Equestrian trails

The North American Trail Ride Conference will return to Clay County Friday to Sunday, Aug. 23 to 25. The Jesse James Rideout competitive trail ride will take place at Smithville Lake. The event goals are to increase awareness about NATRC and to showcase equine camping facilities at the lake.

SMITHVILLE — The North American Trail Ride Conference will return to Clay County Friday to Sunday, Aug. 23 to 25. The Jesse James Rideout competitive trail ride will take place at Smithville Lake. The event goals are to increase awareness about NATRC and to showcase equine camping facilities at the lake. NATRC is a nonprofit organization that provides distance competitive trail rides for riders of all equine breeds and from all disciplines.

“For over 55 years, through these rides we have been educating and informing horse folks about how to care for and manage horses ridden over long distances. The competitors are friendly, welcoming and helpful to new contestants,” ride co-manager John Zeliff said. “NATRC is offering a new membership to all first-time members.”

A NATRC competitive trail ride covers a measured and marked distance within a specified window of time. Judging begins at the preliminary examination and ends at the final examination one or two days later. Judges evaluate the equines — horses, ponies, and mules on condition, soundness and trail manners. They evaluate the riders on horsemanship as it applies to trail riding and caring for a horse without drugs or artificial appliances during and after a day on the trail.

Novice and competitive pleasure classes compete about 15 miles per day while open classes ride about 27 miles per day. This year’s Jesse James Rideout will also include a new leisure division class, which will be a one-day, nine mile ride at approximately 3 mph.

“The management team has gone all out to make the Jesse James Rideout a great introductory ride. The Smithville Lake horse trails feature a mix of rolling and flat terrain with many creek crossings. These beautiful Clay County trails are rich in Jesse James history. The local Kearney Saddle Club does an outstanding job of helping maintain these horse trails,” states a NATRC release.

Last year’s ride drew competitors from eight different states. Campsite and ride reservations are required.

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