Competitive Mounted Orienteering

A map, compass, and your horse…your objective? To locate as many of the Objective Stations as you can and get back to the finish point in the least amount of time. The sport is Competitive Mounted Orienteering (CMO) and it’s one of the most challenging and exciting equestrian sports for the whole family, adding a new twist to the trail ride.

The sport of CMO started in 1981 in the United States and has grown over the years to cover many states, and interest in the sport has sprung up in Texas.

“Not only is it a lot of fun,” said Jennifer Kuhn, “but there are numerous benefits as well.” There are year-end awards and lifetime awards for horses, riders, and ride managers, and membership in the association offers liability insurance on your horse, and covers the association, allowing them to put on rides on Federal, State, County, and City lands at no additional cost to the membership. “I think this would be a great sport to have around here,” said Jennifer.

In mounted orienteering each competitor is given a map with the approximate locations of the Objective Stations marked on it. An Objective Station is simply a place where the numbered and lettered marker is located. On the back of the map after each objective station number, at least three compass bearings TO or FROM are described with an identifiable landmark. Example: 1. _____ 180 degrees from a 15-foot sugar pine tree with red ribbon, 2. ___ 32 degrees from mail box on post with letters “dogfish” on it, and 3. ______ 116 degrees from waterfall near the bridge at the crossroads. These are the types of clues that are found on the back of the maps and have the compass bearing from an identifiable landmark that you can find by riding your horse down the road, cross country, or on a trail.

The map and compass are used intensively as the Objective Stations are not necessarily set up on established trails. Competitors find their own way from one objective station to the next in any order they want to go. When they find an objective station they write down on the back of their map, the letters that under particular station to prove that they were there. The letters on the objective station can be anything…”LL” or “Little Lake” – something that distinguishes the objective station.

All Objective Stations are written on white paper plate with waterproof ink so it’s easily visible to the riders and all Objective Stations must be able to be seen and read on horseback.

You can incorporate anything into the ride. Sometimes ride managers have placed colored eggs or balloons out along the ride course and are awarded door prizes at the end of the ride.

Normally there are 5 to 10 hidden Objective Stations in a 6-8 mile radius. There are two classes of rides on the Long Course, a 5-station ride is worth 2 points per station and a 10-station ride is worth 1 point per station. On a Short Course there is usually only 5 stations, but the ride is area is much shorter and is designed for beginners, points count toward the lifetime award levels.

Usually there is a free clinic given on map reading and an Objective Station is set up near the camp site where the start and finish lines are located. 3 bearings (degrees) are placed on a practice map and plate is tucked away for all to find. Many times the letters on this practice plate will be a clue to what the theme of the ride event plates may have on them.

It’s very important to condition your horse to the sound of rattling paper as you fold and unfold the map. Many riders carry a 1-gallon zip locking plastic bag in their pocket to hold their map and pencil. The compass should be tied on a string and carried around your neck and tucked in a shirt or jacket pocket so the rider isn’t hurt when jogging or cantering through the course. CMO sport enthusiasts recommend and use the SILVA Type 7 compass because it has 2-degree increments on the face…and no, GPS devices can’t be used for this sport!

Your horse should be conditioned not only for speed and distance, but should willingly go through the woods, brush, cross creeks, step over logs…most things association with a trail ride. Your horse should also be accustomed to being tied as you may need or want to dismount to read your compass, check a trail, or grab a bite to eat.
Good horsemanship and common sense are used during the rides…a rider may dismount and lead their horse at any time during the event.

CMO is a great family sport and all riders are welcome. Riders under 18 years of age are considered junior riders and must ride with a sponsoring adult. All breeds of horses are eligible for competition and no horses under the age of 3 years old can participate on the rides.

If you would like to participate in this interesting sport, please contact Jennifer Kuhn at 830-379-0403 or email her.

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