Friday, December 21, 2018
Marquesas: Meet the last horsemen of these paradise islands
For centuries, the Marquesans have preserved their home's rich natural heritage and distinctive cultural traditions.
By Amy Alipio
Photographs by Julien Girardot
The Marquesas Islands are part of French Polynesia and yet proudly apart. You won’t find overwater bungalows and turquoise lagoons on these 12 volcanic islands, six of which are inhabited. Instead, the Marquesas feature green peaks that plunge directly into the sea, waterfall-laced valleys, and dramatic rock spires. In addition to this rich natural heritage, the Marquesans are active in keeping alive distinctive cultural traditions in tattooing, dance, language—and horse riding.
Horses were introduced to the island of Ua Huka in the mid-19th century, a gift from French admiral Abel Dupetit-Thouars, who brought them from Chile. Islanders tamed and adopted them over the years, and they became the perfect transport for traversing roadless valleys, steep slopes, and high ridges. Horses enabled islanders to range widely in their hunt for wild goat and pig, which are traditionally slow-cooked in an umu, an underground oven...
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Mongolia: The Last Reindeer Riders: Expedition to the Tsaatan of the Taiga
By Erik Cooper on December 20, 2018
The Tsaatan tribe in Mongolia lives in harmony with the reindeer they raise. They are among the last nomadic tribes rooted in this historic relationship. I traveled to Mongolia to learn more about their culture.
I raced in the world’s longest and toughest horse race, the Mongol Derby, in 2012 to follow a passion for exploring the world on the backs of spirited horses. While racing, I found Mongolia one of the wildest and freest places on the planet.
Curious to know more about the unique cultures within Mongolia, I came across a book by Jimmy Nelson, “Before They Pass Away.” A photograph of the Tsaatan tribe riding their reindeer captivated me. The photo compelled me to meet them for myself while their way of life still exists.
To the Taiga
A year later, I returned to meet the last reindeer riders. Using skills honed from growing up on a horse farm in Missouri, I began leading expeditions to their camps...
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Wednesday, December 05, 2018
2019 Ride Season - Ashley Wingert
DECEMBER 4, 2018 / ASHLEY WINGERT
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...
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Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Mongolia: The Wild, Wild Steppe - Kelsey Riley
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...
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Sunday, November 25, 2018
Horseback Riding in Egypt: Valley of the Kings New Year Celebration with Ride Egypt
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...
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Thursday, November 22, 2018
The Magic of the West Virginia Highlands
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!...
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Sunday, November 04, 2018
Enjoying New Hampshire on Horseback - Susan St. Amand
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!...
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Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Riding Off the Grid in British Columbia - Linda Ballou
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...
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My Favorite Things: Rides - Ashley Wingert
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...
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Friday, October 05, 2018
The First 1000 - Ashley Wingert
OCTOBER 4, 2018 / ASHLEY WINGERT
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...
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Barnyard Basics: Ahmahl the clown and endurance rides
By HEATHER SMITH THOMAS
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...
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Thursday, September 27, 2018
Chamberlain Creek 2018: To Plan, and Not - Redheaded Endurance
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...
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Wednesday, September 19, 2018
2018 Grand Canyon II - Valerie Jaques
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...
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Grand Canyon XP 2018 Day 1 55 - by Ashley Wingert
AUGUST 31, 2018 / ASHLEY WINGERT
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...
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Tuesday, September 04, 2018
Endurance Riding by Moonlight in Vermont
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...
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Thursday, August 02, 2018
Tevis sweep 2018 - by Irish Horse
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...
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Chief Joe - Tolo Lake part 1 - Karen Bumgarner
SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2018
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!...
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Friday, July 20, 2018
2018 Big Horn 100 - Tom Noll
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
JULY 19, 2018 / ASHLEY WINGERT
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!!!...
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Saturday, June 23, 2018
Return to the wild: a week at Zapata Ranch in Colorado
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 clichéd, 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...
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Sunday, May 13, 2018
2018 Owyhee River Challenge - Jessica Cobbley
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
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...
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Sunday, April 08, 2018
2018 Eastern Mojave Scenic - Valerie Jaques
April 6 2018
by Valerie Jaques
Before we left, I brought DC up and glued a set of boots on her. She has been without shoes all around since some time in January. I'd taken her hinds off with the intention of resetting them, only to find I was out of the nails for her shoes. Oops. And by the time this ride came around, I hadn't acquired more. But, at Death Valley, Dave Rabe had given me a full set of size 00 EasyBoot glue-ons. I already had a pair of 0s for her fronts. So I went ahead and did a full set of glue ons for this ride.
We had an uneventful drive to camp and found a decent place to park where I could put Hoss out on his stake. It was even still daylight when we arrived. It seems no matter how early I leave for a ride, I cannot seem to get there until the last minute. I even miss ride meetings for driving late. So it's extra nice when I can manage to arrive at a reasonable hour.
With DC having had trouble in the past with rides, I decided I'd ride Hoss the first day so she could settle in. She does fine by herself in camp, other than not eating anything other than hay, and I hoped by leaving her she would have time to recover and rehydrate from the drive.
In the morning I got Hoss saddled up and we got out on trail. It was a nice day, not cold and not hot. While it was chilly, I was able to leave my jacket at camp rather than have to deal with it during the day.
Hoss was extra happy to hit the trail and behaved pretty well. It shouldn't be surprising after 4,000+ miles. I suppose ultimately it doesn't matter how many miles a horse has done, one can never be sure what horse they've brought until they're on the trail...
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Tuesday, March 20, 2018
2018 AERC Convention - Ashley Wingert
MARCH 14, 2018 / ASHLEY WINGERT
So I’m still catching up…March has been a busy month that’s seen me head down to Florida for the FITS ride for work (company rep), back home for a few days, and then off to Reno for the AERC Convention. Coming up, I’m catering one of my mom’s workshop events, and then will be setting up at The Mane Event expo here in Scottsdale at the end of the month. Whew.
In a nutshell, Florida was awesome, and I even got to sneak in a short training ride on some of the most beautiful footing I’ve ever seen.
This was my 7th year attending the AERC Convention, and it was the best yet. I had some phenomenal help in running the Renegade Hoof Boots booth (Tim & Lara, who helped me out at Horse Expo last year, and are AZ-based long-time Renegade users/dealers, with Tim also being a trimmer), I got my annual All-You-Can-Eat sushi fix, it was probably the best-attended convention to date since I’ve started attending…and the topper...
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Friday, March 02, 2018
20 mule team 100, 2018 Ridgecrest, CA - Nick Warhol
I have always said this is the best week of the year for me. I get to spend a week in my beloved desert doing my two favorite pastimes- riding Endurance and riding my dirt bike. This year was my 19th time at this ride- that sure seems like a lot! I have been working on the trail since 2001 on the bike; I go down early and mark the trail for two and a half days, doing a couple hundred miles on two wheels, then do the ride on Saturday.
I brought Donnie and Sorsha down to Ridgecrest on Tuesday with an uneventful 8 hour drive and checked into the Montgomery Hilton again- thanks Gretchen and Mike!
This year I got some great help on the trail- my buddy Dino Trefiletti came up from Las Vegas with his dirt bike to help me out and get a chance to ride in the area. Dino and I were racing buddies in the 70’s which seems like a lifetime ago. We had a really fun time out in the desert on the bikes marking the trail, (I only crashed once!) with one exception that turned into a benefit! On the way into town I stash gas for the bikes, lunch for us, and additional ribbons and chalk at the second vet check on the big loop so we can resupply along the way, just like in Master and Commander. (Refit at sea, right?)
On Thursday about noon we pulled into the 30-mile vet check on the bikes and went to get my hidden supplies. The gas can was there, but somebody had opened up my bags and taken all the food, water, Gatorade- basically anything to eat or drink. They left me the ribbons thank you very much. Groan- what kind of idiots do this? Dino came up with the right suggestion- since my new KTM is street legal, we jumped on the highway and rode up to the tiny town of Randsburg and had a really great lunch in the only place open in town- a funky bar. We had these amazing homemade burritos, and the beer sure tasted good!
On Friday morning Gretchen and I had to go out to distribute hay to the water stops and mark the 6 miles of trail on bicycles that we can’t use the dirt bikes on anymore. A sign of the times indeed. Dino helped me a ton by going back out on Friday morning and pre-running the orange and blue loops to be sure they were still marked okay. He did have to fix some ribbons that were broken off by the wind and re-do some chalking on turns. He came back sounding like me- “This place has some GREAT trails!” He was pretty blown away by the whole concept of endurance riding. He made me laugh on Friday afternoon when we were in line for the vet in. I explained what we were doing- the vets making sure the horse is okay to start the ride. His response? “Oh, right, just like tech inspection!” Yep, exactly! Once a desert racer, always a desert racer. Thanks Buddy!
Judy drove down on Thursday to try the 100 on my Donnie, her first attempt at a 100 in ten years. It would be Sorsha’s first attempt at a 100, and I looked forward to the company and mentorship of my best boy for my big, brown, girly horse’s first attempt. She still can get a little amped at the start, but is slowly improving, I think. The darn horse keeps getting stronger and stronger! That’s a good thing. Mostly. Except at the start. She has a LOT of horsepower, this brown one. Judy and I led the horses over from Gretchen’s to the fairgrounds on Friday afternoon in a small but quick blizzard! Well, not really, just a few flurries, but it was actually snowing on us a bit.
Judy and I started out on the 100 Saturday morning at 6am in about 38 degrees, but no wind. It was actually pretty nice once you get trotting. The desert was beautiful- just as perfect as it gets in the early morning. We started out at the back of the pack with me leading on foot for a half mile or so until I hopped on the brown horse. Once I’m up and we are moving she is really good. I followed Donnie for the first few miles at a moderate pace, but unfortunately Judy was feeling pretty poorly. She was not sick like having the flu or a cold, but she was feeling really nauseous. We are not sure what it was, but she felt rotten and was not comfortable. We slowed down and made it into the first vet check at 15 miles as the last riders. She thought about continuing for a while but eventually decided to stop here, a good choice. She could not eat, and that’s a requirement. You might be able to tough out the last 15 miles, but not the next 85.
Special thanks to Laura Fend who, when she heard Judy was sick, drove out to the check to wait in the cold with Donnie for the trailer so Judy could get in a warm car and back to camp. That’s good Endurance People!
Sorsha’s pulse was 36/36 and she was EDPP. (that’s eating, drinking, peeing, and pooping for you non endurance folks. It’s what you want!) I hooked up with Brenna Sullivan, who I rode with last year, who was riding her new gelding Ranger on his first attempt at a 100 as well. He was happy to have my girly horse as a buddy- we rode at a nice moderate pace up past Sheep Springs and through the El Paso mountain pass, across the one nasty rocky section, then down in to the second vet check on Garlock road. The two ponies were going along well together, but man, they were sneering at each other! When riding side by side it was like an ugly horse face contest. For hours! You would think they would get tired of that. It made me want to tell them both that “If you keep doing that your face will freeze like that!” I bet their ear muscles were sore on Sunday morning! I kept apologizing for Sorsha’s attitude, but Brenna kept telling me that Ranger was egging her on. Maybe he has a crush on her! She is pretty cute!
We rode on down the two mile downhill to vet 2 on Garlock road, the site of my felony lunch theft. Gretchen on her mare Coquette was about 13 minutes ahead of us here in the check, so she waited a bit and joined Brenna and I for the duration. Her hubby Mike brought out a huge bag of McDonalds breakfast burritos- I ate three. What a treat! The wind was starting to pick up as we left on the flats and headed east along the railroad tracks towards the infamous “Rattlesnake Canyon.” I call it that since I have seen Mojave Green rattlers in there 2 of the last 5 years. None this year, thank goodness, probably too cold.
It’s a long climb trot/walk/trot/walk to the top and water, then its down back into the main valley and towards the third check at the 395 north crossing at 55 miles. The weather was strange- when the wind was at your back it was quite tolerable, but when you headed into the wind it was cold! I hopped off Sorsha to walk the last quarter mile to the check and landed in a Creosote bush that ripped my tights and jabbed a huge hole in the back of my leg. That felt good, blood and everything. The bush was probably getting even with me for all the ones I ran into as a kid.
After an uneventful vet check we trotted on down through town and made it to base camp at 65 miles just as the sun was setting for our hour hold. Well, 50 minutes. I was not crazy about the change in hold times. I like those extra 10 minutes in the long holds, and prefer the 15 minute short holds at the others. We tacked back up in the dark, bundled up, and headed back out into the wind for the last 35 miles. Sorsha was a bit nervous as we went through town in the wind, so I followed my buddies, but she settled nicely as we entered the desert.
The loop headed east for a few miles with the wind at our backs, and I was comfortable wearing 2 layers and a ski jacket. It was about 39 degrees when we left with a strong wind. I KNEW that in just a bit we would be making a u-turn and head due west, right smack into that wind for a couple of hours. And we did. Yuck, that was cold with the wind in your face. I wisely wore a pair of dirt bike goggles out from camp, and I was not sorry. The wind would have killed my eyes. I was actually comfy except for cold toes. (those vented trail running shoes, don’t you know.)
Sorsha really came into her own at night- she quit being spooky and led our trio a whole lot of the last loop. She is SO forward! She just leaps back into her trot- I love that! It was at about 70 miles that I started noticing my problem. She spooked me off at Fire Mountain about 5 weeks ago and I whacked my hip pretty hard upon landing. It is not healed yet as I woefully discovered. The motorcycling and the first 65 miles did not bother me, but now it started to hurt, and Advil did not help this time. About halfway down the long, long, ridge-top Boundary road I discovered that I could not keep trotting. A half a mile was about it before It hurt too much. I’d have to stop and walk for a few minutes, but walking on foot helped the most.
We crossed the highway and continued on up into the neat canyons, doing more and more walking. By the time we got down into the main valley again I was down to about a quarter mile of trotting until it hurt too much to keep up the trot. Sorsha was great- she wanted to go, now, all day and night. I’d get off and walk a quarter mile every now and then- that really helped, but it slowed us down. We rolled into the last vet check at mile 90 at about 1am or so with only 10 miles to go. It was a long, cold, 30-minute hold that I wish was quicker. The horses had blankets, but I didn’t! Susan McCartney took Sorsha’s pulse- 32. Wow is all I can say. My buddy Dave Cootware said “Maybe you ought to slow down some!” We were all pretty amazed.
Its normally about an hour in from the highway, but it took us about 90 minutes due to the walking I had to do. Now I was down to a couple hundred yards of trotting before my hip lit up. My riding buddies were great and very patient with me the lame-o. We eventually made it back to town, and down the last streets into the fairgrounds and the finish before 3am. We all made it! The horses all looked great!
I quickly put my girly horse up for the night and hit the warm camper. Sleep, sleep, sleep. I got up at about 7:30 for the best ride breakfast in existence (catered by a local Mexican restaurant) and the awards ceremony. Brian and Val Reeves and their crew do an amazing job at this ride- its so much work you can’t comprehend it. I hate to sound like a broken record, but my horse looked barely ridden. She’s pretty amazing.
I had a good ride, although I will admit that I don’t like it when I’m the weak link in the team. I’m not used to that happening. We could have easily finished a couple of hours sooner had it not been for my stupid hip. Oh well, its part of the game, as is aging, I guess. Both Sorsha and I will get a month off now and with any luck I’ll get better. Congratulations to Jenni Smith who got third and BC on her Super Size. He looked so cool at the BC showing. Totally relaxed, almost sleepy looking, yet super strong! Kristin Ojalla finished her first 100 on Lani (first for both of them). Brenna’s horse Ranger finished his first 100, and Coquette finished another one, her third or fourth I think. Dean Moon also finished the 100 on his horse Cassie’s first 100. Gary Fend got pulled when Frosty came up lame at 35 miles on the 50, Frost’s first pull I think. That’s unfortunate, but also part of the game.
This ride really is the best first 100 for horse and rider I have ever seen. We work hard to make it a good experience, and this year it went off really well with the weather mostly cooperating. (I have seen it a LOT worse!) As I told Brian- the glow bars were perfect! And now my big, brown, girly horse has her first 100 under her saddle pad, so Tevis is coming up.............
Thursday, March 01, 2018
2018 20 Mule Team 100!
March 1 2018
by Andrea Maitland
It’s taken 3+ years, 3 attempts, a lot of blood, sweat, and a broken bone in lieu of tears...but I’m finally a 100 Mile Rider, and Lilly is a 100 Mile Horse! Time to recap our adventure of the Twenty Mule Team 100 ￼:)
Thursday – Travel Day
Mike, Dogs, Stang, and I hit the road around 730 AM, and within a couple hours my trusty (and fast-driving) ride partner Kim Lipko had caught up with us on the I-10 near the California border. About half-way there we stopped and let the horses out to stretch their legs, and put Lilly into Kim’s trailer so she could travel the rest of the way with Nort. Those two dorks fell instantly (back) in love, and were pretty ridiculous together for the entire adventure. Lilly loves Nort. Nort loves Lilly. Seriously ridiculous. But they travel like champs together, and pace well together, so we put up with the When-Harry-Met-Sally-But-With-More-Romance foolishness ￼:)
Ridecamp is at the fairgrounds in Ridgecrest, pretty smack dab between BFE and No-wheres-ville, but there’s plenty of space for rigs, a large arena for turnout, and easy access to life’s necessities like really good Mexican food and Walmart. Or just really good Mexican food. We got to camp mid-afternoon, commandeered two prime locations along the fence line that offered decent protection from the inevitable wind, our own private water spigot, and some safe space for the dogs to do their business. We quickly set up camp, turned the horses out into the arena to stretch their legs (and then spent 10 extra minutes trying to catch the lovesick fools who did not want to be caught), and then headed to the aforementioned good Mexican restaurant for a hearty dinner as no one wanted to cook. The winds were howling, and Kim kept us updated on the forecast for Saturday. Unfortunately the forecast changed about every 30 minutes, and really wasn’t going to change any of our ride plans…but we were hoping for a low wind type of day (Spoiler Alert – our hopes were dashed).
Friday – Prep Day and Check In
The horses ate and drank well overnight and we were all pretty refreshed on Friday. We turned them out into the arena again, and again spent an extra 15 minutes trying to catch them. I prepped my crew gear, including walking Mike through IN GREAT DETAIL his responsibilities. I even made him his own folder with several pages of detailed notes on how to prep the crew station for me, what to put out for Lilly, what to pack in the truck, etc. Mike then went the extra mile and did an extra level or organization to ensure he wouldn’t miss anything, as the first 3 vet checks were out on the trail. If it didn’t make it to the truck, it wasn’t coming – no pressure, right? Fortunately Kim’s husband, Garry, was also there to crew, and took Mike under his wing for the adventure. Mike and Garry crewed together at Virginia City, so Mike was somewhat familiar with the process. In VC though, Mike only needed to be responsible for my well-being, as I had a second crew member on Team Mustang who was in charge of Lilly. For 20MT, Mike was doing most of it. Other than tacking up and giving electrolytes, Mike was pit boss for the entire day. But I knew he could do it!
Kim and I took a quick pre-ride in the early afternoon, both Nort and Lilly got a nice massage from Kim, then it was check-in, vet in (Lilly pulsed in at 32, little superstar that she is), ride meeting, and bed time. My alarm was set for 4 AM, and despite the butterflies in my stomach and air of nervous anticipation, I actually managed to get a decent night’s sleep. Oh, and it snowed earlier in the day. Yikes.
Saturday – Race Day!
4 AM came early, and that 25 degree chill in the air was quite brisk. Lilly had eaten well, and scarfed down a couple pounds of carrots while I worked on getting dressed and prepped. Despite the cold morning, I opted to not start in fleece tights as I knew it would warm up to reasonable temps during the day and didn’t want to be bothered to change into lighter pants at one of the 3 out-checks. Fortunately there was no snow (or worse, rain) in the forecast, and only a light breeze to start us off. The real howling wind wasn’t due until later in the day (AKA too late to wuss out). Blankets off, tack and rump rugs on, and at 6 AM we were off! In addition to the 100 milers (which there were 30), the 65 Mile AERC and the 128K (80 Mile) FEI riders also started with us – big group! The plan was to take advantage of the cool morning and fresh pony legs, and set a nice brisk pace for the first 15 miles to get the edge off, before settling into the ‘100 mile trot’ for the rest of the ride. Like so many things, not everything went according to plan, but let’s not get ahead of myself.
Loop 1 Track 1, 0 - 15 Miles
No headlamps were needed as dawn wasn’t that far off, and we left the fairgrounds via a very calm and controlled start just after the main pack had left. Nort and Lilly walked out on a loose rein, with no jigging or ride start silliness. Always a bonus (specially with Snorty Norty) ￼:-) After about a quarter mile we picked up an easy trot that led us through the outskirts of Ridgecrest and up into the foothills behind the city. Like most of the 20MT trail, the footing was excellent, mostly sandy (but not too deep) without many rocks to worry about. The 15 miles flew by easily, and before too long we were cruising into Vet Check 1. The wonderful thing about 20MT is that ALL vet checks are accessible by crew, and with the first 3 checks being out-checks, having crew to help is a bonus!
Mike and Garry met us at the check, and it mostly went off without a hitch. Mike was still getting his ‘crew legs’ underneath him, so I helped him vet Lilly through and get her set up at her station. It was only a 30 minute hold, so there wasn’t much time to rest other than to scarf down a PB&J, drink some Hammer Recoverite, say “Hi” to the pups who were pit-crewing from the truck, strap on the hydration pack, PEE, and swing on board to head out right on time!
Pro Tip: Keep track of your vet hold time, and be ready to hit the trail as soon as your time is up!
Loop 1 Track 2, 15 – 30 Miles
As it was still early in the ride, there hadn’t been enough time and miles to separate out everyone yet, so Kim and I found ourselves riding with other similarly paced horses on this loop, including the wonderful, amazing, indomitable, and AWESOME Lucy, and her equally AWESOME, handsome, and drool-worthy mount Fergus. Much more about Lucy and Fergus later, but (Spoiler Alert), they are the heroes of the story!
Although 20MT is known as a ‘flat desert ride’, there is some elevation change in terms of long graded hills. Not much in the steep stuff we normally think of as ‘climbing’, but definitely not terribly flat all the time. We spent some time on this loop doing more climbing, and seeing a few more rocks, but nothing out of the ordinary and still fairly easy terrain. Kim, Lucy, and I (and occasionally a few others throughout the loop) made good time into Vet Check 2, where our faithful crew was waiting for us. This was a 50 minute ‘tack off’ hold, so I helped Mike strip Lilly naked for her vetting, then made my way to rinse/repeat (with more rest this time) my routine of PB&J snacking, potty break, and pup petting.
Then – disaster struck! (well not quite disaster, but certainly extremely unfortunate and disappointing) – Nort was off during his vetting, needed a recheck, and was off again and therefore pulled. Drat! Up until this point Nort and Lilly were an inseparable husband and wife duo – she LOVES him. She doesn’t bite him. She actually nickers at him and winks at him (you horse people know what that means!). My first thought wasn’t “oh crap I’m heading out to do the next 70 miles without my riding buddy Kim” but “oh crap how am I going to convince Lilly to leave Nort behind at vet check??”…followed very closely by “Oh crap I’m on my own”.
Enter Lucy, 100 Mile Hero and Living Legend Fergus, Horse Extraordinaire. Lucy’s crew station had coincidentally been set up right next to us, so at the possibility that Nort was not able to continue, I asked her if she would mind if I rode with her, and she enthusiastically said ‘of course!’…whew! I figured I’d at least use Fergus to help pull Lilly out of the vet check, we’d hit the trail and go from there. I’ve ridden Lilly plenty of times on rides alone, but it is certainly comforting to hit the trail with the guidance of an expert. And with 5000 miles (including 12 100 mile completions, several of which were this ride), I couldn’t have been in better hands.
Loop 1 Track 3, 30-55 miles
This was the longest section of Loop 1, and though we started to head back towards ridecamp, both horses knew we were still heading AWAY and clearly being led out into the desert to die by the stupid riding monkeys. Much to my relief it was not difficult to get Lilly to leave vet check, and her beloved Nort. Fergus was NOT Nort, but she had been riding with him for the last few hours (and had actually met him back at Virginia City), so he was a barely passable replacement for her beloved. It took a few miles for her to get her mojo back and actually trot like her hooves weren’t made of lead, but eventually she and Fergus settled into a rather funky but effective pattern of traveling down the trail. Lucy calls Fergus the ‘worst pace setter ever’ and that probably isn’t far from the truth LOL – he’s terrible! But also adorable, affable, and super sweet, and Lilly really didn’t care that Fergus’ idea of pacing was blasting off at a 16+ mph trot for about a hundred yards, then dropping to a walk until Lilly passed him, then blasting off again. Although unconventional, this pace strategy actually kept both horses motivated to keep up with the other, and we ended up averaging a fairly decent pace for the 25-ish miles of this section. We were so fast that...
...my previous ride partner-turned-crew Kim only saw us for 2 minutes at Vet Check 3 before we were out again! She had been expecting us to take about 4 hours or so to complete this section, but we did it in 3.5, and with only a 30 minute hold we were basically done before she got there. Bye Kim (and Mike, who once again did a stellar job at solo crewing during this hold), see you all back at camp!
Loop 1 Track 4, 55-65 miles
Last section of Loop 1! Only 10 miles, and essentially the same section we would ride again in the dark coming back into camp the final time (Vet Checks 3 and 5 were in the same place). This made it nice for the horses, as they got to see the trail first in the daytime, and would be familiar with the way home when it was dark, cold, and the riders were potentially sleeping (AKA Lucy a few years prior!). The trail was up and over a final ridge, then following the same route back to the fairgrounds that we rode out of in the morning, and into our second ‘tack off’ 50 minute hold of the ride. Kim was there to meet me, and thankfully took over ‘horse crewing’ duties from Mike and got Lilly stripped and vetted in while I trudged back to the trailer.
In addition to the ubiquitous PB&J, I added some caffeine to this hold (Pro Tip via Julia Lynn), stripped out of all of my current ride clothes, took a quick baby-wipe bath and then started adding layers. And layers. And. More. Layers. Up until this point the winds had been manageable – chilly but not too heavy, but they were starting to pick up and were expected to gust at 30-40+ mph into the night. My fleece tights went on, plus more top layers than I care to count, and I sent my heaviest ski jacket out with Mike in case I needed to beef it up even more at the last hold (Spoiler Alert – I did). And the crème de la crème, my fleece lime-green helmet cover which is the BEST thing EVER in cold weather. Bundled up, fueled up, and feeling refreshed, it was time to hit the trail and crank out the last 35 miles!
Loop 2 Track 1, 65 – 90 miles
We had made excellent time coming into the vet check, and hit the trail about 530 PM (Lucy commented that we were LEAVING vet check earlier than she had ever ARRIVED at vet check in previous years. I’d like to think it was the super Lilly/Fergus Terrible-To-Look-At-But-Effective Pacing Team that did it). There was still PLENTY of daylight left, so much that we were a good 5 miles into the stretch before we even noticed the glow of the glowsticks lighting the trail. The horses had lost their mojo again (and were once again convinced the dumb monkeys were leading them out into the desert to die), but faithfully walk/trotted along while we followed the trail east.
Lucy and I chatted and laughed, and I was thinking (probably a bad idea) that this loop was going to be EASY as I was feeling fantastic, I was warm and snug in all of my layers, Lilly felt great (if a little unmotivated), and I had excellent company to talk to…and then we turned south. Into the wind. INTO THE NIGHTMARE OF RIDGECREST WINTER HEADWINDS FROM HELL. All talking stopped (it would have been worthless as we couldn’t hear a thing anyway), the ponies dropped their heads and trudged on. And on. And on. But I was still warm, and my face was covered so it was just fine…until I made the very unfortunate mistake of trying to adjust my helmet cover and WHOOSH! There it went, bye bye Felicia.
Pro Tip – DO NOT ADJUST ANYTHING THAT IS NOT NAILED DOWN IN 50 MPH WINDS, ESPECIALLY WHEN SAID THING IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF YOUR COMFORT PLAN.
Oh well, we still had 25 miles to go, so better suck it up buttercup. It really wasn’t TOO bad. I was still reasonably warm, but my face was getting a little nippy while we made the best time we could in the terrible winds. The ponies were troopers, and just kept putting one hoof in front of the other while we walked along the ridgeline (with absolutely no cover from the wind), before finally dropping down and getting some relief from the foothills around us. We also got some very pretty views of Ridgecrest at night, which is significantly more visually appealing than Ridgecrest during the day. It’s not as pretty as the view of Reno from Virginia City, but at least it gave some distraction (albeit minor) from the raging winds.
Lucy’s Super Crew Kaity Cummins met us at an unofficial check along the 395 for a Hot Chocolate Pit Stop – and sweet wonderful girl that she is, I got a delicious cup of it too. I love you Kaity! We then headed out towards Vet Check 5 (in the same place as Vet Check 3), for our final 30 minute hold. And more Hot Chocolate! Mike was there too, trooper that he was, but boy did he look miserable. Poor guy did NOT know what he signed up for when crewing for a 100. I gave him as many words of encouragement as I could, and told him it was ALMOST over…just one more finish line check to go, and it was only 10 miles away. Hang in there Mike!
Loop 2 Track 2, 90 – 100 Miles
Lucy and I took the final 10 miles slower than we had the first time through…mostly at my request. I really wasn’t hurting anywhere, but I could feel that I was definitely getting tired, and really didn’t want to have any unexpected dismounts that close to the finish. So we took it slow but steady, with dear Fergus leading the way and Lilly dutifully keeping pace behind. And, finally, the FAIRGROUNDS! We crossed the finish line at right around 115 AM (though it took about 10 minutes to get vetted out) in 17th and 18th place, with a total ride time of 16 Hours and 16 Minutes. Not too shabby for a first 100!
Mike still looked miserable, so I got Lilly set up on her high tie as quickly as possible and got the loyal husband shuttled off to bed in the LQ. Lilly looked great, if a little tired, but tore into her hay and mash like the trooper she was, and once I was satisfied that everyone was taken care of (including a final potty break for the wonderful pups) I went to bed too.
All was still well with the world the next day - I didn’t feel too stiff or sore all things considered, only got one small rub to show for my efforts, and Lilly looked perky and alert. We hung out in ridecamp until the early afternoon to give all of us a chance to rest a little more before heading home. In hindsight I probably should have stayed a full extra day for Lilly’s sake, as she was definitely more body sore and tired on Monday, but was back to her snarky self by Tuesday.
And that’s that! I can’t wait to do it again!!!! And although it may have been the wind making me hear things, I’m fairly certain I heard Lucy offer to ride with me at the Virginia City 100 this year…so that is what I’m going to believe ￼;-) But before that I’ll also be keeping an eye out on a very special 100 mile ride in July, if all things work out between now and then.
Next up, Lilly gets at least a month off to rest and relax, while I take Wyatt to Old Pueblo in 3 weeks to ride him for the first time this year. Speaking of Wyatt...
Race Report, Bonus Edition – Wyatt Goes to Wickenburg!
The only unlucky thing about the timing of 20 Mule Team is that it falls on the same weekend as the local Wickenburg endurance ride, so I don’t get to do both ￼:( I love the Wickenburg ride – it’s gorgeous, well-run, and is loaded with all my Zonie friends. I feel it’s important to support our local rides whenever we can, so this year even though I wasn’t able to ride it myself, I was able to indirectly support it by sending Wyatt to (once again) be a catch-horse for horseless rider. He had some big expectations to fill for Ellen, as not only was he going to pilot her through her first 50…but it was going to be her first endurance ride EVER! Talk about pressure! But I knew both Ellen and Wyatt were up to the task. She had come out to my side of town a few weeks prior to the ride to take Wyatt out for a 35 mile test run, and both did fantastic. So before I headed to 20MT I left all of his gear out, plus a couple pages of instructions that mostly consisted of ‘he eats a lot’, and Lancette and Ellen picked him up on the way to the races. They all had a great time, and true to form, Wyatt took great care of Ellen and carried her to her first endurance ride finish – yay!
Next up for Wyatt will (hopefully) be his first back-to-back 50 milers with yours truly in 3 weeks at Old Pueblo, as long as the weather stays cool. If it warms up (like last year), then I’ll drop him to the LDs instead – only time will tell!
Go Team Mustang!
(As usual I took almost no photos, so I poached them from Lucy, Katie/Super Crew, and Mike)
2018 Ride Stats
Liliana “100 Mile” Vess, 6/6 105 LD Miles, 150 Endurance Miles Wyatt “Catch Ride” Earp, 6/6 105 LD Miles, 100 Endurance Miles
Andrea, Lilly, and Wyatt
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
My First True Multi-Day - Crysta Turnage
by Crysta Turnage
I have done a couple of back-to-back rides over the years, but nothing more than 2-days. This past week, I attended, and completed, all four days 200-miles at the Eastern Mojave Scenic XP Ride. Here are some things I learned at my first true multi-day:
1. Some things may go just right. Thankfully the drive down and back were both very smooth and without issue. This should not be taken for granted. I packed plenty of food and water for both my horse and I and didn’t seem to forget anything critical (YAY!!).
2. Some things will probably need some help. Waking up to discover swollen “armpits” and a girth gall, something I haven’t had to deal with before, on the morning of Day 3 sucked. Thankfully...
3. PACK EXTRAS – that saddle you haven’t used in a while, that spare girth you have laying around, those thin tights which work well as another layer, etc. Bring them. Being able to switch to a different saddle with centerfire rigging, and having the option of a contour girth, allowed us both to be able to ride comfortably on days 3 & 4. In fact, his gall looked much better AFTER riding each day as the movement helped to reduce any edema. And my back and other body parts appreciated the change in saddle as well. New areas to get sore! 😉
4. Going with a buddy is more fun. I’m super glad a friend from home could attend as well. I was prepared to go solo, but it was great having someone to camp near and visit with. Our horses instantly fell in love and got married the first night they camped together. Thankfully they also were a great team on the trail with mine trotting just a touch faster and hers walking just a bit faster so we leveraged their strengths.
5. A multiday will help you fully develop a routine. The beautiful thing about a multiday is you really learn to fine tune your pre- and post-ride horse & rider care. All those things you do for single-day rides, you start to evaluate how necessary they are, or how to be more efficient. Having my crew bag fully stocked (we were out of camp ALL day, every day) so I only needed to grab my small people lunch box (I wasn’t eating the ride food) and put in a fresh grain baggie each day meant I didn’t have to haul my entire bag back and forth. Having a post-ride care routine of icing legs and then eating a snack while I rolled leg wraps, or pre-soaking mashes, all those little things began to get streamlined and I’m sure will make things seem easier at future rides. Even the way I packed things in my trailer was better by the end.
6. Day 3 will probably suck, Day 4+ will be better. I’ve heard this many times and it totally held true. My back was a locked-up mess in the morning of Day 3 but substantially improved as the day wore on. I do think a big part of this was a change in saddles, I was trying a newer one on its first (and second) 50 and let’s just say it’s not a healthy relationship. By the end of Day 4, I felt that I would totally be able to go again tomorrow if there were additional days.
7. Having a buddy system at home is invaluable. The evening of Day 3 we were warned to “batten down the hatches” and it was NO JOKE. I had to get up and catch my horse after some blowing equipment spooked him and he released a safety measure on his Hi-Tie. The wind shook and rattled the trailer all night long and it was still blowing on the morning of Day 4. My mental state was wobbling severely between “We’ve already accomplished so much, this doesn’t seem fun now & Don’t give up now, you’ll regret it.” A couple of texts home resulted in both support and encouragement and “Get your ass on the horse. Nobody likes a sissy.” Both of which were EXACTLY what I needed to hear.
8. Be conservative, take things as they come, but don’t be afraid to set big goals. I have a young horse who is proving to be very talented. I have some lofty long-term goals for him, so the focus this year is on building a steady, strong base for us to accomplish those things in future years. He had 150 miles before this ride. My goal was to ride two days and see how he felt. We could take a day off, or just go home if things weren’t going to plan. Instead he happily and steadily just kept going down the trail, generally asking to go faster (No, buddy). He doubled his lifetime mileage to date and we even managed a top 10 on Day 4 when some inclement weather reduced the number of starters (we finished about 2/3rds through the “pack”). To say I’m impressed is an understatement.
9. Try new things at your own risk… See newer saddle above (it had seemed to work on training rides). I had also changed my own eating habits to a ketogenic diet, but have not done a ride on this high fat / very low carb way of eating before. I was a little worried the lack of carbs might impact my energy and recovery. I actually didn’t have much trouble during the ride, but HAVE been surprised by the cravings since. Being prepared with good choices has helped me stick mostly to plan. I also tried some new electrolytes which didn’t work very well for me, soured my stomach. But discovered frozen (thawed by the time you get there) precooked meatballs are AMAZING for lunch in your crew bag.
10. Last – If you glue boots, the ONE you’re sure is going to fall off may just surprise you. This was my first-time gluing solo and I had an Adhere mixing issue. I wasn’t very confident in how they would hold. One of them came off immediately, as soon as I had put all the supplies away. I quickly wiped it off the best I could, got a fresh tube of glue, and slapped it back on. We took dibs on if it would even make it to the ride. He lost 1 boot the first day and 2 more on the last. The one that fell off during gluing? That sucker made it all the way there, through all 4 days, and I’m going to have to pry it off. 😝 LOL
Monday, February 19, 2018
Six-Day Pack Trip in Yellowstone’s Backcountry
Equitrekking.com - Full Story
An adventurous mother and daughter duo set out on a six-day packing adventure through the rugged wilderness of Yellowstone National Park.
November 30, 2017
By Lisa Florey
How many septuagenarians do you know who would trek 80-odd miles through a remote wilderness on horseback, sleeping in a tent each night? I know one! I was lucky enough to spend six days with my mom in the Yellowstone backcountry, riding through the most remote area of the lower 48.
After several years of dreaming about the trip, we went for it and signed up for a Thorofare trip with Yellowstone Wilderness Outfitters. The adventure began with a road trip from southwest Missouri to Cody, Wyoming, where we enjoyed the hospitality at Robin’s Nest Bed & Breakfast. The next morning, we met up with the outfitter at Nine Mile Trailhead in Yellowstone National Park.
The logistics of organizing and loading gear for a group of nine riders (12 if you include the wranglers and outfitter!) onto the string of seven pack mules was mind-boggling. After an overview of safety tips — the bulk of it about bears — we were paired up with our horses and headed out...
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Friday, February 16, 2018
How to explore Dartmoor by horse
Mount up for a horse ride across the untamed landscape of Dartmoor
9th February 2015
Was there ever an area more suited to exploring on horseback than Dartmoor? Steeped in folklore and with ever-changing scenery, it’s impossible to tire of this wild terrain.
I took to the saddle for a 22-mile (35km) adventure with Liberty Trails, which specialises in long-distance rides across Dartmoor. Their beautiful, sure-footed quarter horses – a popular American breed of small, fast horses used for races and rodeos – are a delight to ride or horse owners can bring their own steeds for the excursion.
Elaine Michelle Prior, Liberty Trails’ founder, grew up exploring these moors on ponies and now organises small, tailor-made rides through the national park. Experienced riders can take on single- or multi-day tramps through the park’s wild places or explore War Horse territory with a tailored ride visiting locations from the movie. There’s even a chance to join the cattle drives in late spring.
Long distance horse-riding is not for the unfit or the delicate of behind but it is an immensely rewarding way to immerse yourself in the landscape and explore off the beaten track. While six hours in the saddle was testing, I found that what is hard on the backside is good for the soul.
I got up bright and early to meet Fred, the glossy horse who would be my partner in adventure. Our guide was farmer Phil Heard, who knows the moors inside and out and can read the land effortlessly. He rode ahead to lead the way, kitted out in a Stetson and floor-length coat, like a Devonian version of the Marlboro man...
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