A Competitive Mounted Orienteering’s competition was held at Layton Hill Horse Camp last weekend. Organizer Wendy Brundle, left, along with one of this year’s top prize winning teams — the Free 4 Alls —in the long course competition Brianna Bell, Darcy Jaxon and Melissa Rogers. (Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News)

A Competitive Mounted Orienteering’s competition was held at Layton Hill Horse Camp last weekend. Organizer Wendy Brundle, left, along with one of this year’s top prize winning teams — the Free 4 Alls —in the long course competition Brianna Bell, Darcy Jaxon and Melissa Rogers. (Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News)

HORSEPLAY: Horseback treasure hunts offer fun for all riders

A TREASURE HUNT on a horseback ride through the woods — how cool is that? The Competitive Mounted Orienteering (CMO) organization is just that — a mounted treasure hunt. And last weekend, a competition was held in our neck of the woods at Layton Hill Horse Camp in Sequim.

The ride was organized by Craig and Wendy Brundle. Normally, the Agnew couple have to travel off the Peninsula to take part in competitions, but for the last three years, they’ve sponsored rides in Sequim.

So far, the majority of competitors travel from areas off the Peninsula. Their hope is more local riders will get involved, too.

“It’s really a fun time for the whole family,” Wendy said.

There’s no age limit as to who can compete. If you can ride, read a map and use a map-reading compass, then you can join the fun. While serious competitors are there to complete the hunt in the fastest time, many enjoy just learning new trails and taking part in the treasure hunt.

Each event is divided into long (10 objectives) and short (five objectives) course divisions. Typical rides can cover 5 to 25 miles. Riders accumulate points for annual awards, and ribbons are awarded at each ride through sixth place on the long course and third place on the short course.

The object of the sport is to ride out as an individual or a team on a prescribed course, find as many of the hidden Objective Stations as you can and get back in the least amount of time, on either a 10-station long or five-station short course.

The long course can be anywhere from around 8 miles to as long as 25 miles. The terrain depends on the ride manager’s choice of area — but CMO rides are held all over the country, from the high forests of the state to the rolling hills of Indiana.

At Layton Hill, the map included trails and logging roads on the adjacent DNR land.

Each day before the 10 a.m. start time, new riders were given a practice run with instructors to learn what to look for on the trail and how to use the compass. Only one type is allowed, an orienteering or field compass for map reading.

“You can’t use the compass on your phone or any other type,” said Wendy, who is also the administrator for the Facebook page Olympic Peninsula Riders, a meeting place for local riders to meet up and enjoy rides together, along with general postings of horse events and riding tips.

When I spoke with her on Saturday morning, the first day of competition, she expressed disappointment there weren’t any local riders taking part this weekend. Later, I found out the Duerr family arrived from Port Angeles for Sunday’s competition.

Tanya Hull Duerr, riding with her husband Charlie, son Levi and his friend Mikael Hatch, said of her first-time experience, “It’s so fun! It’s like a geocaching and scavenger hunt all in one! You get three clues for each plate and a map with locations of each plate. Then use your clues, the map and compass to find the exact location of the plates that are hidden. It was a blast.”

So far they’ve been the only local riders to take part in the Sequim event. All the other riders came from “the other side of the water,” namely cities such as Spanaway, Puyallup and Hoquiam.

Wendy said most riders she’s spoken with locally have shied away after hearing a compass is used to read the map and track down clues. She plans on hosting a few map- and compass-reading clinics to entice more riders for next year’s event.

Each day after the ride, a memorable potluck dinner was held during which riders kicked back and swapped stories.

CMO event

Competitive Mounted Orienteering (CMO) is a nonprofit organization intended to be a safe, inexpensive and fun equine activity for all riders. Conducted in such a manner as to both encourage competition among those seeking a competitive event and to encourage casual, family-style riding for those wishing a less-challenging event.

Competitors may ride single or in teams.

Event organizers provide maps and course outlines. Participants use their own horses and bring their own compass. Tools used are a compass, a map with accompanying clues and a pen.

The map reading or orientating compass is laid on the top of a map to determine the direction of an area or location. In CMO, the numbers on the dial and the arrows on the compass are used to take readings from each landmark to help locate each station.

Using these tools, riders search for designated “objective stations” (paper plates with an individual code written on each one) inside a ¾-mile circled area on the event map. Clues for each station are listed on the back of the map, with intersecting compass bearings pointing at the hidden plate.

A single horse and rider, or teams from two to six horses and riders, are timed on how long it takes them to find all of the hidden plates and return to the starting point. The objective is to find all the hidden plates and record the letters on the plates in the shortest amount of time.

Riders travel at their own pace and determine which stations to find, in any order.

Start times are staggered between groups and individual competitors with the hope neither will see each other on the trail as they search for the “treasure” or objective stations. The map and clues are handed to each rider at the start line.

For newcomers to the sport, ride organizers provide plenty of instruction at the events, including a pre-ride meeting and a practice objective station.

New competitors can often team with more seasoned CMO riders to help them learn the ropes.

The cost for equipment is minimal, too. An orienteering compass can be purchased at most sporting goods stores for around $10 to $20.

Ride fees are kept low to encourage participation.

Ride managers offer ribbons or small but useful prizes, and most CMOs offer overnight camping with a potluck dinner and campfire as part of the fun.

Those with the most points for the day in each division (group or single rider, long or short course) are awarded ribbons. Those with the most points at the end of the season are awarded prizes.

Events are staged out of horse camps and DNR riding areas all across the state and country.

Spring and summer rides are held on Saturday and Sunday with a potluck dinner and campfire Saturday night to hand out ribbons, and to visit and laugh about strategies that did or didn’t work.

You can give it a try as a day member for $5 (insurance fee) plus the regular members ride fee (about $15) per day. Annual membership dues are $40 (families) or $25 (individual)plus $5 for state dues.

Having a national and state membership qualifies each rider and their horse for lifetime awards. All breeds and disciplines are welcomed.

To join CMO, simply show up to attend a ride in your area. There’s no requirement to preregister online, although you can do that, too. The ride manager will help you with the application form, and your membership is valid right away.

For more information about CMOs, go to www.wacmo.org.

Fall sale

On Saturday, Oct. 8, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Olympic Peninsula Equine Network (OPEN) is hosting its fall tack sale to help fund this local horse rescue, rehab and rehome organization just off Hooker Road at 251 Roupe Road in Sequim.

Shop at the onsite tack shop or at one of the individual booths.

Have tack, artwork or crafts to sell? Space rentals are just $20 for the day.

Come see the horses OPEN has up for adoption, then shop for winter blankets and other supplies. Discounts for young riders, 4-H and FFA members.

For questions or to reserve a space, leave a message at 360-207-1688 or e-mail secretary@olypenequine.net.

Horse vets

BCH Buckhorn Range chapter member Helen Shewman shared with me an insightful article from thehorse.com about equine veterinarian care, the impending equine health care crisis and how we horse owners can help.

It’s no secret we have a rapidly diminishing supply of medical doctors for humans, but are you aware there’s also a crisis looming over a lack of equine veterinarians?

“Apparently vets are really being treated poorly in all practices, not just equine. We should appreciate all our caretakers, animal and human,” Shewman said.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

Type of compass used for CMO is an orientating or map reading compass.

Type of compass used for CMO is an orientating or map reading compass.

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