The coolest sport you’ve never heard of

By Luke Yates


Mary Tiscornia (riding Nero) and Sean Pont winning the 2015 World Championship Ride & Tie near Klamath Falls, OR. Mary has competed in all 45 Championship events and is 70 years young. Photo: Brian Dorsey

Ride and tie may just be the coolest sport you’ve never heard of, and you can get involved right here in California.

This year, the Ride and Tie World Championships will be held at the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in Southern California, on July 2.

The sport is a mix of endurance horse riding and trail running. Teams comprise two runners and a horse, and races are complete when all three team members cross the finish line.

“You need to be a fairly good rider. This is definitely not riding around an arena. This is out in the wild.” says Ben Volk, media secretary for the Ride and Tie Association.

The human athletes alternate running and riding the horse, switching every few miles. At the start, the horse pulls ahead of the runner. After a while, the rider ties the horse to a tree and sets off running. Eventually, the second runner catches up and gets on the horse. They ride until they overtake their teammate and go ahead. The runners and riders repeat this sequence, leapfrogging each other to the finish.

Races are a test of endurance, strategy and teamwork. Good teams will be able to judge how far they should ride on the horse, to make sure they don’t leave their teammate struggling behind. Different runners and riders may also have strengths, so it is important to plan a race strategy.

“It depends on the terrain. If it gets real steep we’ll shorten the ties (the distance between swapping running and riding). The horse is the strongest member of the team,” says Volk.

The ride and tie championship race is 35 miles long, and takes place on a rugged, cross country course. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is located just outside the town of Julian, and has plenty of space for camping and space for stabling the horses.

Other events take place over shorter distances, making use of trails and fire roads. Races are located in mountainous regions, mainly in the Western U.S., including Washington and Oregon, as well as California, and happen throughout the summer months.

The safety and welfare of the horses is a priority at events, with mandatory vet checkpoints during races. Injured horses will be withdrawn, and competitors can be disqualified if vets feel their horse has been ridden too hard.

Events are often combined with other riding and running races to reduce veterinary costs and to offer something for everyone, regardless of riding skill.

Beginners or newcomers to the sport are highly encouraged, and should get in touch with the Ride and Tie Association for information on training clinics, finding teammates and mentors and becoming a member.

Full details are available at