Last week I discussed some of the basic differences between AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference) and NATRC (North American Trail Ride Conference). Now I would like to delve into some of the more specific differences between these organizations.

AERC endurance rides must be at least 50 miles in length per day and LD (limited distance) rides must be at least 25 miles in length per day. There are also multiday rides ranging in length from 3 to 5 days. At NATRC rides, Novice and CP (Competitive Pleasure) divisions average 15-24 miles per day (with the total mileage not exceeding 40 miles over two days) while the Open division averages 25-35 miles per day (with the total mileage not exceeding 60 miles over two days). There are both one day (B rides) and two day (A rides) options.

AERC rides have a maximum time allowed (6 hours for 25 miles, 12 hours for 50 miles, 24 hours) which works out to a minimum speed of approximately 5 MPH once you factor in holds. Although 5 MPH is the minimum speed needed to successfully complete a ride, many riders average speeds of 6-8 MPH. There is no minimum time but in order to finish, your horse must be judged fit to continue. At NATRC rides there is both a minimum time and a maximum time and there are penalties for horse and rider teams that finish outside of this 30 minute window. How you perform at a ride has nothing to do with the order that you finish; the emphasis is on pacing your horse at an appropriate speed. Novice and CP divisions ride at an average speed of 3.5-4.5 MPH and Open rides at an average speed of 4-6 MPH.

Kevin by Merri MeldeKevin Myers and Auli Farwa competing in Glue-Ons at AERC’s Big Horn 100.
Photo by Merri Melde.

Vet Checks
Both organizations have vet checks to monitor the horse’s pulse, mucous membranes, capillary refill, hydration and gut sounds. Horses at AERC rides must pulse down to a predetermined rate within thirty minutes (the maximum is 68 BPM for 50+ mile rides and 60 BPM for LD rides). Depending on the type of vet check, they may have an hour hold or may be able to continue immediately. There is no set number of vet checks but there is generally a minimum of two checks for a 50 mile ride. Horses at NATRC rides generally have two pulse and respiration (P&R) checks per day in addition to metabolic checks performed by the vet judge. When a horse enters a P&R, they have ten minutes before their pulse and respiration is checked. The rules allow a maximum of 12 beats and 9 breaths in a 15 second count (48 BPM and 36 breaths per minute); horses with P&R above these levels will have points deducted. There is also a hold threshold set by management; if a horse’s pulse or respiration is above this, they will be held for an additional ten minutes before having another check (the hold is generally around 17 in a 15 second count for both pulse and respiration).

AERC rides do not focus on horsemanship so this section is primarily to show what differentiates NATRC. When presenting a horse in hand for vet in or out, it is important that you have both hands on the lead line. Also, you should never stand directly in front of your horse – you want to stand on the same side as the vet judge when they are checking your horse. The horsemanship judge can look for something as simple as a rider’s position going up or down hill, or they may have an obstacle such as a mount or a side pass. As far as stabling is concerned, portable corrals are not allowed in NATRC. Horses must either be stationary tied to a high line or a trailer, or stalled (at rides where the facilities have enough stalls to accommodate all competitors).

AERC has never had restrictions on hoof boots and allows leg protection. The Easyboot Gloves and Easyboot Epics are both very popular among endurance riders, especially at LD and 50 mile rides. For 100 mile and multiday rides, nothing beats the Easyboot Glue-On. Prior to this year’s rule change, the only boot that could be used for NATRC was the original Easyboot. Thankfully, boots with gaiters can now be used in competition. The Glove is currently the most popular boot among NATRC riders but Epics also have a strong following. NATRC does not allow leg protection during competition.

Marlene by Becky PearmanMarlene Buttrey and Nakota Bey competing at NATRC’s Uwharrie Forest. Marlene is
currently 6th in the 2011 CTR Hoof Boot Contest. Photo by Becky Pearman


At AERC rides, horses must be a minimum of 5 years old to compete in endurance rides and 4 years old to compete in LD rides. NATRC is similar: horses must be a minimum of 5 years old to compete in the Open division and 4 years old to compete in the Novice and CP divisions.

Junior Riders
AERC considers riders under 16 to be junior riders and they must be accompanied by an adult throughout the ride. Riders between the ages of 14 and 16 who have ridden more than 500 miles and have written permission from a parent or guardian may ride by themselves if ride management allows. There is no minimum age for riders – it is at the discretion of ride management. NATRC considers riders between the ages of 10 and 17 to be junior riders. Approved helmets are mandatory for junior riders in both AERC and NATRC.

Although these posts are by no means comprehensive, I hope that they have highlighted some of the differences between AERC and NATRC. I would like to thank Kathleen Henkel and Rho Bailey of AERC and Jamie Dieterich of NATRC for assisting me with this post. For additional information visit or

Alayna Wiley

Customer Service

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.