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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

June 1, 2010

Random thoughts and questions about trail marking with ribbons

I've been investigating the ribbon placement rules of the endurance trail in southern seems there is a consensus of ribbons on the right generally, with some exceptions. I think it is those exceptions that are a part of my overall directional inaptitude. So the consensus (combined information per experienced ride manager and experienced rider of said trails) goes thus:

Directional ribbons on the right (most of the time) (except sometimes when you are going left) say what?

A turn is denoted with a warning of three ribbons (part of the time). Unless trail marker is in a hurry (insert sad face here).

A left hand turn may be marked with a ribbon on the left hand side of trail (part of the time). That was what I thought I was doing when I got off trail.

A trail not to be used marked with an X (some of the time). Sometimes not at all.

Chalk lines on trail (nope).

Chalk line arrows on pavement (sometimes but not always).

Ribbons at eye level (only when marked from a horse).

Ribbons below eye level (often when marked from 4 wheeler).

Ribbons torn down (frequent on this particular trail as trail riders don't necessarily enjoy the endurance riders presense).

*huge mournful sigh*

It boiled down to the rules are generally interpreted and what is what depends on the person who is marking the trail and in what region you are riding, so you need to understand the map (but what about all those trail off-shoots?), have ridden the trail multiple times (ummm...I got lost then too) as there were no trail markers then, stay mid-pack and let others sort it out for you, or have great tracking skills.

I FEEL A LITTLE DISCOURAGED (whiney too...and don't offer cheese, GOD I DETEST CHEESE)! Wine is looking good though...maybe if I have some, and mix Phebes e-lytes in it we will both relax and spot the ribbons.

I guess next ride I go to as a newbie, I should ask very specific questions such as:

How is a left hand turn marked?

How is a right hand turn marked?

How are turns on paved road marked?

Is the trail loop going clockwise or counter clockwise?

Are confidence ribbons being used after a turn?

Am I missing anything?

~Directionally Dysfunctional but trying hard to get the learning curve (E.G.)


  1. I feel your pain - I've gotten lost too and it's frusterating, especially when you are sure that you paid attention. It gets really confusing when several events are going on at the same time.

    I went to one event that didn't use ribbons at all - only chalk markings on the ground....I hated it.

    Generally you get to know how a RM marks trail. at the rides the Ribley's mark, I can predict when I will see that next ribbon and when I don't....then I worry.

    I think the biggest thing I learned my first season is to concentrate on the ribbons. I spent my first season lost because I would lose concentration.

    My second season I spent yelling "ribbon" everytime I saw one to remind myself to look for them.

    By my third season it's become second nature to look for the next ribbon and the next and next.

    By my fourth season I call out "TURN" even if I'm in the back or middle of a group of riders to make sure everyone sees it, and to remind me to keep looking even though I'm not in the lead.

    Some rides I've done, were so badly marked and so confusing I would hook up with other riders purposely who had either done the ride before or did the day before in a 2 day ride.

    After my first season I also bought a hand held GPS to provide reassurance and match the shape and direction to the map. I got lost a couple of times from second guessing myself, when I was right.

    I think following a trail of ribbons does come with experience, even though there are a few badly marked trails I've done, I ahven't been lost or taken a wrong turn for over a year by being viligent (and having a mostly sane horse I don't ahve to concentrate on!)

    Not sure if any of this helped, but maybe?????? :)

  2. The best marked rides are the ones Dave Rabe has marked!

    There will be a line (or dots) across the trail if you do NOT go that way, and arrows pointing the correct way to go. It'll be spelled out OUT or IN with an arrow so you KNOW. Pie Plates can get turned or fall down and confuse people!

    I mark trail the same way as Dave does - three ribbons on the right for a turn regardless of which way you turn. Then a confidence ribbon or two. If it's a two way trail with turns from both directions you need at least ten ribbons to do it right - three from each side plus one prior and one after on each side of the three.

    We always try to put the ribbons up high. In Nevada a lot of times all you have is low brush to mark on. Longer ribbons are easier to see, as are ones that aren't old and shriveled up. We also have to note as riders that ribbons that are TIED on are NOT OURS - we only use ribbons on clothespins.

    Trails on multidays often go different directions on different days, so you get used to the ribbons being on both sides. The best turn markings are done before you get to the turn, so you can see it coming up and not as you just went past it! :)

  3. Yes, never be ashamed to ask how the trail is marked. My guess is half a dozen in the crowd would like to know too. Be bold, ask.

    Some just ribbon, some keep them on right, even turns, and then you just "look" both directions ar intersections. Some put 3 on left for a left turn. Just ask. They would rather you do so, that be confused. And they often forget to spell it out during the meeting.

  4. on my very first ride , I would have been lost inthe first 5 minutes, thank goodness for the couple I was riding with. On my 2nd ride, it was marked so awesome, I did not get lost at all. I only got turned around for a about 15 minutes when on a yellow loop they put a yellow TURN HERE ribbon on a yellow tree!!! I am prone to panic if I dont see enough ribbon :)

    I am so new that I mutter the whole time, blue on the right, blue on the right, blue on the right. Silly I know, but it got me through!

  5. I recommend riding with JUNIORS--they will watch the trail for you!

    (even better: sponsor the ride manager's kid. they totally know the trails)

  6. just be glad you're not color blind too!
    and yes, i've seen all kinds of trail markings... and the lack of them...
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  7. A note to "Wannabe"

    Please note that the two novice rides at Salamonie will be CTR's (competitive trail rides) no LD's (limited distance). CTR is a similar but different animal, lower pulse criterias, a ride time window that you MUST HIT to not lose points, and you are also scored on multiple areas on your horse's condition. Your SCORE determines where you place, unlike LD where you either are fit to continue, or not. In LD your ride time determines your placement. In CTR your score determines your placement. That said, CTR is a heck of a lot of fun if you really like working on a challenge, and are good at judging your horse's pace over the course. You also have a set time that your horse must be able to pulse down, so you strip off tack, start sponging like mad to get the pulse down as quickly as possible. You also have a set time that your horse must be able to pulse down, so you strip off tack, start sponging like mad to get the pulse down as quickly as possible.

    It was nice meeting you all too :) Always glad to find a friendly face where ever I go!

    Jacke (~E.G.)

  8. Salamonie WILL HAVE LD RIDES as well as the CTR's, it is just the novice rides that are CTR.

    But! A novice CAN ENTER an LD.

    Sorry how that typed out above, didn't mean to confuse anyone.