A common conundrum: You and a friend need to get to the general store
as fast as possible, but there's only one horse.What do you do if
the horse can't carry two people? Flip a coin? Perhaps one person
should ride the horse while the other runs along beside it.
While this age old dilemma doesn't have a perfect answer, it has had
since 1971 a loyal following trying to do their best. They call
themselves the Ride and Tie Association, founded in 1988, and they
have been competing against each other for over 35 years.
Mainly in the western U.S., Ride 'n' Tie competitions culminate in a
summer World Championships, with the very best coming together to
battle each other for cash prizes. To get there, the athletes need
strategy possibly more than aerobic ability and riding skill.
The common strategy to cover the race distance of 20-100 miles most
quickly includes letting the horse and one rider get well in front of
the rider-on-foot, or runner, before tieing the horse to a tree. The
upcoming runner unties the horse, hops on, and proceeds to catch the
former rider, who is now on foot. The riders take turns on the horse
in this manner all the way to the finish, where the last of the
teammates to cross the line determines the finishing time.
This strategy is vastly superior to the common solution of keeping the
team together throughout the race. Imagine this: Team Buckeroo stays
together for the whole race and simply switches riders, while
similarly-fit Team Mustang Sally uses the previously described
strategy for a short 10 mile race with both teams switching riders
only once, at halfway. Team Buckeroo makes it to five miles in about
40 minutes along with the first runner from Mustang Sally. However,
at that point the Mustang Sally runner finds an abandoned horse and
can ride it as fast as she wants without leaving any teammates far
behind, presumably until very close to the finish. On the other hand,
the Buckeroos will cover the last five miles only as fast as their
second runner, who probably can't keep pace with Mustang Sally's
four-legged teammate. Victory: Team Mustang Sally.