Hoof boots are used in both disciplines but prior to the 2011 ride season, the only Easyboot that NATRC allowed was the Original Easyboot. Thankfully, there was a rule change and now boots with gaiters can be used in competition. The Easyboot Glove is currently the most popular boot among NATRC riders but Easyboot Epics also have a strong following. AERC has never had restrictions on hoof boots and while Gloves and Epics are still popular boots with endurance riders, the Easyboot Glue-On is the way to go for 100 mile or multiday rides. This year at Tevis, 8 of the top 20 horses wore Easyboot Glue-Ons.
Having been involved with NATRC for several years, I have noticed that many members have misconceptions about endurance. The most common one that comes to mind is endurance riders are crazy and so are their horses. Now I haven’t spent too much time around endurance riders, but so far the ones I’ve met seem more or less sane; the jury is still out on the horses. In my limited exposure to endurance riders, it seems they too have misconceptions about competitive trail rides. I have heard they think there are “too many rules” and “contrived obstacles”. While there are rules in NATRC regarding horsemanship, in my experience the vast majority of these rules are based on safety. In terms of the obstacles, in NATRC the only obstacles allowed are ones that are natural (could be encountered on the trail). There is a new organization, the American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA), that has unnatural obstacles (mailboxes, tarps, etc) which are more similar to obstacles found in a trail class. ACTHA is different from traditional competitive trail riding organizations. The focus is not on distance riding, as only 6 miles of trail is required.
The biggest difference between AERC and NATRC is the criteria for winning. There are two big awards at any endurance ride: the rider and horse team who completes the ride in the fastest time (with horse judged fit to continue) and best condition (BC). The top ten finishers can elect to present their horse for BC and the winning horse is the one deemed the fittest, freshest and soundest. NATRC rides are not in a race format and there is both a vet judge and a horsemanship judge, each with a score card. Every horse and rider starts with 100 points, and points can be deducted throughout the course of the ride. Since the horse’s condition is judged separately from the rider’s horsemanship, it is possible for a horse and rider team to receive different placings at the same ride.
I realize that this post has only scratched the surface on the differences between AERC and NATRC. In my next post I am going to discuss some more specific differences regarding: distance, speed, vet checks, horsemanship and boots. I would like to thank Kathleen Henkel and Rho Bailey of AERC for assisting me with this post. For additional information visit http://www.aerc.org/ or http://www.natrc.org/ .
As one of the customer service representatives, I am happy to help get your horse into the right boots. I have plenty of hands on experience since my horses have been barefoot and booted since 2003.