As did her older sister, Laney, Carrie Baris ran cross country and track competitively in high school.
Some 10 years ago, Laney began running again, and so too did Carrie. Laney entered the Death Valley Marathon, so Carrie entered and ran with her.
But when Laney suggested Carrie follow her lead and take up a new sport, one that involved both riding on and running with horses, Carrie wasn’t exactly certain whether to stay that course or not.
“She told me many stories about this crazy sport,” Baris said of the perhaps not-so-well-known sport of Ride and Tie.
“In 2013, when a race was held at Clemson for the first time, one of her regular partners, Janice Heltibridle, needed a partner for the 30-mile course. Laney volunteered me, and I partnered with Janice and her horse, Bubba. Hot, steamy, exhausted and filthy, we crossed the finish line last in my first race. But I had been instantly drawn in by the close-knit community.”
Thus hooked, the Polk County High School English teacher has continued to compete in the sport and compete well – she is currently ranked fifth in the national individual rankings compiled by the Ride and Tie Association.
Ride and Tie is, at its most basic, a test of speed and endurance of both horse and human. Races are held on trails ranging from 10 to 30 miles and are contested by teams of two humans and one horse. At the start of the race, one team member begins running while another begins riding. At some point, the rider will stop and tie the horse to a tree, then start running. When the first runner reaches the horse, he or she saddles up and rides until they pass the other team member. At some point thereafter, the second rider ties the horse and starts running and the process repeats.
The two humans must switch positions at least six times during a race, with the winning team being the first to have both humans and their horse cross the finish line. Races are both physical and strategic as teams must decide how far each member will run before making each switch. Ideally, swaps are made when the two humans are within a half-mile to three-quarters of a mile of one another.
“I primarily compete in the longer races, 25 to 30 miles,” Baris said. “Partners usually try to strategize the faster and/or stronger runner spending more time on the ground. In the East Coast Championship this fall, my partner Diana Burk and I were able to place second (out of 21 teams) because she is a very fast runner and I am consistently strong. We outran the competition.
“The closer partners are when they tie, the faster that the team can go. That way, though I might run 15 miles in a race, those miles are in shorter sprints instead of longer slogs. This means more mounting and dismounting from the horse, which takes up time, but usually the speed of the runners compensates for that. The horse has to be consistently strong and fast as well, and most of these horses are conditioned for much longer races, 50 to 100-mile endurance competitions, so they are able to maintain a trot or canter for most of the race.”
Few other Ride and Tie participants live in the area, and Baris doesn’t own a horse, so most of her training focuses on running. She typically runs anywhere from 20 to 40 miles per week, training for distance events when not preparing for a Ride and Tie race. That season lasts from April to October, and Baris welcomes it not only for the competition, but the competitors.
“I love the community,” she said. “Many of these competitors have become my friends, and I enjoy the friendly competition. Running itself is enjoyable, but Ride and Tie offers more strategy and teamwork. The element of a horse, another person, strategy over when and where to tie, and the endurance of a longer event is much more challenging than just running.”
Baris, who covered 289 miles running this season in Ride and Tie events, points to that East Coast Championship race as her most memorable experience to date, an example of everything she loves about the sport.
“At the East Coast Championship this year, when Diana and I turned out of the vet check (at longer events, horses are examined by a vet midway through the race), we knew we were following only two other teams because it had rained the night before and we could see only two sets of hoofprints in the mud on the trail in front of us,” Baris said. “We pushed those last 15 miles to try and stay ahead of the field, but in the last two miles caught up to and passed another team, securing second place.
“Everything went right for us in that race, and training and persistence paid off.”