Wednesday, December 05, 2018

2019 Ride Season - Ashley Wingert - Full Story


AERC ride season starts Dec 1 and runs through Nov 30 of the following year. Which means that as of this past Saturday, 12/1, the 2019 AERC ride season was on!

Only once in the 13 years I’ve been doing endurance have I done a December ride…they just historically haven’t happened very frequently in AZ, which is a shame because the weather in early December is just about perfect. I’m guessing that timing between holidays probably makes it more difficult.

But we’re fortunate this year in that we’ve got a brand-new ride coming up on Saturday, 12/8 — the Dashing Through the Trails ride, held at Estrella Mountain Park. I’m really excited about this ride — it’s “local” to me, being only an hour away, and it’s the site of my very first competitive trail ride I did, back in 2001, so there’s some major nostalgia and memories involved...

Read more here:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Mongolia: The Wild, Wild Steppe - Kelsey Riley - Full Story

November 26, 2018 at 12:51 pm
By Kelsey Riley

The Mongol Derby wants to kill you.

I had been warned of it. I had started to suspect it. Now, as a pair of snarling dogs came lurching at me as I hung off the side of my bolting horse, I knew it to be true.

We had been galloping for 10 kilometers down a desolate dirt road through what appeared to be an equine cemetery, with horse skulls and bits of bone scattered across the green knolls. Rounding a bend, we found ourselves face-to-face with a fully intact horse skeleton. As my horse spooked, launching me half out of the saddle, two dogs blasted out of a ger, biting at his ankles as I struggled to hang on.

Really? This is how I’m going to die? A year of preparation to ride 620 miles across the Mongolian steppe and I’m going to be ripped to pieces just four days in by two angry, potentially rabid dogs?

“Not today, boys!” I shouted as I hauled myself back up onto the saddle. As we reached the edges of their territory, the dogs backed off and slowly disappeared into the distance.

Welcome to the Mongol Derby. That was pretty much a typical moment in the world’s longest and toughest horse race, where riders have 10 days to navigate 1,000 kilometers of the Mongolian steppe on the backs of semi-wild horses...

Read more here:

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Horseback Riding in Egypt: Valley of the Kings New Year Celebration with Ride Egypt - Full Article

March 1 2018
by Felicia Quon

Equestrian adventurer Felicia Quon shares her personal experience of horseback riding through the land of the pharaohs with Ride Egypt.

“Are you mad?” “Is it safe?” These were just a few of the comments I received when I booked a solo riding holiday to Egypt. I’ll be candid, there were times when I had some reservations. But I needn’t have worried.

The nine-day Valley of the Kings New Year ride in Luxor with Ride Egypt was hands down, one of the most unforgettable, magical riding holidays I’ve experienced.

I flew into Cairo from Canada where I spent a few days exploring the bustling city. I never felt threatened. I never felt unsafe. From there, it was an easy flight to Luxor, and the moment I stepped into the warm, golden air, everything felt different. I had a sneaking suspicion that I was in for an experience. I wasn't wrong...

Read more here:

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Magic of the West Virginia Highlands

Liz-Stout Blog - Full Story

by Liz Stout
November 16 2018

Alternate titles: Recognizing Childhood Dreams; Griffin and Q Drive Cattle; The West Virginia Tundra

A new girlfriend, Emma, asked a week or so ago if I'd be interested in riding the horses in the Sinks of Gandy in the near future. Her family owns quite a bit of land up there, and she'd always dreamed of traversing it on horseback. Familiar with the area because my family has held a lease nearby her family's land for decades and I have visited the area she wanted to ride for various conservation efforts as a part of my current and past jobs, I didn't have to think about my response, "YES!"

The Sinks aren't far from Canaan Valley where I live. The area harbors a lot of similar climate to Canaan and has always been a favorite place of mine as a result. Something about these high elevation areas with red spruce forests and completely bizarre plant life compared to what you'd expect at this latitude just makes my soul happy. Both Canaan and the Sinks area a sanctuary for plant life more akin to what one may find in the tundra and the Arctic Circle, not the temperate Appalachian forests found between 38-39°N latitude!

Part of the land Emma's family owns is one of the most unique ecotypes in the world. So unique that only a handful of places like it exist anywhere on the planet. Balsam fir and red spruce litter the landscape surrounding a high elevation swamp that harbors plant life known to the Arctic circle. Karst (limestone) outcroppings litter the hillsides of the knobs, and the headwaters of several rivers begin right on the property!...

Read more here:

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Enjoying New Hampshire on Horseback - Susan St. Amand - Full Article

October 26, 2018

Equitrekking contributor and trail riding expert Susan St. Amand visits some New Hampshire's best trail riding destinations.

While traveling with my horse through the Northeast recently, I spent a few days in New Hampshire exploring Bear Brook State Park and riding on Hampton Beach.

Bear Brook State Park contains 10,000 acres of recreational space and is the largest of New Hampshire's state parks. Besides horseback riding, other activities available are hiking, biking, fishing, boating, swimming, and two archery ranges. Overnight recreational camping is also available. Bear Brook State Park and its affiliated supporters are currently in the process of planning for overnight horse camping facilities in the future. Forty miles of multi-use trails traverse through the area's marshes, ponds, and brooks. Trail maps are available and trails are well marked. Park staff were very helpful during my visit.

My favorite trail was riding along Bear Brook. The trail followed the brook very closely and on the opposite side of the trail was a steep hillside so that you had no place to travel but forward. Luckily my horse did not misstep – otherwise, I would have been swimming!...

Read more here:

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Riding Off the Grid in British Columbia - Linda Ballou - Full Story

September 11, 2018

Equestrian traveler and author Linda Ballou shares her rugged off the grid experience horseback riding through Tyslos Park Lodge in British Columbia.

I awoke to a loon’s haunting call floating over the still waters of Chilko Lagoon mirroring granite spires sporting snow in July. The smell of crackling bacon and camp coffee pulled me out of my snug sleeping bag. On the far shore, a moose with her gangly calf trotting behind was the morning news. We were totally unplugged at base camp for the pack trip out of Tyslos Park Lodge through the rugged wilderness of the Chilcotin/Cariboo region.

In the crisp morning air with dew lifting from grassy meadows, seven riders, four pack horses, and two guides headed out for Goat Camp. This is not just a ride, it is a journey back into a time when you could ride for days and see no one. We rode in silence through a grove of quaking aspen to a rocky shore of the Chilko Lake to water the horses. The trail to Goat Camp is infrequently used each season and feels a bit like bush-whacking. It snakes through alder thickets and then begins to climb. Our sturdy, sure-footed horses took on the steep ascent with aplomb...

Read more here:

My Favorite Things: Rides - Ashley Wingert - Full Story

October 12, 2018 / Ashley Wingert

My Favorite Things: A series of my favorite things of different categories, less formal than a review and more conversational musings. Everything from rides, to tack, to food, to apparel, all following a “Top Three” format. Also, because I’m me, and I’m known for changing my perspective and opinion of such things as favorites from year to year, some of these topics may end up revisited…more than once.

It was hard for me to narrow down my favorite rides, especially limiting myself to the Top Three. I can pretty easily narrow down two…but that third one I just may have to leave as a “rotating space” for now.

Virginia City 100 (Sept 2017)
It’s probably my favorite ride to date, even with not finishing. Yes, that’s how good everything else was to basically negate the Overtime pull. It’ll always be special because it was my first 100-miler attempt. It was a leap of faith, with an uncertain outcome, and I’m still proud of myself for attempting it and taking that chance, even if all the stars didn’t align for a finish.

(FWIW, 100-mile hallucinations are real. I saw land bridges and Easter Island heads.)

VC just has the best atmosphere. Given that it was the 50th anniversary ride when I rode it, it was larger that usual, with over 70 entries…but normal years has entries usually between 40-50 people, which makes for a very laid-back, more intimate type of ride. I love that it’s a 100 only, so everyone in camp to ride is there to do that ride and that distance. Kind of hard to describe, but it gives it a different feeling than other rides...

Read more here:

Friday, October 05, 2018

The First 1000 - Ashley Wingert

GoPony Blog - Full Story


There’s some trail wisdom out there that states that “The first 1000 miles are the hardest” when it comes to endurance and the learning curve.

Considering it took me 13 years to get there, I would say I made the most of that curve. But I finally did it…at least, if you’re counting combined miles (which, hey, I’ve learned just as much off of some LDs as I have longer distances).

1,015 endurance + LD miles. 12 seasons of endurance. 15 different horses (and only 1 of them mine), everything from greenies on their first ride to “hold my beer and watch me show you how its done” experienced campaigners. One heck of a learning experience…and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface...

Read more here:

Barnyard Basics: Ahmahl the clown and endurance rides - Full Article

October 5 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last of three parts about a truly unique horse.

The spring of 1976, I was riding Ahmahl to move cattle and he trotted through some sharp rocks to head a wayward cow and stone bruised a front foot. He was lame for several days.

The bruise abscessed; we had to open up his sole, drain it and soak it. The infection cleared up, but he had a big hole in his sole that would take months to fill in.

Even though the abscess was healed, I couldn’t ride him. It was such a big hole that I kept his foot wrapped so he wouldn’t get dirt and gravel in it walking around in his pen. I thought about shoeing him with hoof pads, but that would not be enough protection. We decided to weld a metal plate onto a shoe, to cover that hole in his sole.

My husband Lynn created a special shoe for Ahmahl. The hole was an inch behind the toe of his foot, a little to one side, so Lynn cut a piece of flat metal the proper size and welded it to the shoe, to cover that hole. I put that shoe on, and started riding Ahmahl again.

When it came time to reset his shoes, Lynn created another “armor plated” shoe for the other front foot, to help keep it from stone bruising — since Ahmahl had such flat feet — and balance his stride, so he’d have the same weight on both feet. Lynn welded hard-surfacing material (borium, which is tungsten carbide used on drill bits) onto both shoes so they wouldn’t wear out in the rocks. This material is harder than diamonds and kept the metal shoe from wearing away. We were able to use the same shoes the rest of the summer and didn’t have to keep making new ones.

With his special shoes, Ahmahl happily trotted and galloped through rocky terrain with no fear of hurting his feet, chasing cows and competing on three more endurance rides that year, placing first on two of them and fourth on the other...

Read more here:

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Chamberlain Creek 2018: To Plan, and Not - Redheaded Endurance

Redheaded Endurance Blog - Full Story

September 26 2018

2018 has been a singularly challenging year here at RHE; from interpersonal relations to human and animal and truck injuries to general financial struggles, this year has finally cemented in me that desperate adult notion that “next year will be better!(right?!?!)” In the face of it all I am certainly ever reminded just how good that I do have it, so we’ll just let this short paragraph sum up all the Aw Craps of the year to date and move on to a new ride story, which as per usual is filled with semi ridiculous hi-jinks. Just think how boring my blogs might be if things ever went entirely to plan!


Chamberlain Creek 2018 found Kenny and I in power puff trail duo shape, having ridden most of the summer including quite a bit of endurance ride clearing, marking, and unmarking and exploring the Tevis canyons, while not having actually competed since Death Valley in December due to saddle fit readjustments and the life shenanigans mentioned above.

I have long wanted to attempt the much celebrated Virginia City 100 mile endurance ride that takes place in Nevada in the fall and I had had some notion that Kenny and I would try our hooves at it this year, but with an unorthodox ride season consisting of endless saddle fit adjustments and well, no rides, I revised that grand plan to a September 50 miler on our old home grounds in the Redwoods. We had seemingly muddled our way through Kenny’s latest Goldilocks moment and settled on a wonderfully comfortable Passier English saddle with shimmed Equipedic pad and crupper, Kenny and I had completed Chamberlain 50 in fine style last year, and with bigger goals on the horizon I was interested to see how Kenny handled the hilly 50 miler after a season of trail work versus competition miles...

Read more here:

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2018 Grand Canyon II - Valerie Jaques

FurtherAdventuresTeam91 Blog - Full Story

September 11 2018
by Valerie Jaques

The Grand Canyon ride this year has been split into two, 3 day pioneer rides. In the past, it was a single, 5 day pioneer ride. The grand experiment for the 2018 season by XP Rides has been to turn all previous 5 day rides into two 3 day rides with a rest day in between. So far, I’m liking it.

On the rest day, Wednesday, I headed into the Grand Canyon North Rim National Park. Entry was $35, but with access to the internet at the Lodge, an excellent restaurant with a view over the rim *and* offering gluten free pancakes on the breakfast menu, plus a place to shower and do laundry, it was well worth it.

After I’d gotten my shower and done my laundry, I got ice and coffee and headed back to camp. When I went to put the ice and coffee in the camper, I discovered I couldn’t get the door open. I decided it was something I should deal with in camp, so headed back.

Once back at camp, I tried again to open the camper and was utterly unsuccessful. Using the key made no difference, either. Thinking I might have better luck from the inside, I got the step ladder out of the trailer and crawled in through the camper window.

It turned out being inside just meant I couldn’t get out rather than not being able to get in.

I tried removing the door knob, as the problem was clearly the latch not moving. This did not make things better and I had to call out for help...

Read more here:

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Grand Canyon XP 2018 Day 1 55 - by Ashley Wingert

Go Pony blog - Full Story


I’ve wanted to attend the Grand Canyon XP ride for years, so when I was offered a catch ride for one of the days this past weekend, I really didn’t have to think too hard about that decision. Held near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the current ride format is 6 days long — two 3-day pioneer rides with one rest day in-between.

This time, my catch ride offer came from Crockett Dumas — he had a 9-year-old mare who was ready to do her first ride and would I be available and interested in riding her? Ooo, yes, please. It’s been several years since I’ve taken a greenie on their first ride, but the few times I’ve done it, I’ve enjoyed it.

It’s a 6-hour drive up to the North Rim for me, so I left out at o’dark thirty on Saturday morning. That is the best time to travel — I’ve never seen I-17 so emtpy — and I made it up to Flagstaff in near-record time. Flagstaff always means a stop at Macy’s, a truly excellent coffee shop that has probably some of the best coffee in the state. Grabbed coffee and breakfast to go, topped off with gas, then hit the road again...

Read more here:

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Endurance Riding by Moonlight in Vermont - Full Story

by Stacey Stearns

For the last 30 years, a 100-mile endurance ride and a 100-mile endurance run have taken place concurrently in West Windsor, Vermont. Steve Rojek was out at the Western States Trail Ride (also known as the Tevis Cup) many years ago and decided a similar event was needed on the east coast. The Vermont 100 has been ridden for the last 38 years. Then they added the run. There is also a 75-mile endurance ride and a 50-mile endurance ride (both called Moonlight in Vermont – the rides start later in the day so that you finish at night and get to ride in the dark). In addition to the 100 mile run there is a 100km run.

What does all this mean? On a weekend in mid-July every year, 400 runners, and 70 horses (83 this year!) descend on a group of hayfields in West Windsor for a fun and challenging weekend. The proceeds of all entry fees benefit Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sport. Countless volunteers and landowners make the entire weekend possible...

Read more here:

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Tevis sweep 2018 - by Irish Horse

Trails-and-trials-with-major Blog - Full Story

wednesday, august 1, 2018

It was cave-dark. A few glow sticks showed the way, but didn’t provide any light. That famous Tevis full moon didn’t penetrate through the trees. I couldn’t see my hand in front of me, so I just gave Major his head, and said get us through this. Water splashed, rocks tumbled underfoot, and he crossed the creek and up the opposite bank.

Later, on a more exposed hillside, the moonlight glowed, showing pine tree silhouettes and reflecting off the smoke in the canyon, the trail showed up clearly ahead. But only a bit of this and the trail was swallowed by trees again, Major never questioning why it was 1:00am, why we were following those people but staying back, walking over rocks, slick granite and along drop-offs, never hesitating. Trust.

My sweep section started at Foresthill, which is the one-hour vet hold 68 miles into the ride. The competitors have done the hardest canyons, but there is still plenty of climbing and descending to do to get to Auburn. Many people leave in daylight, and the front-runners left Foresthill at 5:10pm, but the last of the 87 people left at 9:50pm, with my sweep team behind them...

Read more here:

Chief Joe - Tolo Lake part 1 - Karen Bumgarner

KarensHorseTales Blog - Full Story

by Karen Bumgerner

After some very last minute changes, plan C or D was scrapped, and Peanut and I set out for the 54th Annual Chief Joseph Trail Ride on Sunday July 22. Peanut, aka HH Storm Runner, is 6 now but this whole CJ experience would be very new to him. The "new" plan, since Lynn Welborn's horse had gotten injured on the 21st, was bring Peanut, and she could ride him a couple days and I could drive etc.

This years trail would be the only loop where assembly and destination camps are the same, as that is what the Nez Perce did during their flight from Gen. Howard in 1877. Tolo was an encampment often used by the Nez Perce in the 1800's, and they would race their horses on the prairies and hunt. Our route would take us down into Hells Canyon and back up again twice during the loop.

I rode day one as we left Tolo Lake and headed out around wheat fields that were once Camas prairies, and down ravines into the timber. We were treated to a big herd of elk right after Chip's wife said, "this looks like a great place for elk!" Boom there they were, haha!...

Read more here:

Friday, July 20, 2018

2018 Big Horn 100 - Tom Noll

July 19 2018
by Tom Noll

Last weekend I rode the Big Horn 100 endurance ride with my horse Rocky. I love the ride. It was my tenth time around the circuit and my ninth completion under the time limit. My first time around was in 2003 and over the past fifteen years, I have ridden Frank, my orphaned BLM mustang Whiskey, and Rocky across the Big Horns. Rocky is seventeen years old and it was his fourth completion in four years. My horse Frank and I led the field from start to finish in 2003 winning the ride and receiving BC. The Big Horn is forever in my heart.

The Big Horn 100 is one the premier 100-mile rides sanctioned by AERC. The ride pre-dates the AERC and legend has it that a young veterinarian named Dave Nicholson was key in setting the original trail through the Big Horn Mountains. The Big Horn 100 is a big-loop ride and very few big-loop or point-to-point endurance rides are offered. The Big Horn trail travels through spectacular mountain scenery, crosses rivers and streams, travels through steep canyons and old-growth forest. The elevations along the trail range from about 4,000 feet to 10,000 feet. I do not believe that any other 100-mile endurance ride climbs to 10,000 feet. Parts of the Big Horn trail are remote and wild.

Big Horn is not an easy 100. Ride management changes the course nearly every year and the final course may not be known until the ride meeting on the evening before the ride. All of the present variations are much more difficult than the original course that was abandoned after 2005. Today’s route has greater elevation changes and is slightly longer than the original trail.

I was crewing for Lynn on the Big Horn 50 on Friday so I missed the vet-in, dinner, and the ride meeting. Fortunately, my camp neighbors Tom and Traci, and the ride managers, completed my registration and took Rocky through the vetting. When I arrived back in camp, all the paperwork was finished for the start the next morning. Camp hosts Mel and Sharon cooked an elk burger for me – thank you all!

As I saddled up, a shooting star streaked northward and I thought of Frank. We left ridecamp at 4:00 am under a canopy of stars and headed north across the shale badlands. There was no moon and it was very dark. As I rode alone, I thought of the Pony Express riders and their horses carrying the news of Lincoln’s election across the west. They rode their horses on darkened trails just like this.

The early trail had been changed to a section that we had not ridden since 2005. On other years, I had looked back at this section and had wanted to experience it again. This year was my chance.

There were several other riders from SW Idaho and we connected on the trail just before dawn. We were to ride together through day and night all the way to the finish – five women and me.

At about fourteen miles, we passed through a trot-by. Lyle, the head vet, smiled as he watched our horses and Regina offered us water and feed. Regina was the crew chief for the ladies from Idaho. We were off to a good start.

The climb up the Dugway is where the Big Horn really begins. I looked back over my shoulder to the Big Horn basin and beyond. I thought of Frank and Whiskey and how they carried me up the grade. I thought of other years on Rocky. I thought of friends who rode with me on the grade and all those memories blend together to be a part of me today. As we made the turn to the right at the top of the grade, I cast a few strands of Frank’s tail hair to the wind. Frank was a Big Horn horse in his heart and I still feel his spirit, especially on the Big Horn trail.

We traveled through the canyons, up and down, across the dividing ridges, and through the mountain streams finally making our way to the Big Horn Plateau. The wildflowers were in full bloom and the honey-sweet scent of flox was everywhere in the air. Our group took up a quick trot across the plateau, laughing and telling stories as we opened and closed the gates along the trail. After 34 miles, we trotted into the first vet check at Horse Creek where Rocky quickly pulsed down.

Lynn met me at the vet check and took superb care of Rocky. I wandered over to the cook table and gathered together an excellent breakfast of scrambled eggs and hash browns. For the rest of the hour, I sat in a chair, watching Rocky and enjoying my experience.

Too soon, we were off again on the eight miles of road. Regina, Lynn, and Shayla’s family worked out a leap-frog system meeting us at all the gates with water and feed. Kathleen had a big Tennessee Walking Horse / Morgan cross and that horse set a great pace as we rode along. I looked around at the horses and riders as we rode along and thought to myself, “If I am going to ride in a large group, I love riding in a lose posse of good riders and good horses.”

We left the road on a climb leading to a ridgeline fence. The fence is one of the few places where you can still see the deeply weathered signs with only “100” carved into wood to mark the original trail. Looking across to Antelope Butte, I was thinking, “This is one of my favorite places on the trail.” I like the weather-beaten sign, the expansive views, and the complete lack of a trail through this section even though the route is clear. I have many photos of friends on this ridge.

We rode down to the ski area and I quickly passed through knowing there was natural water and grass just up the trail. Unfortunately, Merri’s horse was slightly off so she dropped from our group. We then began the climb back to the plateau telling more stories and laughing. We shared personal stories and deepened our 100-mile friendship through our trail experience.

This year, we diverted over to the Mail Trail. The Mail Trail was new and I was hoping that it offered an easier descent to Shell Creek. It was a smooth descent but as soon as the trail reached the creek it became rough and rocky and our pace slowed considerably. We crossed several log bridges that flexed and swayed for the horses. Very few riders know the feeling of riding a solid horse across a bridge as it bounces and sways. I truly enjoy the single-track sections of the Big Horn trail, but they can be very slow, and this trail was slow.

We met our crews again where the road crosses Shell Creek and then we were off on the long climb to the vet check at Battle Creek. We took our time climbing because it had been a long day and we faced a long night.

It was late when we came into the vet check at Battle Creek. We were tired and feeling the effects from riding all day. I was concerned about the time we lost on the Mail Trail and I was lost in my own world as I prepared for Boulder Basin. All day the question in our group of riders had been, “Will we be off the Shag Nasty before dark?” I felt confidence and doubt all at the same time and now we faced the test. I placed my headlamp on my helmet.

We left Battle Creek at about 5:30. We had already ridden sixty miles but ahead of us were big climbs and descents, river crossings, and the highest point of the trail at 10,000 feet. Five hours on the trail would bring us back to Battle Creek in darkness. We rode off and we made steady progress catching Cindy Collins, Gunnar and Alana Frank and the posse increased to ten. The trail was scantly marked but I know the route. I began to feel the weariness and responsibility of leading friends on a 100-miles of trail when the trail marking is not clear.

On the descent to Shell Reservoir, we briefly split up. I rode on and saw Tom Currier and Jennifer Kaplan at the Shell Reservoir outflow, but they were soon gone, setting a pace that was too fast for me. We rode on passing along the waters of Adelaide Lake and then on through Boulder Basin climbing the rocky trail.

At the high point, the top of the Shag Nasty, there were no trail markings. I was frustrated knowing that the top is a very easy place to lose the trail. I had to take my time to be sure because others were relying on me. I rode on down knowing the way but also knowing that the trail was confusing. I looked back over my shoulder but no one was there. I left the trail and rode across to a meadow where I could see better and be seen myself. I saw Connie high on the ridge. I called to her and she collected her friends to rejoin the trail. We finally saw a flag well off the top confirming that we were on the trail.

Soon we were together again making a fast pace down the Shag Nasty. The Shag Nasty has good footing and we used the trail to our advantage. We met Patti Tollman marking trail and soon met Regina when we rejoined the road. We were off the Shag Nasty before dark! We picked up a very fast trot. We maintained that fast trot all the way to our second Battle Creek hold which we reached just at 9:30. We ran the Boulder Basin loop in four hours, an excellent pace, but Tom and Jennifer were not there. Where did they miss the trail? Were they prepared to spend the night out? Were they in trouble? No one knew.

We left Battle Creek in complete darkness. I was cold and I am always cold at Battle Creek after dark. Even on my tenth trip, I still had to convince myself that I would again feel the summer heat in less than a mile from Battle Creek.

The trail led us through herds of horses and herds of cows, showing only their eyes and their dark shadows beside us on the trail. We saw a very new moon slowly reveal her crescent figure as she slipped between the clouds and the horizon. Lightning flashed in the distance and the whole feeling was surreal. I have said before, “The magic in a hundred doesn’t appear until the second fifty.” There was magic in the air.

There is only one trail down off the mountain. Layne, Shyla, and I made our way down in the nighttime darkness. I used a headlamp and led down the trail. The descent off the mountain can seem never-ending. It is a tough section of trail made even tougher by all the previous miles. Our horses briefly became tangled in a mass of barbed wire and fencing debris near the stock ponds. Later, the mud bogs from the stock water overflow were deep and soft. Lameness became a real concern for us all.

We came down and made the big turn trotting in to this year’s finish at Trapper Creek. Rocky and I crossed the line at 1:30 in the morning. He ran strongly through the 100 miles being forward from the start all the way to the finish. Rocky was a twenty-dollar Craigslist horse destined for the killers only a few years ago. Today, he has an enviable record and I am very proud of him and all that we have done together. Rocky is a good horse.

We had an informal awards ceremony way too early the next morning at 7:00 am. Even so, I enjoyed talking with the few riders who were awake and about. There was no breakfast this year and I greatly missed sharing scrambled eggs and stories with the other riders and crews who have become true friends over the years. We all packed up and headed our own separate ways after brief good-byes.

Looking back on my ride, the first sixty miles of the trail all the way to the Battle Creek vet check was very well marked. Even the new section down the Mail Trail was slow but easy to follow. After Battle Creek the trail markings became very sparse or non-existent. There were almost no markings on the loop around the lakes and through Boulder Basin. Many riders missed the turn at the highest point on the course and found their own trails to reconnect with the route before darkness. Many of us were showing deep frustration by the time we returned to Battle Creek. The trail beyond Battle Creek down the mountain to the finish was also sketchy. The wire and fence debris was dangerous. The markings were intermittent and provided more confirmation than direction. Perhaps it was trail sabotage, but I find sabotage doubtful due to the long distances and difficult access.

The Big Horn 100 is truly one of the premier rides sanctioned by the AERC. In my opinion, it is time for the AERC to take a larger role supporting this premier ride and it is time to the ride management to embrace outside support. It is time to delegate and assign tasks because managing the Big Horn is too much for one person and even too much for one family. We can all do our part. I think if we start now, we may even get the wilderness trail back. Perhaps it is time for the Big Horn 100 to return to its roots and become the type of event that was the venue for high-profile rides such as the Race of Champions. I love the Big Horn 100.

Strawberry Fields Ride 2018 - Ashley Wingert - Full Story


With the countdown at less than 10 days til T-Day, and less than a week until D-for-T (Departure-for-Tevis) Day, I figured I’d better get a move on and get this story out before too much time goes by.

The Strawberry Field Forever ride has been on my bucket list since I started distance riding. Back in 2002, when I had been doing about half a season of NATRC, I went to Mimi’s and my last POA show…the POA Worlds, up in Spanish Fork, UT. It was an almost week-long gig, with only so much for someone who is not showing (aka, “one’s show parents”) to do…so my dad took a couple of days to go up to the Strawberry NATRC ride. Originally his plan was to hang out and visit, but he got drafted as ride photographer. Long story short, he fell in love with the area and the amazing scenery, and we talked for years about how we needed to get up there again and do the ride.

So imagine my delight when I found out there was also an endurance ride up there. Ir’s been on my ride radar for forever, so I was quite ecstatic when Troy contacted me to see if I would be interested in riding Flash for a couple of days at Strawberry this year.

Let’s see…ride I’m dying to do? On a horse I love to ride? Yeeesssssssssssss!!!...

Read more here:

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Return to the wild: a week at Zapata Ranch in Colorado - Full Article & Photos

JUN 22, 2018

Vast desolate landscapes, epic cattle stampedes, notorious gunslingers and lone heroes such as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, William S Hart and Clint Eastwood. The myth of the cowboy is indelibly linked to the celluloid tropes and characters of the great American Western. Then came the denim-clad, Stetson-wearing Marlboro man of the ’70s – an enduring, if clich├ęd, archetype of cowboy culture that is etched into our collective memory: brooding, enigmatic and tough as nails.

The word ‘cowboy’ sounds like an anachronism today, especially given the wider use of terms such as ‘rancher’ and ‘wrangler’ to describe men and women who live the ranching lifestyle. But at Zapata Ranch in Southern Colorado, cowboys have proudly reinvented themselves as agricultural conservationists or ‘land stewards’ who use traditional and sustainable methods to wrangle livestock and run the ranch as their ancestors did, while supporting a landscape of stunning biodiversity, replete with high desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes and lush meadows.

Zapata Ranch isn’t easy to get to: almost four hours south of Denver and 30min from the nearest (tiny) town
 – Blanca, which has just one convenience store, stocking the obligatory Stetsons and cowboy boots – it’s isolated from civilisation...

Read more here:

Sunday, May 13, 2018

2018 Owyhee River Challenge - Jessica Cobbley

May 18 2018

by Jessica Cobbley

Well, we made it through the Owyhee River Challenge CTR and 55 mile endurance ride. It was a little more exciting of a weekend than I had planned.

Almost as soon as we unloaded, Khalid got his lead rope under the handle of the back door of the trailer, freaked out and snapped the latch off. Mike headed in to town to see if he could find a new latch, basically scotching his plans to ride the CTR on Khalid.

I saddled Brass about 10:30 Friday for a 25 mile CTR and he blew up at the trailer, indulging in about a 5 minute fit of hysterics. After the pre-ride meeting, I bridled up and started moving Brass around from the ground, and watched with growing skepticism of my survival as he bucked so hard and so long that my water bottles went flying, then got bucked on. He kept bucking until my saddle started climbing his neck. Eventually he sort of came to terms with the situation, but I walked him out of camp on foot for about a mile, then spent the rest of the loop basically sitting on an irritated lit stick of dynamite, hoping we would get through before the fuse ran out. He vetted through fine (if still freaky) and Mike decided to take Khalid out on loop 2, which made for a much less exciting loop.

Brass finished the CTR with Reserve Champion score of 97 out of 100, but his back was sore. Not sure if it was sore when I saddled and that’s why he bucked so hard or if he bucked so hard he made it sore, but either way he was a no-go for the 55.

After a quick conference with Mike, we decided I would take Dega on the 55 and Mike would take Khalid for a slow, first 55. I debated riding with him, but decided to go on out on my own. However, as Dega and I zig-zagged out of camp Saturday morning I realized my stirrups were about 2 holes too long and probably I was gonna die if I couldn’t get my legs under me. By the time I got my stirrups straightened out, I decided to just hang with Mike and Karen. Dega punished me for this decision every time his hooves hit the ground for about 15 miles. If you’ve ever ridden a super-pissed off pogo stick- it was like that. Finally, I decided to go on ahead and Dega took off like a bat out of hell. We ended up coming into the hold about 1/2 an hour ahead of Mike and Karen- even though we only left them about 6 miles from the hold.

Back on the second loop, we left camp with Cortney, but Dega was on a serious mission and she dropped back after 6-7 miles. Several miles later, Dega had passed about 6 horses. We stopped to drink at a creek and he somehow managed to slip without actually moving. He went clear to his knees and dunked his face but was unfazed. On we went, with Layne and Harley in his sights. We caught up, and slowed to ride with Layne. Jill and Trish caught up, too, and we cruised along the road for several miles.

I was struggling with my left stirrup for about 8 miles and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get my weight onto the ball of my foot. Suddenly, as we were trotting along, my left stirrup bar just came apart. The stirrup bounced and hit Dega in the leg while I was looking down trying to figure out wtf just happened. Dega took exception to this entire scenario and freaked out a little, launching me essentially over his head because I was so unbalanced by the loss of my stirrup. I landed mostly on my feet and Dega didn’t leave the county, so back up I went with one stirrup. I was pretty exhausted after a mile or so of that, so Layne whipped out some cable ties and engineered a solution.

We had gotten passed by several people during all this and Dega was dead set we were gonna pass them all again. I disagreed. So we mostly argued about it the rest of the way in to camp- a really, really, really, really long way.

Layne and Jill stuck with me and we all commiserated about how tired we were. I was entirely over it well before the finish line, but eventually we did get back to camp. We finished 8, 9, 10, with Cortney and Trish just behind us.
Mike and Khalid finished about an hour and a half behind us after a nice quiet ride in which Khalid showed a ton of heart and willingness. He’s going to be a hell of a horse with time and miles.

I feel like someone beat me with a brick stick this morning and Mike is getting a nasty sinus infection. And I didn’t take a single picture all weekend because I chose life. Mike got a few though.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bumble Bee 50 2018 - Ashley Wingert - Full Story

April 16, 2018 / Ashley Wingert

In a roundabout way, I ended up with a ride entry to Bumble Bee via the Convention raffle (friend won it, but wasn’t going to be able to make it to the ride, so offered it to me), but found myself with none of my prior catch rides available. So I let a couple of friends know I was available and looking for a horse, and left it at that. Worse case scenario, if I couldn’t find a ride, I would be able to transfer my entry to next year, and I would go up and volunteer.

A week and half out from the ride, I got a Facebook message from Troy Eckard, with an offer to ride his second horse, Flash, if I was interested. It was an offer than needed no thought whatsoever, and within seconds, I was on the phone confirming that “yes, please, I would be quite interested.” Flash is experienced, with over 1000 miles and a Tevis completion last summer, and this ride was to serve as another notch in his conditioning belt towards Tevis this summer.

Of course, the weekend before the ride, I started battling a head cold, but spent several days throwing every kind of odd concoction I could find down the hatch, and I think the cold germs finally just gave up in disgust and fled (granted, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, honey, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, and horseradish is a little odd, but I promise, it tasted better than it sounds or smells), because I was feeling completely back to normal by the Thursday of ride week, and woke up Friday morning absolutely ready to rock the ride.

I had also arranged to do a boot fitting for a good friend (the credit/blame goes to her for being the one to introduce my father and I to more “extreme” trail riding, thus setting us off on what would eventually lead to endurance) that morning up in Camp Verde…normally way outside how far I’m willing to travel, but for that long-standing of a friend, and given the fact I would already be more than halfway up there for Bumble Bee, I made an exception. So I spent a couple of hours with her and her four horses, getting everyone sized and fitted and catching up on life before I headed back down to Bumble Bee.

Every year, I cuss out the dirt portion of the road to the ranch, and habitually forget that I drive a 4WD truck until about a mile or so in, at which point I remember, “Those 4WD control buttons on your dash are there for a reason.” And then my 4WD gets its annual use.

I got myself checked in and did some socializing, and once Troy arrived, went over to meet my ride...

Read more here: