most critical information a person will need to enjoy themselves and have a safe, as well as competitive, experience. The horse's safety is always paramount in distance sports, and the information provided reflects this concern. The AHA distance ride family encourages you to get involved with these fast-growing sports.


The distance rider has numerous options from beginner rides at the local level to world endurance events sponsored by international equestrian organizations. Whether a rider prefers a relaxed and casual day with friends, or a grueling, extreme sport, there is a place for every kind of rider.


IMG_7953_BorderDistance riding is not an exact science. Like other horse activities, there are varied opinions regarding training, ride strategy, riding technique and form, equine nutrition and breed selection. One fact to note is that although different breeds participate in distance riding sports, Arabians are popular because they have shorter, stronger backs that allow them to carry substantial weight in comfort and large nostrils and windpipe for greater lung capacity. Arabians also tend to exhibit greater bone density and hoof quality with better shock absorption. Their hooves are actually more dense and larger, helping them to stay sound longer than other breeds. In addition, the lighter muscling dissipates heat and lactic acid more readily than other breeds.


The motto endorsed by many distance riders, "To Finish is to Win," means that completion of a competitive trail or endurance ride and bringing a horse to the finish line "fit to continue" is an exhilarating reward unto itself.


You're invited to join this special community of incredible horses and the people they inspire.


Distance Riding Origins


Originally, man could move from place to place only by foot. With the domestication of the horse, he dramatically increased the distance he could travel. With the invention of the internal combustion engine, followed by the mass production of the automobile, horses no longer were needed for travel.


As a consequence, the horse population in North America rapidly declined, along with the knowledge of caring for this living transport provider. The United States Cavalry had, by necessity, perfected its equine knowledge, including saddlery, riding procedures and veterinary care for horses traveling many miles a day. With the mechanization of the Cavalry, this source of knowledge was scattered. Care of the horse being ridden long distances is still extremely important, especially if the rider needs his or her mount fit and strong to continue down the trail.


Besides the ability to move rapidly over a variety of terrain, horses also provided man with companionship. Currently, many people have found caring for and riding horses excellent recreation. The horse population has increased, as various equestrian sports and activities have evolved, including riding on trails for pleasure and in competition. These activities require horsemen to condition their mounts for participation. This conditioning includes not only hours of riding, but also good equine care, preventative medicine and proper nutrition.


Ride Management Info