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

October 7, 2012

About CMO

CMO (Competitive Mounted Orienteering):  F-U-N (that should actually sum it up).  But I will stretch myself just a little bit to give a more thorough description. 

Have a horse?  Are you a trail riding enthusiast?  Want to step it up a notch?  Try a friendly little competition that is part trail ride, part tail competition, part scavenger hunt, and the most fun you will ever have on horseback? 
                                                  That is the quick description for CMO.

Is CMO for you?
*Entry fees are only $10-15 for a full day of fun.
Your horse must be at least three years old.
Open to most age groups of riders.
You can compete individually.
As a team.
Against your local group at a ride.
Against other teams Nationally!
Membership is only $30 for a year, but you can compete as a  day member for a small fee (but we hope you will love it so much that you will join, and let us track you and your horse’s your points).

What do I need to ride CMO?
Your horse, and your tack.
An orienteering compass (about $10-15)
A sense of humor (required)
An ink pen and a small pocket notebook.
Large ziplock bag (to hold your map).
Juniors are required to wear a riding helmet.
You are all equipped, come learn to ride CMO!

Do I have to ride alone?
Nope! You can ride with your buddies as individuals (in a group), or you can declare a team and ride as a team.  If you are a great solo rider you can indeed ride alone if you want to.

So what is in it for me?
POINTS which accumulate for recognition with the sanctioning organziation NACMO.
PRIZES for reaching
 competition plateau’s
Best of all….bragging rights ☺.

The following are where you will currently find chapters of CMO's offering rides.  If you don't see your region, get in contact with someone from NACMO, get a group of horse enthusiasts together,  have a clinic,  and start your own chapter.  

Number of Members
Chapter 2010 2011 2012
Minnesota / Wisconsin 81 92 86
New Jersey/ New Your 31 39 21
Michigan98 87 82
Washington 115 111 129
Idaho1 1 34
Total 431 443 453

This sport has so much potential for growth.  As horse activities go it is dirt cheap.  Where can you participate in an all day competition for $10-15?   It kind of takes the bite out of those high gas prices.  Let me give you an example of my two day expense for an LD (let's pretend I am not an AERC member).

Entry fees for non-member:  $160
Fuel to a close ride:  $120    So about $280 to ride Saturday & Sunday at the LD distance of 25 miles. If I join I can lower that by $30 (but it will cost about $80 to join).  In fairness, you do get the magazine when you join.

Entry fee for a non-member: $30 covers both days.
Fuel to a close ride $120 for a total of $150 for a two day competition including your fuel.   That saves me $130 almost enough for my NEXT FULL WEEKEND RIDE.  In tough economic times that is a big savings.  Enough in fact that I'm headed to Illinois next weekend ☺.

Other likeable things about CMO?  Say you only like to do one or two distance rides a year?  CMO will totally get that horse into shape as you are basically doing some form of intervals at walk, trot, canter for two hours on a short course, and about four or more on a long course.  You also get  plenty of opportunity to teach your horse something other than going forward, forward, always forward.  The thing that I've found I'm liking best about it, is it is also intellectually challenging.  You have to be alert, aware, and thinking.  If you are doing it as a group you need to work together, It is not just a horse race, it is figuring out the quickest path to a location, finding the station and recording the code, using your horse well, and trying to get it all done in a decent amount of time.  On the other can take all day if you want to in most locations, so it is truly family friendly, and fun for all ages.

Check it out.  Start a chapter where you live!


  1. It looks like fun! Unfortunately, there are no CMOs near me (VA). Way back when (probably 15 years ago) the CMO group in New Jersey personally contacted me to see if I wanted to put on a CMO in Virginia and get it started down here. Now I am sorry that I didn't give it more thought. I guess I could always contact them and see about doing one here!

    As for your map holder, rather than use a ziplock bag, let me recommend the Osprey map holder. Check it out at:

    I got one of these recently, and trust me when I say it is worth every single dime I paid for it. I ride on public trails here in Northern VA, rotating between about six different parks on a regular basis. I literally store a stack of maps in my Osprey map holder and whatever map I need for the day I just put that one out front. I attached a carabiner to the end strap of the map holder, then snap the carabiner to a D ring on the front of my saddle. That way I have easy access to my map. When I am not using the map holder, I fold it over and tuck it into one pocket of my pommel bag. I can just open the map holder and lay it across my pommel if I am riding along at a walk, trying to find a turn, or roll it up and just let it hang down one side if I am trotting down the trail. Makes following a map so much easier and I don't have to deal with plastic bags or dropping my precious map!

  2. Nice map holder! LSEGH had ordered one for me from a different company that is very similar. I do like how this one rolls up into a neat little packet though. I've tied yarn lanyards onto my inkpen, and stowed a spare compass on my saddle "just in case". For sure the gear needed is simple for this sport and all my endurance stuff works out fine. Compass was about $10, map holder $19, a piece of yarn, and an ink pen!

  3. On setting up a ride? I'd say go for it! Not nearly as complicated as setting up an endurance ride. No ribbons to hang, just setting up the 10 stations for each day (20 if it is a two-day ride). For the short course you just use 5 that are clustered the closest to camp. A woman in Alabama is setting up a ride currently trying to launch it down there. NACMO would love to get chapters going in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. It would open up great riding choices for the membership to plan vacations and accumulate more points!

  4. Regarding the map holders - the reason that wouldn't work for WACMO: the maps usually have the clues on the backside, so you're constantly flipping it over and using both sides. The word ZIPLOCK across one side was always an issue though.

  5. Hey, how much land is needed for a CMO? Or maybe I should ask how many miles of trail are needed? Do the riders mainly stay on the trails, or is there a certain amount of "cross country" riding expected?

  6. Here is the management rule which is based more on time than distance:
    " A sanctioned ride should be planned for approximately 2 hours duration. There is no penalty for a rider or team finishing earlier. In the event a ride is so short that it clearly violates the intent of the 2 hour rule, the matter will be referred to the board for review and possible warning and/or decertification."

    Source link credit is NACMO,

    Thinking in terms of traveling around at a nice little trot, averaging 5 mph, you'd need a trail about 10 miles long. Depending on where a ride is held you may have access to go off trail, but most state park systems at least in our region will really NOT LIKE you doing that. Much discussion is going on in the sport concerning how to handle the stations, make the sport still challenging, and not go off trail. This ride coming up in ILLINOIS would not allow management to set the stations off trail, so it will interesting to see how they handle "hiding" them. I did have some thoughts on how one might possibly do that but it would require a rule change to do it.

  7. OH CRUD......and LSEGH ordered me a map holder. I guess I could beg for two. Put the map in the holder, and the copy for the clues in my pocket!

  8. Thanks for all the info. I will have to think about this! The main issue I would have to deal with is camping, since the closest campground for horses is about two hours away (in good traffic). There are a couple of nice parks with about ten miles of trails only five minutes from my apartment, but none of them will allow overnight camping for horses.

    It is interesting about the clues being posted on the back of the maps. I guess my map holder (as awesome as it is) would not work. Unless, of course, I got a hold of a copy of the clues and put that in a second map holder. Hmmmm...lots to think about!

    Thanks for all this info! I will have lots to mull over in the next couple of months. I have organized lots of group trail rides for various riding clubs, plus many organized endurance training rides for the local endurance club, but nothing like this! It would be nice to bring a fun, inexpensive horse sport to Virginia!

    1. There is nothing that I saw in the rules that said it "has" to be a two day event. Since the ride is relatively short 2-4 hours, and doesn't start until about 10:30 in the morning (at least here) it could easily be run as a day ride. Would be a great way to stir interest in the sport anyway. The endurance rider who rode with me (and she is hard core devoted to endurance) had a blast. She wasn't finding a lot but was handy trail navigator and got so excited when one of us found the plate (station). More fun than anything is finding the station and then having to act like you didn't find it, and figure out how to clue your team members "in" without tipping off the competition that is looking for it too. Since it is a timed event there is that race element too, but you are not allowed (at least the park I was at) into the finish. So we have this guy waving an imaginary finish flag,urging us on...I tell Janet I'm about to whip her butt at CMO, give a little kick and Journey is pitty-pat trotting in first (for our group) AND THE CROWD CHEERS! It was silly good fun :) You can tell people love the sport by those big smiles everywhere.

    2. Oh! On map holders. Most of the people I saw at the ride just used a simple sheet protector like you'd cover pages in a binder with. Those things cost about a dime, and are easily replace. They have holes (for the binder) which you could attach a small caribiner to attach to the saddle.

  9. that's interesting about the bushwhacking issue. i'd heard rumors that in other states, they don't do much bushwhacking, whereas WACMO, virtually all plates require leaving the trail. since i have a dream of starting the sport in germany, i am mostly concerned about this because off trail riding is not allowed here. also, horse camping does not exist. although our ride season always starts with single day rides, i really love the camping. also, i have no idea how you'd manage it with no bushwhacking. please keep us informed about this issue.

    1. Yes, the parks here are getting really serious about not going off trail. That will create some real challenges in setting up the stations and not making the find "to easy." Illinois will be interesting. The ride I went to, the second day the stations were SO WELL HIDDEN you wanted to pull your hair out. Sometimes they were hidden almost in plain sight and you could see the...but you KNEW they were there.

  10. oh, i should have read more carefully - you are talking about state parks. WACMO does not use them as far as i know, they use DNR land mostly. state parks do not allow geocaching either, because geocaching almost always involves bushwhacking too.