CMO History

2006 marked the 25th anniversary of Competitive Mounted Orienteering and we're now in our 37th year!  Have you ever wondered where the sport started?

From Cliff Pladsen, founder:  In the spring of 1981 my wife, our children, and a few friends went riding in a State Forest north of Ogilvie, Minnesota. We were not familiar with the area. We simply wanted an enjoyable ride in a natural setting, away from roads and arenas. We parked our trailers in a small grassy clearing at the end of an unmaintained road, unloaded our horses and saddled up. Heading down what I assume was an old overgrown logging trail, as there were neither any worn paths, nor even any sign of recent human exploitation, we were expecting to return within a couple of hours. Our adventurous nature dictated that we not retrace our route when it was time to go back. We knew we were generally south of where we parked, but which way was NORTH? The sky was completely over cast, we didn't have a map or a compass, and no, moss doesn't only grow on the north side of trees. To make it short, we were late for chores that night.

Following that experience I decided to make a horseback riding game or sport out of it that would be fun, educational, and for those who wanted to ply their navigational skills against others, competitive. After much trial, error, research, thought, time, and expense, I wrote up the rules, and named it the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COMPETITIVE MOUNTED ORIENTEERING. Thanks to the participants, members, and leaders, like Walter H. Olson, CMO will flourish. Enjoy, and God Bless.

From Walt Olsen,  past Executive Director: In 1981 Mr. Cliff Pladsen from Olgilvie, Minnesota conceived the idea for the use of horses and orienteering. After developing and refining the sport for several years and printing rules and setting up regions with directors throughout the United States. He patented, copyrighted and trademarked the sport in 1983. This new concept of having fun with your horse and meeting new friends and not be being judged to place and receive awards became the ideal way for many to have fun and win honors while riding. At this time “THE THINKING HORSE SPORT” trademark was first used. Mr. Pladsen ran this sport as a business for the years 1981 until 1990. Many folks learned about the sport through the media and by word of mouth, and it continued to grow during those years. State directors appointed by Mr. Pladsen were encouraged to set up their own state chapters, and many of them did. A National Championship ride was conducted in 1988, and was held on the Pladsen property in Minnesota. Mr. Pladsen, running NACMO as a business endeavor, held events on his farm in Minnesota until 1991. At that time, he sold the assets of NACMO to Walter H. Olsen of Tenino, Washington. The organization obtained liability insurance that covered all events nationwide. More and more state, national, and county parks and other land owners began to require that horse events have insurance coverage to use all lands. This insurance covered those needs and helped our sport grow. A board of directors to oversee the running of NACMO was created. At that time board members were from Washington State and were elected for two-year terms by members of the Washington State chapter (WACMO). State Directors from other states served on the national advisory board to the parent board of directors from 1993- 1998. In 1998 the Board was reorganized, and each state holding at least five sanctioned rides each season were given a seat on the Board. A workable set of national by-laws was adopted. National Awards were expanded into different levels, and a new Short Course Division was started for those who wanted a shorter ride. With these improvements, NACMO membership has continued to grow each year. Board meetings are held as needed in an internet chat room.

A  national web site is maintained at A newsletter, The Meadow Muffin is published four times a year and is available through a link HERE.  Rider, ride management, and horse points are tracked on the national website HERE and are easily accessible to anyone who wants to view them.

If you are looking for something new to do with your horse and want to have fun for the whole family, this is the sport that you need to join!

**CMO, NACMO, AAMO, AACMO, WAMO, WACMO, MO and other states with CMO in them are copyrighted. National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering logos, rules, videos, photos and printed materials are all copyrighted; trademarked and may be used with our permission upon fees paid to the Association by membership dues or ride manager fees or International license contracts.