Adapt to Survive – Covid 19 vs. NATRC

Adapt to Survive – Covid 19 vs. NATRC

“Well, they didn’t specify WHERE the raincoat should be before we put it on. My girl is holding it for me!” Laurie Knuutila, Alaska.By Bev Roberts

Early in 2020 when the coronavirus invaded the US, NATRC ride managers planned to hold their rides with procedural changes to accommodate social distancing. Then most states and the government shut down all but essential facilities, businesses and services. Along with that, managers found their venues closing! Most of the ride season was lost. The national board decided to cancel national awards and the 2021 convention, knowing that competitors would fail to meet minimum award criteria.

Trail riders are tough. We all know what happens when things get tough. Undeterred, NATRC set up virtual challenges for obstacles and mileage.

The obstacle challenge was five months long with five challenges per month. Prior to each month, registered participants received their list of obstacles based on their participation bracket – newbie, some experience, experienced, and junior. The participants submitted short videos of themselves and their horses completing each obstacle. NATRC horsemanship judges evaluated and scored their performance. After the five months – May through September – NATRC awarded the top ten in each bracket.

The Holiday Hoedown

The obstacle challenge was a great success! To challenge riders over the winter, December 2020 through February 2021, NATRC introduced the three obstacle Holiday Hoedown. This time the teams have to “dance” doing the Hokey Pokey, the Conga and the Electric Slide. All dances involve various combinations of sidepassing, a number of steps forward or backward, and turns on the center, forehand or haunches. Fun in the snow!

The mileage challenge was six months long and provided separate horse and rider mileage awards (riders could ride more than one horse). For this challenge, the riders submitted their GPS tracks, or screen shots of their tracks, along with the date. Only non-competitive miles were recorded. Again, awards went to the top ten horses and riders.

Caballo Canyon photo by Bill Wingle

2021 Challenge

The mileage challenge is on again in 2021. It started with the new ride season in November and runs the whole year. There is plenty of time for riders to get in on this challenge and to resume conditioning for the many rides NATRC is hoping to hold this year.

During this upheaval in our lives, NATRC has made it possible for its members and others to do what they love most – ride horses and compete! The side benefits? Getting outdoors, soothing the soul, energizing the brain, relieving stress, improving mental health, and even soaking up some Vitamin D……

Caballo Canyon photo by Bill Wingle

2020 Virtual Challenge Results


Obstacle Challenge

(Experience levels based upon NATRC competition miles)

Experienced (> 1,500)                  Fran Muench and Giacomo

Experienced (< 1,500)     Claire Cichocki and Desert Whiskey

Inexperienced (0)     Missy Allan and Fayleen Shining LaJolla

Junior (age 10-18)               Natalie Niderost and Spantik Maj

Mileage Challenge


Gayle Muench   1018 miles       Region 4


PVA Light ‘N the Storm             717 miles

Ridden by Kristen Johansen      Region 6

Top Region

Region 6                              4,319 miles

(IL, MO, KS, NE, IA, MI, MN, ND, SD)


Learn more about the North American Trail Ride Conference at

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