Monday, November 18, 2019

My 2019 AERC National Championship 100 - Caroline De Bourbon

by Caroline De Bourbon

RTR Thunders Nusabre led us to a 3rd place victory at the 2019 AERC 100 Mile National Championships. Could not have asked for a better weekend with this amazing horse.

At 6:15am on Saturday, Sabre and I headed to the starting line, ready to take on the trails ahead. We headed out in the controlled start and before we knew it the trail was open! I found myself in about 20th place and quickly realized that if I wanted to place high then I would need to be competitive. Sabre picked up a lovely canter and squeezed us into the top 10 riders. We stayed with them heading into the first vet check at 17 miles.

Even though we came into VC 1 with many riders, we were able to leave 2nd due to Sabre's amazing ability to pulse down fast. We left VC 1 feeling great. Soon, Jeremy Reynolds and his horse Etta (Sabre's sister) caught us. I guess Sabre enjoyed seeing his big sis again so we continued on with Jeremy. I had ridden this part of the trail earlier in the year at the Laurel Mt duck ride so I knew where we were going. We came into Vet Check 2 (33 miles). Once again, Sabre pulsed down quickly and we were out of there in no time.

We continued up Rattlesnake Wash and down power line road into the 395 vet check (55 miles). We were held there for 30 minutes then we were back out on the trail in 3rd place. By this time I was riding with Jeremy and Alisija Zabavska. The horses flew into the hour hold at camp (65 miles).

My crew and I cooled Sabre down and immediately took him over to vet. He looked awesome on his trot out, gut sounds and everything else. However, the vet was a little concerned about his CRI. Sabre had been getting amazing CRIs all day so this through us all off a bit. The vet said that I should come back in 30 minutes to recheck him. We did another CRI a half an hour later and this time it was much better and back to normal. However, the vet said that It might be wise to see how he was feeling and if I needed to slow it down, slow it down. And I defiantly agreed.

We took off from camp following Jeremy and Alisija. Sabre felt like he had done 20 miles not 65. The hour rest definitely helped him. We began to climb up the mountain side with the sun beating down on us so Alisija I decided to take it a bit slower. We made it to the top and headed down the other side and caught up with Jeremy and all rode into the 395 south crossing. Etta seemed to be juiced so they pulled away. However, Sabre caught his second wind now that the sun had set so we cantered most of the way into the last vet check at 395 (90 miles) for a 20 minute hold.

As we were waiting to leave to head back to camp, the out timers told me that Sabre had a lot more gas in him and that he was ready to go. That boosted my confidence for the 10 mile ride home. Alisija left 1 minute after us and caught us soon after. We rode the rest of the way home together. We raced across the finish line and she beat us by a close few seconds. It didn't really matter to me as I was THRILLED by Sabre's performance on his 3rd ever 100! We walked in the last stretch with a huge smile on my face and a pep in Saber's step. I held my breath when we vetted through, crossing my fingers that we would get our completion. And yes, we did! A 3rd place completion! I was beyond amazed by this horse.

I spent most of the night getting up and walking Sabre around the fair grounds in preparation for the Best Condition showing in the morning. He seemed a little stiff the morning of but we decided to show anyway. Regardless if we got BC or not, I was extremely proud of this horse.

A huge thank you to the Ribely's for putting on a wonderful National Championships and all the volunteers and ride staff for helping out. A huge congratulations to all the riders as well as Jeremy Reynolds and Alisija Zabavska for getting 1st and 2nd! It was a honor to ride with both of them for most of the day. Thanks to Bill Whitlock for letting me ride your amazing new horse and trusting me with him. Thanks to my mom and Bill for crewing for me and brining me anything and everything I needed. Last but not least, the biggest thank you goes out to my amazing steed, Sabre. None of this would be possible without him. He gave me a wonderful Tevis this year and now an outstanding 100 mile National Championship. This was my first 100 by myself and he made it super easy. Love him with all my heart!

Thank you to everyone who made this happen and I can't wait to see what next season will bring!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

2019 AERC National championship 100 at 20 mule team - Nick Warhol

Nov 2, 2019
by Nick Warhol

Or, a long, busy, and very rewarding week in the desert!

A year and a half ago Robert Ribley mentioned they wanted to have the 2019 national championship ride at the 20 mule team ride, and was I interested in doing the trail? “I’m in!” I told him. I have been riding the ride since 1993, and coming down and working on the trail since the year 2000. I take that trail very personally. I love the desert and riding both my dirt bike and horses in it, so how could it be any better? Ride managers Robert and Melissa Ribley, along with 20 Mule team ride manager Brian Reeves, put a LOT of work into this event. The goal was to make it a real championship caliber event, and we did not disappoint. Everything I heard about the ride was really positive in every aspect.

I packed my truck and trailer to the gills, loaded up my big, brown, girly horse Sorsha and headed down to Ridgecrest on Sunday in a wind storm. Lucky me- the wind blowing down highway 5 was about 40 MPH, but it was a direct tail wind giving me incredible gas mileage all the way down. The wind was a little dicey when I hit the desert and headed east, but I made it to Ridgecrest without the camper being blown off the truck! I dropped Sorsha off at Gretchen Montgomery’s place (a mile and a half from the fairgrounds) where she basically boarded my horse for a week. Thanks G and Mike! On Monday morning I met Brian at the fairgrounds and helped him unload. Cripes- I thought I had a lot of stuff! He had three trailers packed full of gear. We spent half a day unpacking and getting base camp set up.

On Monday afternoon Gretchen and I loaded up the horses and went out to the new location for Vet 1 on the 100. We needed new, bigger locations for both vet 1 and vet 2 due to the size of the ride. The new check required a new mile of trail across the desert to get to the new location, so we took the ponies out for a mission and spot marked a new route from the trail to the new vet check. I liked it! You can never have enough cross country desert trails. We had a nice ride and the horses both felt fresh and ready to go. I would finish the new trail on the bike later on. Brian and I had dinner at the infamous Casa Corona and very large drinks!
On Tuesday morning I went out early in 38 degrees on the quad to start marking the trail through town. It was not as cold as being on the bike! Signs, ribbons, and lots of chalk on the ground. When it warmed up a bit I headed out on the dirt bike to mark the 35 mile orange loop. It’s the night loop for the 100, so it needs a lot more big chalk arrows on the ground. There would not be much moon on Saturday night, so it’s critical to have lots of big arrows out there. I got done in good time by the early afternoon, so I headed back out to start on the pink loop in the hard to get to areas, and I’m really glad I did since there was still so much to do. We have 50 additional miles of new trail at the ride this time for the championship 50 that had not been used before, making our total trail mileage to mark 165 miles. I rode the bike back and forth a few times on the new trail to wear it in a little.

On Wednesday morning at 7am (Brrrr- 30 degrees) I went back on the quad for 3 hours to finish all the marking in town and out past the college. My buddy Dino Trefiletti was coming from Las Vegas at 10 am to help me with the trail with his bike. Dino and I were friends growing up in Vegas and were racing buddies; he likes riding out here as much as I do. Our mission for today was to finish the new 50 mile trail for the Thursday championship ride. Ron Shultz from Ridgecrest had laid out the new trail and base marked it, but we needed to get out there and ride it and finish it up. We did the 25 mile loop first all the way back to camp, then out again to do the whole 50. We added many ribbons, chalk, signs, and had to be sure the trails marked for Saturday did not interfere with Thursday’s championship ride. I could not take a chance on anyone seeing other ribbons and getting confused. It can be hard to distinguish pink from orange from red in the morning light. We finished up as the sun was setting after a long day and a lot of miles out there on the bikes. Then it’s off to walk my horse, have dinner, and drink several beers!

We never saw Thursday’s championship 50 mile ride (the winning time was 3:55! WOW!) since Thursday is the extended day where we mark the 65 mile pink loop. It goes faster with the two bikes, but its still a long day out in the dez. Dino’s wife Kathleen was our support crew, meeting us out at vet 2 with sandwiches and drinks. We had to add a mile of trail in a deep sandwash to get to the dry lake bed for the vet check due to the ride size. We got back to camp about 4pm, and I rode out on the bike and checked the blue 15 mile loop since it crossed the Thursday red loop several times, and it needed to be fixed for Saturday’s rides. We CAN NOT have chalk arrows going in both directions on the night loop. I finished everything up and got back to camp as the sun was setting.

Friday morning was a little easier since I was done with the bike, but not the trail. I went out early in the truck with Gretchen and her bicycle to finish up the trail that we can’t ride the motorized vehicles on, put up 8 road crossing signs, drop off hay at three remote water stops, and most importantly fix the trails for Saturday that intersected with the Thursday’s ride red loop, this time taking down the red so no one would get confused on Saturday. While I was out finishing up, Dino rode both the orange 35 and blue 15 loops to be absolutely sure all was in order. We finished up about 1pm, got back to camp, and then it was time to switch from trail worker to endurance rider. It’s a radical shift in the world where I just stop thinking about the trail and start thinking about my horse. (I liken it to flipping a giant power breaker switch to “on”) Gretchen pulled in with the horses and we started getting ready for tomorrow’s 100. We went out for a warm up ride; Gretchen wanted to ride the start since some idiot (me) laid out the trail that runs back through town and right past her house. I mean 10 feet from her front gate and the pen her other horse is in. It is the best route for the ride; I was not thinking about her and her horse when I set it. We were fine until about mile 2 when we turned back towards town and her horse Coquette, who is, shall we say, a little “barn sour”, flipped out and started bucking. Big. Gretchen stayed on, but had to dismount. We led the horses on foot about ¾ of a mile until we were 100 yards past her driveway. She remounted and all was fine back to the fairgrounds. But the psych was on- she was really worried about the start tomorrow. She would not sleep very well Friday night. I would have changed the trail, but the mileage was set, the maps and trail descriptions printed, trails all marked- it was too late. Judy drove down in the car on Friday to join us and arrived in the afternoon. It was great to have her there- she has not been to a ride in a while and everyone was glad to see her. We finished the prep for the ride, had a nice dinner with Jenni Smith and Brenda Benkley, went to the ride meeting, and then to bed. I slept well Friday night.

Saturday ride morning came quickly and was cold, about 28 degrees at our start time of 6:30. It’s actually quite beautiful in the desert when it’s cold and calm like this- not a stitch of wind. It would be perfect were it not for cold fingers and toes. The smell is also special in the cold morning; I like the way creosote smells. Oh yes, and the dust. About 80 horses headed out at once making it pretty bleak. The first half mile of the ride was a walking controlled start out across the first paved road. Sorsha was great and walked out nicely with Coquette in the middle of the pack. We crossed the road and started trotting out of town on the dirt street. After a few blocks we turn right on another road and head up to the big water tank just out of town, the site of Friday’s episode. Gretchen had been making plans on what to do, but it came down to just being safe. If we have a problem, we will just lead the horses. We passed the tank, turned towards town, made it about three hundred yards past our rodeo spot, and 2 horses passed us at a faster trot. Uh-oh. Coquette bucked big, but as before, Gretchen stayed on, but had to get off. We both started leading the horses the 3/4 mile until we passed her house. Once past, (I dropped off clothes layer one at her house) we hopped back up and started our ride with Gretchen’s stomach in the right place now. It did put us at the end of the pack, but that’s okay, we were in one piece, and it’s a long day. The ride goes through town for a couple of miles on dirt roads and out into the desert on soft roads with good footing. A long climb up a wide road takes us up to the top of the ridge above town, then another 3 miles slightly downhill on soft roads to the highway 395 north crossing. We were trotting along nicely and passed a few horses before getting to vet 3/5 where we just have a drink the first time through. Sorsha had a big drink- nice! I dropped off layer 2 here- off came the jacket. Now we did a little cantering as we head west on a perfect, soft, dirt road for a mile and a half that turns into even better single track that takes us to the infamous Trestle in the middle of the valley. The trail converges here and we will see it a few more times during the ride. A drink and some hay and we head down the raised railroad bed road that is as straight as a laser beam. In a bit we stop and ride down the bank onto the neat single track trail that I created many years ago that goes across the desert to the rocky saddle. This next section is ugly- rocky, but at least it’s only a mile or so on a hard, rocky road. A right turn on a decent road takes us trotting to the new trail Gretchen and I had made- it was now a full-fledged trail that wound across the desert to the first vet check, the sand pit at 18.5 miles. 70 horses will do that! Judy was there waiting for us which was nice, and Brenda helped out since Jeni Smith was well out in front of us. An easy vet check and 30 minute hold went by quickly; we headed out the 4 miles or so up the sometimes rocky road to sheep springs. You can trot most of it, but there are walking sections where the rocks grow out of the earth like craggy, black pumpkins. A nice drink at Sheep Springs and we head into the El Paso Wilderness area. It’s really pretty up here in the high country, and we roll along through what I call the roller coaster section- a road with huge, steep, roller coaster type hills that can be a couple hundred feet high. This is mostly walking, and once out of the section we drop into the big sand wash for a mile or so of downhill deep sand. Except for the jeeps! We came across a jamboree of some sort made up of about 80 jeeps that were plodding up the wash. Good grief! There was a solid line of jeeps for almost a half mile. The people were very nice and pulled over and stopped for us, and women were opening the windows and saying how pretty the horses were. (Is that a girl horse, or a boy horse? You are riding a hundred miles? Are you crazy?) It was all walk through here. The rocky climb to the right up out of the canyon got us out of the freeway jam up. Up the all rock hill, and then down the worst section of the ride- a really rocky, nasty, gnarly road across and up the big canyon. It’s only a half mile or so but it’s off the horse leading on foot through this crap. The top is the nice level part of Mormon flat that was a nice flat road with good footing that we cantered along. Another nice drink at the trough at the top, and we start the 3 mile downhill to the Garlock road. This road has been almost impassible in the past, but it had been recently bladed and was as smooth as can be, all the way down. A nice downhill jog / trot gets us to the bottom and the new 1 mile deep sandwash that led to the dry lake, the vet check location this year. I HATE deep sand, so Sorsha and I led a small herd of 5 horses through the wash edges here and there that were harder ground. Its fun bopping along, in and out, turn, jump, over there now, go this way, now over here, etc, etc. A short climb up and out of the wash and down to the dry lake and vet 2 for a check and 50 minute hold. Mike was there with the McDonalds breakfast burritos that I so crave here. (I had 3) Both horses were splendid, so we headed out, riding with Joyce Sousa and Jennifer Niehaus who were two of the three riders on the open 65. The joke was one would get first place, one the middle of the pack, and one the tail end. Neat! We leapfrogged with these guys for the rest of the loop. Now we hit the flats- the 5-mile section of dead flat trotting along the railroad tracks heading east that some people hate. I like it since you can make up some time here. Back across the paved road and up rattlesnake canyon at a trot/walk. It’s a couple miles of big wash/road to the top and looks like a gradual climb, but its misleading. I have seen horses blown up at the top here. A drink at the top and then it’s the several miles of decent roads (the power line road is kind of yucky rocky in spots) back down to the trestle. We drink and snack on hay here, then it’s the 3 miles trotting (the way we came out) back across the desert to vet 3 at the 395 vet check at mile 55. Another uneventful vet check and 30 minute hold and its back out the neat single track and across the 395 highway. Now its just 9 miles or so back to base camp at the fairgrounds and vet check 4. The 65 mile riders are done, but not us! We arrive as the sun was setting about 6:30 and prepare for the night loop. It was still cool, but not yet cold, but it would be soon. We vetted the horses, had a nice dinner of homemade stew, taped the glow bars on the breast collars, packed the flashlight, put the layers of clothes back on, and after our hour hold we headed back out of town on the 35 mile orange loop that DID NOT pass Gretchen’s house. I turned on the new, nice soft blue light battery powered glow bars that gave just the right amount of light. They were perfect! I tried them at home in the dark, but not for an extended period of time. I should have. The stupid things have a “feature” to protect their batteries- they turn themselves off after 15 minutes. I’m trotting up the road and “click”, they both turn off. Huh? I hopped off the horse, turned them back on, and yes, 15 minutes later “click.” Dark again. Oh great. Let’s see, 6 hour loop, that’s 24 fifteen minute periods, this is going to get old real quick. The moon was still up so I left them off for the next couple of hours, but once that moon was gone it was very dark. At least I could stop the horse, try to get her to stand still, take off my gloves, reach all the way down there and turn them back on without dismounting. The search for the perfect light bar continues! The air was weird- it was cool, but not cold, and we would hit these warm air pockets where you wanted to remove layers. 2 minutes later and its cold again. We trotted briskly up the 3 mile road heading east from camp and passed Leigh and Matt Scribner, who had these “special” headlamps on their helmets. We had been leapfrogging with them most of the day as well. The four of us turned west on boundary road, the 6 mile road that runs along the top of the ridge above Ridgecrest. Suddenly there was a truck coming towards us on the road at a pretty good clip- the lights were getting closer and closer, so Leigh said “we’ll take care of this.” they aimed those red lights at the truck- the truck slowed, stopped, (you could just hear the driver wondering what the heck?) turned around, and drove away. Those lights resembled a police car spotlight! Way to go, team Scribner! We caught up to Gayle Pena and Cristina Crum and rode as a small herd of six for a bit, but Gretchen, Gayle and I headed on together. Gayle’s glow sticks on her breast collar were dead, so she hung with us so she could see since it was quite dark. The lights of the city glitter to the right for the whole trip until we head downhill to the highway 395 south crossing where we have yet another drink and some hay. The next few miles are pretty cool- we wind up into the hills and join back up with the soft road that we trot down for about 4 miles and back to the trestle for the last time. it’s now about 12:30 am, and the stars above are incredible. We hooked up with fellow Quicksilver club member Jerry Wittenauer and his horse Carlos while the horses munch hay. He joined us for the superb 3 mile trot in the dark across the desert to our last vet check, vet 5, at mile 90. Cripes it’s cold now! The ride workers are all bundled up like skiers, but run out and give us a hand. Lucy Turnbuckle Chipotle was there filming in the middle of the night and caught me sleeping standing up. After 20 cold minutes we forge on back up the single track and up to the highway crossing where Sorsha did her only spook in the last 80 miles. The radio guy was in his dark truck, and we were leading the group. Just as we approached, he opened the door, the light comes on, and he hopped out. Sorsha stropped quick! It startled me as well, so I’ll give her that one. Across highway 395 onto the single track along the highway with the horrible car headlights blinding us. At least it was 1:00 am and there were not many cars! We mercifully turned east and out of the lights after a mile or so and trotted on the nice road back towards town. Back up over the top of the ridge and we led the horses on foot for a mile or more down the hill. We were almost out of the desert, literally less than 3 miles from the finish, and it happened. We were stopped on the dirt road for some reason with Gayle in the right lane, me and Sorsha in the left lane, (I may have been turning my stupid lights back on!) so Gretchen said she’d go on ahead and lead since Coquette knew where we are. She rode around me to the left and her horse stepped into a deep hole/trench that no one saw. Crash! Down they both go, hard, into the trench, with Gretchen smacking the ground with her helmet. Oh NO! Not now! Both her and her horse struggled to their feet and we checked for damage. They both seemed fine, so we walked for a bit and started trotting slowly. The horse looked okay, so on we continued with me worrying about Gretchen. She’s so tough, but hitting your head is never good. We rode slowly through the town and the last mile across the finish after 2am. It’s a 15 minute walk from the finish to camp which felt good. We took the horses to the final vet check where Sorsha did her Sorsha thing- CRI 36/36 and her trot looked like her vet in the day before. As Judy says- she’s a freak! But Coquette was lame. On no. She was off, I saw it. Not really bad, but off.

Here’s where vets can learn about what an AERC vet really is. Dr Mike Peralez (Head vet at Tevis) was out head vet. He and I may disagree on our opinion of Mojave Green rattlesnakes, but as a vet he’s top notch. More than that, though, he’s a good man. It’s 2:30 in the morning and Coquette is lame after 100 miles. I’m heartbroken for Gretchen, but I think she’s still a little loopy from her fall. Mike stands there quietly for a moment after watching her trot, and tells Gretchen: “ You still have time for your exam- walk her around for 10 minutes and bring her back.” She does, and brings her back for another trot. Okay, grade 2. The horse starts out off, but looks better after about half way as she speeds up! Mike nods, looks at his watch, and tells Gretchen: “okay, she looks better, but not quite. You have 15 minutes, walk her another 10.” Gretchen continues to walk her horse while Sorsha is pounding down her mash at the trailer next to the vet area. I hold my breath as Gretchen tries a third trot- Coquette looks better and trots well enough for her completion! Just in the nick of time. This is how it is done! Thanks again, Mike. He could have just pulled her and went back into the trailer. You the man, and Gretchen and I owe you a large beer!

It was cool to look at the time on my phone- daylight savings time had just kicked in and I was awarded another hour of sleep. A quick shower in the camper, and sleep, sleep, sleep. You know the term passing out? Yep. I don’t remember sleep feeling that good in a while. Up at 7:30 for walking the horses, breakfast, talking with friends, and watching the BC showing. I realized something incredible- I felt good. Really good. Nothing hurt, nothing was sore, no rubs, sleep removed the fatigue, and my Knee? Nothing. I realized that I had never really noticed it during or after the ride. It kept me from riding a lot last year. I don’t remember feeling this good after a 100 in a long time. Getting better with age? Just like fine wine! I’ll take it. The awards was fun- Jeremey won the 100 on one of Tinker’s horses (one got third as well) and J. Mero was awarded Best Condition. That was cool- she was really jazzed, as she should be! Her horse deserved it. Well Done Dr. J! I ended up in 20th place and third middleweight. I got a nice trophy plate, and the really beautiful Montana Silversmith championship 100 mile buckle is one that only 35 others on the planet share with me. Gretchen Included!
After awards Judy headed home to Hayward in the car, Gretchen took the horses back to her place for their turnout, the ride started to break up, and since I was staying an extra day, I stood there wondering what to do. I know! I unloaded the bike, suited up, and rode on out in my magnificent desert and cleaned up the ribbons on the 65 mile loop. It would save Brian from a long day out there doing that on the quad since it’s so much faster on the bike. I felt great and was riding very well. I picked up a bunch of stuff riders dropped and finished in about 3 hours. Now what? Off to the rv parts store to get some stuff and fix some nagging issues with the camper. Mike grilled us burgers for dinner, then off to sleep again. The next morning I packed up the big, brown, girly horse and headed home. What a great week. It is not relaxing as far as a vacation goes, but that’s the way I like it. Winter means desert rides, so next will be the fire mountain 2 day in January, then of course the 20 mule team 100 again in February. Again? Absolutely! You see, there is this trail I have to mark, and I have this brown horse..........

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Man Against Horse 50 2019 - Ashley Wingert - Full Story

by Ashley Wingert
October 22 2019

Man Against Horse will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my first AERC ride, the LD back in 2005. It’s also a tough, challenging ride, especially the 50-miler. Historically, I’ve gone up against the 50 three times…and finished once. Perversely, I still love this ride, and the challenge makes me all the more determined to conquer it.

So I was pleased to be offered a ride for the 50-miler this year when Cristina reached out to me to see if I was available and interested in riding Atti. I did the 75 at McDowell on him two years ago and had a great ride — he’s a safe, fun, go-getter little guy, and as a bonus, trains regularly on many of the Man Against Horse trails, so this would be his home turf.

Friday late morning saw me chucking my gear and some food into my truck, then zipping up the highway a couple hours north to Prescott Valley to pick up Cristina’s trailer and Atti. Now, I haven’t had a trailer since 2011, and prior to that, we had the big truck, so my suburban hasn’t had to do any trailer hauling duty for probably at least a decade, so there were more than a few muttered “please let me make it to camp” prayers after I hitched up and headed down the road. (Pleased that I have lost none of my vehicle aligning/trailer hitching skills, even if it was a comedy of errors to get the right hitch dialed in.) I only had a 20-minute, mostly flat and easy drive in which to contemplate brewing an ulcer though, and we made it into camp with no issues.

Troy and Claire had saved me a parking spot in camp, so I didn’t have to do the typical avoidance run of “don’t park in the middle of a rock pile or cactus patch” that someones comes with the territory of camping in the middle of a cow pasture. This was probably the most “on my own” I’ve been at a ride since retiring Mimi, and selling the truck and trailer, but I quickly fell back into doing my thing.

One thing catch riding has definitely done has been to knock off a lot of my uptight, control freak rough edges, and I feel like I’ve actually gotten pretty laid back and settled about the whole production, especially Friday afternoons before the ride. I used to be ridiculously neurotic about “OMG EVERYTHING HAS TO GET DONE AND THIS HAS TO HAPPEN AND…AND…AND…” and if I wasn’t right on top of things, or I didn’t check in right away or didn’t vet as soon as vetting started, it was grounds for a nervous meltdown. I recognize a lot of that for the nerves and inexperience that it was, but with catch riding, and operating more off of so many other people’s schedules, it’s really taught me some valuable flexibility, going with the flow, and that the world doesn’t end if things don’t fall 100% in accordance with The Schedule of Ashley...

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Iron Oak 2019 - Christina Hyke - Full story

October 14 2019
by Christina Hyke

Grace, Grace and more Grace, where do I start? This little mare was so ready for this ride, it is safe to say that all year we had worked up to this point. While Grace is doing so well, and I am so proud of her, it really took all this time from March until now to get her ready. Even with that said, it takes years (not months) to truly condition a horse due to joints, tendons, ligaments and yes, even bones to strengthen over miles of training. But, do you know what? It was SO worth it. It felt amazing to load her up and be confident in the program we had followed, the method of conditioning we are using and knowing we had done all our homework. I am not trying for a placing, we are riding for a completion. If over the years we bump up in the pack, so be it. Though we finish where we finish and our goal is to finish strong/get the mileage, and we did. 30 of them

Dogs to the sitter, housecare, horse care & chicken care all arranged, trailer fully loaded with enough snacks to keep the kiddos happy all weekend. We packed extra everything for Grace & for us. Extra food, blankets, batteries, flashlights , bridles etc etc. You get the picture. ALL week we had been watching carefully the weather as it approached, the forecast was not good. Night temps to almost freezing and rain/snow in the forecast. God Bless Jim. His attitude was, "Let's load up an go, Babe, if you get up there, and it is too bad weather, we can always come back home." Wow, just wow, how can I say no to that? So away we went, into a very uncertain weather forecast. Grace was beyond wound up when we got parked, the wind was literally blowing sideways. And it had gone from earlier in the week being so warm that she had sweated on her last two rides, to now being cold enough to see snow flurries. I turned her into the round pen at the campgrounds to let her work off some energy and saw some fancy moves from her I simply did not know she had. The dressage horse breeding in her definitely showed up and pranced around and she was so gorgeous that any carousel horse would have paled in comparison to her moves and beauty. She barely touched the ground as she floated around the arena. I quickly decided that she was not going to roll or chill, and that she was getting far MORE amped up- so I'd better get a rope and catch her. Glad I did- the horses on the other side of the fence thought about challenging her- so good thing I got her out of there asap. Instead we walked around and found a friend to visit with at the other end of the campground and that helped take the edge off of her and she settled back into the Gracie Girl we all know and love, calm and cuddly.

We vetted in and the vet had nice things to say about Grace and how well she trotted out for me. She really is looking good...

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Traveling with a Horse Circus in Guatemala - Full Story

September 9 2019

Traveling in a caravan with a horse circus in Guatemala is not really what you’d expect to see deep in the jungle. One adventuress shares her experiences as a gypsy riding in a caravan from place to place with pack horses and hula hoops. Their mission? To bring smiles to people’s faces wherever they go.

Author: Hebe Webber

The Calling

“Attention all Nomads! We are seeking adventurous, spirited souls to come join us on our journey deep into the jungle, deep into our natural wild selves. We are a community travelling by horse and giving a creative show to the local communities in order to experience cultural exchange. Every caravan is different because it is the tribe who makes it. Our quest is to gather riders, artists, healers, movers, makers, and creators of any kind and of any background to form a unified tribe.”

These are the words that echoed in my mind, urging me to follow them to the source. The dream began 5 years prior when I heard the tales of a friend who had ridden with this very community in Mexico. As the years passed, the calling stayed. Until one day I could no longer ignore it. I followed it through Latin America until I had landed in the very place my dream existed: Guatemala...

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Ireland: Saddle up – we’re doing the Wild Atlantic Way – on horseback! - Full Story

Friday, 27th September, 2019 11:50am
Story by Jackie Keogh

A COUPLE who met in the most unusual of circumstances have embarked on an adventure of a lifetime – they are travelling into the Wild Atlantic West on horseback.

Krystal Kelly, a 29-year-old woman from California, who has been obsessed with horses all her life, and 32-year-old Christian Vogler, a German automotive engineer, met while she was doing the Mongol Derby on horseback and he was doing the Mongol Rally by car.

It seemed like an unlikely pairing, but since then, they have worked together on YouTube documentaries for Equestrian Adventuresses, an online community established by Krystal for women who love horses and adventure.

It was while Bridget Sheeran, who lives in Ballinard in Baltimore, was googling ‘sole travel for women and how to stay safe’ that Krystal’s website popped up.

Emails were exchanged and in one of them Bridget suggested they should come to Ireland, and – in true synchronistic style – Krystal said she had the very same thought, the very same day...

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Monday, September 23, 2019

‘An amazing experience’: Pony and rider cross Britain coast to coast - Full Article

Sarah Radford
17 September, 2019 07:02

A rider and her Fell pony have raised almost £6,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support after successfully crossing the UK west to east along the challenging Trans Pennine Trail.

Sarah Bartlett and Billy are the first horse and rider combination to have tackled the whole route from Southport to Hornsea — which involved big and busy roads linking up the sections of trail.

The epic trip involved eight days of travelling between 25 and 30 miles a day, which Sarah described as a “hard slog at times”but an “amazing experience”.

“There were the lows, including the horse lorry we were staying in each night breaking down halfway through the trek, but there were many highs and many memories made,” she said.

On the August bank holiday they got caught in the heatwave while crossing the Pennines at Woodhead Stretch and had to steady their pace, which meant longer gaps between the planned water stops.

“We’d done a lot of hill training but it was a hot day and we’d gone up one steep hill and there was no one to be seen anywhere, just sheep and the pennines,” Sarah recalled. “We came across a six-inch deep puddle and he just planted in it and started taking the odd sip — for a horse who doesn’t normally drink much on the road that let me know how hot he was. We had to stop there and rest for about 40 minutes..."

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Cuneo Creek 50 2019: And Then There Were Hills - Redheaded Endurance - Full Story


Kenny and I had good fun at the inaugural running of the Nevada multi-day Torre Creek in May. We saw rain, hail, snow-capped peaks, and gorgeous flower-accented desert trails; we sponsored a junior on an LD and had a lovely time–but we didn’t get in our 50 miler for the Decade Team Goal.* Summer whipped by with a lot of work and some play, and suddenly we were looking at an ever dwindling ride calendar quickly heading towards season’s close on November 30th. I hit on the notion of trying out Red Rock Rumble in Nevada in October as I liked the ride management and Kenny had completed his first 50 in that area previously.

* (“The Decade Team recognizes those equine and rider teams who completed at least one endurance ride (50 miles or more) each year for 10 years. This would not have to be consecutive years, and the rider must be an AERC member each of the 10 years.”).

Then one day on a ride at newly reopened fabulous local trails with my dear riding buddy N and her Tennessee Walker, N asked why I had never been up to the Redwood Rides; simple: as 6+ hours hauls up into a rural area, I deemed them an unfair task for my 22 year old truck that is reaching for the 400,000 miles stars. N has been through an incredibly tough year that, among other things, resulted in needing to replace vehicle(s) and she wondered if I might be interested in hooking up my much larger horse trailer (she hauls a Brenderup) to her 2019 Dodge Diesel and going to September 7’s Redwood Ride Cuneo Creek together.

Why Yes. Yes I was!...

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Thursday, September 05, 2019

Appaloosa Horse Club celebrates history at the 55th annual Chief Joseph Trail Ride

Photo by participant Kristen Livingston - Full Article

August 28 2019

More than 250 riders, drivers and spectators along with 106 horses from across the nation and around the world gathered together to experience in the 55th Annual Chief Joseph Trail Ride organized by the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC), July 22-26, 2019. The Chief Joseph Trail Ride is a progressive ride tracing, as closely as possible, the route Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce took while attempting to escape the US Cavalry in 1877.

The ride is currently on its fifth passage of the route that takes thirteen years to complete. This year, when riders and their Appaloosas covered 113 miles in just five days in Idaho from Grangeville to Musselshell Meadows, the third leg was completed...

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Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Crewing Tevis 2019 - Ashley Wingert - Full Story

This year, I was actually pretty “waffle-y” on whether I was going to go to Tevis or not. Earlier in the summer, I was pretty set on the idea that I wasn’t going. I’d had a taste for riding it the previous year, had fallen short, and although I hadn’t had high expectations for the day…it still stung, and I was battling back a lot of “if I can’t ride, I don’t want to go” feelings.

Well, that lasted until my friend Cathy messaged me, wondering if I possibly had any Tevis plans, and if I didn’t, if there was a possibility I might be interested in crewing. She’d asked me several previous years, but I was always otherwise committed to someone else, but this year, the way the cards ended up falling for various and sundry people, I was still un-booked when she contacted me. It was also a nice way to return the favor of her taking me with her and providing horses for the Tevis Ed Ride a couple years ago...

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Canadian Sisters Take Cross-Country Horseback Adventure - Full Article

Sisters Katie and Jewel Keca embarked on part two of their cross-Canada horseback ride in support of the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.

By: Amy Harris | August 28, 2019

When Katarina (Katie) Keca was a little girl, she dreamed of riding a horse across the country with her sister and cousin. Time passed, life happened and she put her dream on the shelf. Years later, her sister, Jewel Keca, picked up the dream, dusted it off, and started making plans.

Jewel convinced Katie to join her and Ora, a seven-year-old Appaloosa cross mare, on the cross-Canada journey. She even bought Katie a horse for the trip – a 12-year-old Quarter Horse cross gelding named Lux.

The sisters decided to raise money alongside their adventure, and chose the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides as a recipient. The organization is close to the Keca family’s hearts, and between them they have raised five guide dog puppies.

With their older brother Joseph serving as support staff/videographer, Katie (25) and Jewel (20), set off on the first part of their journey in May 2017...

Read more and see a video here:

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Chief Joe Trail Ride - Onward to Musellshell - Karen Bumgarner

Karenshorsetales Blog - Full Story

July 29 2019
by Karen Bumgarner

This had to be the fastest week ever! It seemed like I had barely left when it was time to say goodbye to my friends for another year, and we all load up and go home. To describe this years experience I could overuse the word "amazing" very easily. We had our ups and downs, it wasn't perfect, but as someone said, "We weren't living in teepees and when we get to camp dinner will be ready for us!" Truer words were never spoken. It's all an adventure.

The Chief Joseph ride began in 1965 and this was the 55th year, taking place over the third segment of the trail. It takes 13 years to complete the entire trail and it averages 100 miles a year. This years total by an average of several GPS' was 113 miles!! Last year we ended at Tolo Lake near Grangeville, ID, and this year we ended at the historic Musselshell Meadows. We rode through thick forests with magnificent views through the trees, old burns, beautiful wildflowers, along scenic rivers, historic routes and places. Each night we had Nez Perce speakers to learn the history of the events and places along the way...

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Going the Distance: Riding my first 50 - Jessica Isbrecht

Ride+Climb blog - Full Story

June 24 2019
by Jessica Isbrecht

My horse and I have just gone our furthest distance yet. I’ve been in the saddle for hours. My knees and back ache. The sun is beating down; temperatures are climbing, causing us to slow to a walk. It feels like it will never end. The enthusiasm I felt at the start is waning but I don’t want to give up, so I just keep riding, taking it mile by mile.

The sport of Endurance Riding has always intrigued me. The athleticism of horse and rider teams competing on courses of 100 miles in a day is awe inspiring. I’ve always wanted to make it to that level but so far have only competed in limited distance rides, meaning shorter than fifty miles. Recently, I decided to attempt a longer distance. Here’s the story of how we reached our goal of completing a fifty mile endurance ride.

I started competing on River, Byron’s horse, this season out of necessity since Mackenzie is still healing from an injury. In March, River and I completed our first 25 miles at Old Pueblo in Sonoita, Arizona. The terrain consisted of gently rolling hills and River handled it beautifully. We were able to buddy up with fellow Greenbean, Christina McCarty and her horse, Hot Shot. Riding with them was a real pleasure. It gave me the confidence to ride away from camp on a prancing, head-tossing beast who was screaming for her friend back at the trailer...

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Chasing Oregon’s Volcanoes - Robert Eversole - Full Story

December 20 2018

As published in The TrailHead News Dec 2018 issue

Over the summer I had the opportunity to camp and ride throughout central Oregon for two weeks, stopping at 4 different equine camps along the way and riding some phenomenal country.

Celeste and I started at the Quinn Meadow Horse Camp, west of Bend. It’s a popular destination point for riders throughout the Pacific Northwest. This very clean, very welcoming camp offers sturdy corrals, potable water, private camp spots and miles of loop trails to enjoy through dense forest, and remnants of the area’s volcanic past.

Within 10 minutes of the horse camp riders can step back over 7,000 years to a time of bubbling basaltic lava flows and volcanic vistas. Riding through the lava flows that tower overhead is quite the experience! For more info on the horse camp including accurate directions, GPS tracks, pics, and more, visit

Great Minds Think Alike at Todd Creek

After a few days at Quinn we decamped and traveled an impressive 5 miles down the road to the Todd Creek Horse Camp where I would be completing my unfinished ride of 2017. Pulling into the immense parking lot that is the Todd Creek Camp we saw that two of our Quinn Meadow mule neighbors had already arrived, made camp and were now planning the next day’s ride...

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Monday, June 17, 2019

2019 Wild West 50 Day 2 - Nick Warhol

by Nick Warhol
June 16 2019

I rode Sorsha on her second 50 of the year on Day 2 of the now 4 day wild west ride at Skillman campground near Nevada City in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Gretchen Montgomery joined me for the ride on her mare Coquette. I have done thirty plus 50 mile rides at this event over the years so I know the area pretty well. The ride this day was a modified version of the usual route with some differences. The day has been a little short in the past, but not on Friday. It was easily a full 50 on a long day in the saddle in a weird ride. It was very hot, which does not bother me, but the heat and trail took it out of many people. An amazing half of the riders got pulled on this day which I don’t ever remember happening. The ride used to be about 60% single track and 40% roads, but not now! Ride management did me a favor and made it about 90% single track. It was a great trail for me anyway. Long story short Gretchen and I just rode all day and had pretty much a perfect ride. We missed several turns, as did many people, but were able to back track and find the route pretty easily. The ride started at 7am and we finished at 6pm in 19th and 20th. I believe about 48 started and only 26 finished. My knee did well again as it did at Cache Creek 4 weeks ago. My solution is to walk a quarter mile every 5 miles or so- it really helps refresh my knee.

Oh, about my horse. When I got Sorsha 3 years ago I told people I think this is going to be a good endurance horse. Oh boy was I right on that one! She is no longer going to be a good horse, she is now officially a very good endurance horse! I’m astounded how far she has come so quickly. She is a metabolic machine with incredible recoveries, which is a good thing. In her first few rides I had to lead her on foot from camp due to her nerves and excitement- not any more. We walk out perfectly looking like a trail horse. She would not go near water, mud, or moist ground. (On my test ride before I bought her we had to turn around because of a little mud on the trail) Now she crosses anything. She used to have a fit and spin around when another horse passed her or she passed one- not any more. She goes up hills like no Arabian I have ever ridden. She eats and drinks like a seasoned pro. Her number one issue is she is flighty and spooks. She was VERY spooky at first which led me to have to ride her differently that Donnie, that’s for sure. I know she is going to launch so I have to be ready at all times.

Here’s where I admit that you never stop learning about horses. Before the Cache Creek ride a month ago I was talking to my friend Ines Hoffman who I rode with. I was explaining how I had to ride Sorsha differently than Donnie because of her spooks. She gave me some simple advice that at first I did not pay much attention to. She just told me “Don’t ride her like she’s going to spook, ride her like she won’t.” I started thinking about that, and during the ride she pointed out that I was looking for things for her to spook at, which the horse probably felt. I stopped doing that and just relaxed, like I do when I’m on Donnie.

Yeah- night and day difference. She did not spook at anything during the Cache Creek ride, even when she was in the lead of our group of horses. Not one spook. At the ride on Friday Gretchen and I spent just about half and half leading the other. Sorsha did not spook once. She looks at things, and will move over on the trail a little bit when she’s looking, but no spooks other than one little startle when she walked over a deep rut filled with branches. She’s a different horse in the last couple of months, and is an absolute joy to ride. I was obviously communicating nervousness to her. It is so neat to see the incredible improvement in just a couple of years.

Next stop is Fireworks where I will ride with Judy and Donnie on the 25. My year is focused on getting Sorsha primed for the Championship 100 at the 20 mule team on November 2nd. It’s my trail and I can’t wait!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Across Argentina on Horseback - Full Story and photos

14 June 2019

Harold and Danaé were novice riders until they embarked on a 1,000km trek across Argentina with three incredible horses...

El Carmen, Argentina - April 2019: The young couple on horseback are tired after another long day on the road. They are 600km into their epic trip across the wild terrain of northern Argentina, and there’s hundreds of kilometres still to go with their trio of horses.

On the horizon a vehicle is coming their way. Dust spits up from the road as the engine roars. The car nears – faster and faster, louder and louder - and Pilpinto, their sturdy and reliable saddlebag horse, takes fright, leaping over a barrier by the roadside and then back over it again. He screams in pain.

The young couple, Harold and Danaé, come to his aid. Poor, brave Pilpinto is spooked. He’s bleeding from his leg. The blood rushes. He needs help...

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Saturday, June 01, 2019

2019 Torre Creek 2019: Scenery, and Snail! - Redheaded Endurance - Full Story

May 29, 2019 / Redheaded Endurance

Kenny and I jumped aboard adventure pal W’s trailer last Friday morning for a journey to the new high desert multi-day endurance ride Torre Creek in north eastern Nevada. Kenny and I’s last endurance ride (complete with exciting travel issues) was in September and we had had truly minimal saddle time since the new year between life and the new job; that coupled with ride camp at 6500 ft elevation (we live at about 1200 ft) with climbs promised had me already weighing the idea of changing my planned 50 to an LD once or twice in the week leading up to the event.

Morning of departure, the weather forecast was dire and we had a long (7 hr) drive ahead of us, but a friend of W’s was putting the ride on and we had long ago committed to attending. Feeling as discombobulated as one does after not going to a ride in ages, and then not in your own rig, I scrabbled together what I thought we would need for an “arrive-Friday, ride-Saturday, home-Sunday” weekend and off we set (note to self: always pack more hay than you think you should).

An aside: If you have followed this blog at all then you may know that trucks have a tendency to misbehave around me. Here I would like to record a BIG shout out to W’s 1997 Ford, who laid to rest all past transgressions by charging through the 14+ hours of travel like a fresh faced youth, apparently unphased by being backed into at ride camp mid weekend. Thank you, Ford!

Suffice to say that we arrived at ride camp as planned late afternoon on Friday–and that’s about where “as planned” ended for the weekend! Things got real quite quickly, as Kenny has barely made his opening tour of the grounds and taken in his ride camp spot before it started hailing– with conviction...

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Friday, May 10, 2019

2019 Biltmore 50 - Liz Stout

Liz-Stout Blog - Full Story

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Shortly after I tossed aside my hopes of attending No Frills earlier in April, Lauren reached out to me about being her sponsor for the Biltmore 50 on May 3. (In AERC, a sponsor is an adult ride who agrees to ride with a junior rider for the duration of the ride.) I’ve crewed this ride for an FEI rider once and again for Sara on her first 100. With added time to put weight on Q during April and knowing the grass was coming in strongly already, I accepted her proposal, excited to finally have a chance to ride at Biltmore!

It’s always been a dream of mine to ride at Biltmore, but one that didn’t work out in the timeline I’d hoped after Q tore her LH suspensory at the end of August in 2016. As I’ve written about at length since the injury, I’ve brought Q back slowly. In addition to rehabbing her suspensory, we’ve rehabbed our fractured relationship and our trust/confidence in one another. Slowly and steadily, with a lot of patience and a lot of time and miles, we made it back to where we were and then beyond. Since then, I’ve been eager to put everything to the true test of an endurance ride...

So the short of it? Q exceeded any and all expectations I had for her. She carried us to a completion after 50 miles of the most beautiful trails I’ve ever competed on. She led for nearly half of the ride, 12 of 15 miles of the final loop, like a total BOSS. Does this mean that we don’t have more to work on? Absolutely not. We’ve still got lots to improve on, but this new baseline is lightyears ahead of the old one and I couldn’t possibly be more thrilled.

The long of it? Gather your drink of choice and settle in for the first endurance ride story on this blog since June 2016, and I’ll tell you...

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Thursday, May 02, 2019

A Hunter Jumper Gone Rogue - Sonya Bengali

RidingWarehouse Blog - Full Story

April 16 2019

There is a ton of crossover between disciplines these days, but often it still feels like each operates in its own "world," with unique sets of rules and customs. Below, RW crew member and hunter/jumper rider, Sonya, hops disciplines and shares her experience doing her first Endurance ride, the 2019 Nevada Derby!


A Little Background Info

I started my riding career in Pony Club, and throughout the years have dabbled in a variety of English riding disciplines. In my younger, crazier days, I hopped back and forth between eventing and equitation/medals, with the occasional dressage show or hunter derby thrown in the mix. Point chasing to qualify for Maclay Finals while simultaneously working towards my first CCI** (Long) was already seen as an obscure mix of disciplines, especially on the same horse. But, I genuinely loved both disciplines so I made it work.

Now that I'm officially an amateur, I've lost the guts I used to have for the upper levels of cross country, so these days I ride mostly in the medal/equitation ring. Still, I've always loved long solo trail rides and been intrigued by Endurance riding. I just never thought I'd act on it!

Then one day I found myself talking to RW customer and Endurance rider, Stevie Delahunt of Action Horse LLC., on Instagram direct message. She sent me a photo from a training ride to feature on the Riding Warehouse Instagram page, and casually mentioned that I should come ride with her sometime. Since I was a complete stranger, really just a mysterious entity managing the RW social channels, she probably didn't expect me to take her up on it. But after 10 seconds of contemplation, I thought, "why not?!"...

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Redefined Goals for Ride Season 2019 - Kimi Linnell

Milestogobeforeisleep Blog - Full Story
Merri Melde photo

April 23, 2019

I am a person who thrives off of goal-making, planning and progression. So I find it a little odd that I never took the time at the beginning of 2019 to make goals for myself (and Sego). Now that our first ride of the season is out of the way, I have come up with some goals that I’d like to share here.

1. Attend All Utah Limited Distance Rides

Sego and I will be in Utah for the summer. Luckily for us, there is a good-sized endurance community here and plenty of neat rides (4 to be exact). Antelope Island (complete!), Mt. Carmel, Strawberry Fields, and Outlaw and the Virgin. With Sego being so young, I don’t want to do a 50 this year...

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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Riding through the Lesotho highlands - Full Story

Posted by Teagan Cunniffe on 28 March 2019

Khotso Lodge’s new accommodation in Ha Thamatu offers an ideal base to experience the simplicity and beauty of life in rural eastern Lesotho.

What Three-day horse trail

Where Sehlabathebe National Park, Lesotho

Who Teagan Cunniffe

At 9pm on a Friday night, the door to our rondavel opened. We turned from the fire and peered out through the doorway, where a stranger’s face shone dimly back at us from the gloom. The man was wearing biking gear and had that worn-out expression that comes with an unexpectedly-long day’s journey. We were equally surprised to see one another: this deep into Lesotho, you encounter few other tourists. We welcomed him inside and the grateful traveller joined us with stories of his road trip.

Our day had started with the stamping of our passports at the Bushman’s Nek border post, and meeting our horses. Mine was Slowsaw, a Basotho pony with curious eyes and a quick gait. Then onwards into grassy transfrontier Sehlabathebe National Park, splashing through rivers with cameras held high, and 1,400 metres up, up, up through Bushman’s Nek Pass. We passed herders going in the opposite direction, and Khotso Lodge’s owner, Steve Black, pointed out shallow ponds where endemic Maluti minnows live, surviving the altitude and sun exposure...

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Riding Horses on Mount Spokane in Washington - Full Story

August 4, 2017
by Shelah Wetter

Mount Spokane, at an elevation of over 5,800 feet, has a summit that's the highest point in Spokane County, and it is one of the tallest peaks in the Inland Northwest.

Mount Spokane is surrounded by Mount Spokane State Park, Washington's largest at over 13,000 acres. It's a wonderful place to explore on horseback in the summer and fall months with 100 miles of trails, huckleberry picking, and beautiful surrounding views of the Selkirk ranges...

Read more here:

Monday, February 25, 2019

20 Mule Team 65 - Nina Bomar

February 24 2019

I’m always enlightened by my fellow endurance riders. As we drive home from the 40th annual 20 Mule Team Endurance Ride, I’m heartened by the many stories that were shared over this past weekend. For some people it just wasn’t their weekend, while others were floating on cloud nine and ecstatic with their horse’s accomplishments. It doesn’t matter the distance but it’s more about the process that one goes through to get out there and do it.

With the recent weather, I’m sure there were many who couldn’t come but for those who did, I sincerely applaud their efforts. There were first timers in all distances and then there were folks like Laurie Birch who rode her mare Scud Run, completing their tenth 100 miler and reaching her horse’s 11,000 mile achievement. It’s truly mind boggling.

Kudos to my friend and frequent training partner Lisa Rushing for braving the snow and ice and still coming out with her horse Razor and completing the 35 miler. She often makes the trek all the way down to Malibu and we spend hours together climbing mountains and conditioning the horses. They are committed to building strength and confidence and will soon be doing the 50 -100 milers. I look forward to that day!

It was on this ride a few years ago in 2015 that I rode the 100 miler with my good friends Carlita J Roberts, Helen and Marci Schmidt Cunningham We had such a fantastic ride that year and I’ll always remember them passing by my trailer in the morning to pick me up so that we could ride together. This year Carlita did it once again completing the 100 miler with nothing but giggles and smiles. She is so inspiring and her wealth of energy is off the charts. She is always happy and having a good time. This morning we joked about how it was our 4 year friendversary and I feel blessed to have met her at such an iconic ride. She is as special as the history of this ride, which always reminds me of its earliest beginnings when Jackie Baumgardner got it all started. In fact John was given a special recognition award this year for his volunteerism after all these years. He rode the very first ride and is humble as pie and an unbelievably sweet man.

During the ride, Cheeky and I had the pleasure of sharing the trail with a variety of friends over the course of 65 miles. It was truly a solo ride for us with intermittent join ups that always left us smiling. Allan Horn on his hot mare Rosie went on to finish in the top 5 but there was a time when he slowed her down and we got to chat for a mile or two. She’s an impressive girl who reminds me of my Glorianna, with her busy mind and flawless movement. Allan is a big guy and his girl carries him with ease. It’s quite a site to see.

On a few occasions, we rode together with Crysta Turnage She is the ride manager for the Virginia City 100, which Cheeky and I also completed back in 2015. She shared with me how much she loves putting on the ride and said that she has a lot of great helpers to rely on. She’s a project manager by trade so keeping the ride going is her passion and a skill that she has lots of experience at doing. She also hosts AERC clinics and actively contributes to our sport. I enjoyed listening to her many achievements, while I admired her horse as we trotted alongside one another for several miles.

My longtime friend Lisa Schneider was out there on her boy Sky. We have done many training rides together and although we have not seen each other much of late, it was great to see them floating down the trail. Lisa lives in an area that was affected by the fire and most recently the rains. Her road and its bridge have been washed out for months now making it extremely difficult to get in and out with a rig. I look forward to the day when all that mess gets cleared and we can resume training. She and Sky enjoyed an impressive ride with an 8th place finish.

Terrie LaPorte had a very unfortunate dismount after completing nearly 90% of the 100 mile course, when her horse suddenly spooked and she found herself on the ground. Her story is harrowing but in true Terrie spirit, she managed to make it back and her horse is fine too. She’s another gal who loves endurance and no matter what’s thrown her way, she has goals fulfill and ain’t nothing stopping her.

Above all I’d like to express my deepest admiration for my horse Cheeky. He carried me with enthusiasm and purpose from the start until the finish. His vet card was testament to his level of fitness and his ability to take care of himself throughout the ride. I loved our time together and my heart swells with pride and sincere admiration for my special boy. He worries like me but always gives it his all and uses his skills to get us through. I wanted to finish before dark and he made that happen for me. We also crossed the finish line with all four of our grape colored Renegade Hoof boots... thx Gina Lander for sending us the good luck color 💜 Cheeky had lots of attitude as he showed off for Juan who was out there cheering for us from the start until the finish. It was a magical ride and we thank all the volunteers, veterinarians and ride management for making it happen.

Lastly... I want to thank all those responsible for gifting me the gorgeous Virginia City 100 sterling silver belt buckle. I never dreamed that would happen. I thought I didn’t want “stuff” anymore since the fire but this buckle has made me smile and it’s a beautiful reminder of one of Cheeky and my greatest achievements together. The inscription on the buckle is priceless and says it all. Please believe me when I say that my heart is completely filled with emotion and gratitude and total surprise that y’all did that for me... Muchas gracias from the bottom of my heart.

20 Mule Team 100 - Lucy Chaplin Trumbull

February 25 2019

It hurts to breathe - I’m suffering from full-body work over - but we got it done:

20 Mule Team - Turtle version:

I was super happy to complete the 100 for the sixth time (on three different horses) and got my 5,000 miles in the process. I don’t ride many rides each year, so was happy to reach this milestone.

This year I had the pleasure of riding Andrea Maitland’s mare Lily - chaperoning her #2 horse, Wyatt, on his first 100.

We had a couple of incidents of Wyatt’s brain falling out during the course of the ride, so had to adjust our pace accordingly. Add in some unexpected course changes, and we found ourselves several hours behind schedule, both a little frazzled (Andrea from dealing with Wyatt’s antics, me from riding a strange horse in a strange saddle on too little personal conditioning [i.e. I haven’t actually ridden anything close to a conditioning ride since last summer]).

By 65 miles, I was close to tears trying to get everything done in the “hour hold”. Of course we were parked about as far away from the vetting area as possible. I opted to switch to my treeless saddle for the final 35 miles, but that meant switching stirrups and rump rug onto it, attaching a pommel bag, and transferring the contents of the bag; I needed a headlight taped to my helmet (the moon didn’t rise until 10:45 and was then behind cloud cover - and riding rutted trails in pitch black is much tougher than I realized - even if the horse can see the way); I needed glow sticks that actually gave out light taped on (the red ones make you visible to others, but don’t actually give out any ambient light); I needed to switch out my entire lower half of clothing - and “anti-chafe” my legs which were rubbed to cr*p from the strange saddle; I needed to tack up Andrea’s horse (health issues mean she has difficulty you that time of the ride); and I needed to feed myself.

Thankfully, Anne Williams (fresh off her 65 miler, and “off to take a nice shower” - b*tch)(and I mean that in the nicest possible way) drove past and came to my pathetic-state rescue, helping me with all the above)(well, not the clothing/anti-chafe part). Many thanks to her.

The result was we were out 30 mins late (not helping our “tight on time” schedule), but at least we were out.

Doing the math as we set off into the darkness to anxiously spot glow sticks, I realized we had to maintain slightly over 5 mph for the next seven hours. Which may not sound bad, but it includes several long climbs and a couple of descents, and sand.

Andrea had “Endomondo lady” on her phone, calling out the miles as we checked them off. I told her we needed 12 minute miles, or below if we wanted to finish. In addition, I worked out that we needed to be in to VC5 by 3:30 latest.

We stuck Lily in front and told her “trot” and trot she did. That little mare maintained a consistent trot for the next 15 miles, much of it uphill in sand, carting my extra 35-40 lbs of unused-to weight (her usual rider Andrea is less, er, “muscular” than I).

By the time we reached the 395 crossing (80 miles ish) around 1 am, we’d bought ourselves about 25 mins of time. Just as well, as we both got dizzy and peculiar when we stopped trotting here, and Andrea’s body decided enough was enough, and she had the pleasure of her first endurance-induced puke fest. Thankfully Wyatt didn’t care (stood in front of hay), and after 5 mins of wavering, she sucked it up (so to speak) and off we went again.

We even caught and passed a couple of riders at this point and worked hard enough to get into VC5 by 2:45.

It was freezing at this check, but the horses scarfed down mashes and Andrea scoffed down tums.

To show you how far gone I was, when we arrived, I unclipped my tailing rope from the saddle, hopped off the horse and walked her over to the in timer. Only when I got there, I realized that my tailing rope wasn’t actually attached to the horse - I was just holding an empty rope - and she’d gone off, got herself a drink, and found the hay.

The vet pronounced her “a little stiff” (you think? After what she just pulled off?) and by then we had 2:45 hours to get the last 10 miles, so we took it really easy on the way in and finally got in at 5:40 am (ride start was 6 am the previous day).

This would have been fine if, by then, I wasn’t hallucinating from tiredness (not the first time on this ride). Amongst other things, I hallucinated an elephant, two dragons, an extra horse that Andrea was ponying, and an overhead banner that was so real I reached out to touch it (it turned out to be the skyline). I had to hand-walk Lily down the long hill to stay awake, and at one point when she stopped to pee and I leaned over her neck, I fell asleep completely.

But get it done we did - and Wyatt was still rooting and pulling and wanting to go faster at the end of his first 100 - amazing.

Many thanks to Andrea for hauling the horses from AZ and entrusting me with her gem of a mare. Such a great mare to borrow.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

New Zealand’s Most Incredible Horse Rides - Huia - Full Story

June 18, 2017

Get the inside word from a Kiwi rider on her favorite horse trekking experiences.

New Zealand is well known for the amazing scenery and the incomparable natural beauty of our beaches and wild spots. As riders, we know that pretty much every view looks better between two furry ears, and New Zealand is no exception to that rule!

Travelling in New Zealand is simply full of opportunities to get in the saddle and experience the best that we can offer from horseback, from mountains to rivers and golden beaches. There are ways to go horse trekking in our famous Southern Alps with businesses like this and this, and tourist mecca Queenstown has lovely horse rides. Just out of Auckland is a gorgeous horse trekking business with rides that take you up to views over the Hauraki Gulf and volcanic islands. Further North is 90 Mile Beach, with a great local riding business right on the beach. The whole of New Zealand is dotted with riding stables and horse trekking businesses – just ask a local and they will point you in the right direction!...

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Horse Riding and Mule Packing in the Ansel Adams Wilderness - Michael Church - Full Story

June 12 2017
Story and photography by Michael W. Church

Why go on a horse riding vacation in the Sierra Wilderness? It’s simple. As beautiful as this country is, it’s always twice as nice when seen between the ears of a horse.

Story and photography by Michael W. Church Michael W. Church

It was August 16, 2015 and the fourth year of an epic drought for California. The Owens Valley was baking in 100°F heat and the Sierra foothills and mountains were plagued by a record number of forest fires. As I drove down Highway 395 from Carson Valley toward the tiny town of Lee Vining, I could see large thunderclouds towering high above the mountain peaks. “Good,” I said, “we desperately need the rain.”

As I drove closer to Lee Vining, the storm clouds grew bigger and darker. Finally, I reached the scenic Vista Point that overlooks Mono Lake and Lee Vining far below. What I saw next made my heart sink to the very bottom of my soul. Those weren’t storm clouds! They were great billowing clouds of smoke from a forest fire that was raging out of control near Tioga Pass. With high winds at its back, the Walker Fire quickly spread out of control.

Airplanes and helicopters were flying in formation over the fire and dropping orange fire retardant in a feeble attempt to quell the fire. Silhouetted against an enormous wall of swirling red fire and black smoke, even the largest planes looked like tiny flying insects. Crestfallen, I forged onward to Mammoth Lakes.

Mammoth Lakes to Johnston Meadows (Day 1)

The following morning, our group met for breakfast at The Stove Restaurant. There were two male wranglers (Clay and Andy), one cook and lady wrangler (Anna), and eight guests comprised of four ladies from Indiana, a married couple from England, a gent from California, and me from Michigan. After breakfast, we drove to Horseshoe Lake Trailhead, where our horses and pack mules were waiting. Some of us rode horses that were a quarter horse-warm blood mix, whereas others rode mules.

We mounted up and took Red’s Meadow Trail over Mammoth Pass. At the mountain crest, we could see the majestic Minaret Peaks in the distance. We descended into a valley and rode across the wooden bridge that spans the San Joaquin River, rode past the basalt rock formation called The Devils Postpile, then joined the John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail and made our way through a forest of Lodge Pole pines to a campsite at Johnston Meadows (8,100 ft. elevation)...

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Horseback Riding Arizona’s Tonto National Forest - Lisa Florey - Full Story

June 23 2017
by Lisa Florey

Trading in Chicago winters for Arizona sunshine was a no-brainer. Instead of slogging through slush in downtown Chicago, I explored the canyons, washes and rugged trails of the Tonto National Forest on horseback. The fifth-largest national forest in the United States, Tonto boasts nearly 900 miles of trails.

For several months, I had the Superstition Wilderness — one of eight wilderness areas within the Tonto National Forest — as my back yard. Located east of Phoenix, the Superstition Wilderness has 180 miles of trails spread out over 160,000-plus acres. This “forest” is populated with saguaro, cholla, prickly pear, mesquite, palo verde, ocotillo and many other cactus, trees and shrubs I still need to learn to identify.

Exploring by horseback is the best way to access this sprawling national forest. From the steep, primitive trails around the Superstitions to the colorful Old West canyons of the Goldfield Mountains and the winding trails around Saguaro Lake and the Salt River, there are no bad rides, only scenic (and sometimes challenging) ones...

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Close Encounters with a Deer! - Nancy Sluys - Full Story


As a remedy for cabin fever I decided to travel to the Broxton Bridge Endurance Ride in Ehrhart, South Carolina with my horse, Summer, this past weekend. Since I hadn’t been able to ride much lately, due to the bad weather, I entered her in the limited distance 25 mile ride both days, intending to ride at a slower pace in hopes of getting her ready for a 50 miler in March.

The first days ride went as planned, I started near the end and kept Summer at a moderate and steady pace, using caution in areas of loose sand and muddy places. Even though the trails were well packed, we don’t train in sand so I needed to be careful. We rode alone most of the time and enjoyed each other and the nature around us. She was really tuning in to me and didn’t mind when groups of faster riders cantered past us. We hooked up from time to time with friends for short distances, which kept things interesting with occasional conversations. She finished the ride looking fresh and ready to do it again. At the awards ceremony that night I discovered that we had won the coveted turtle award for being the last one’s over the finish line.

The next day I decided to ride with my good friend, Dana, and her mare, Beryl. Being a 16 hand Belgian/Arabian cross she made an odd pairing with Summer who is only 14 hands but they get along well and are surprisingly well paced together. Along the way we picked up another rider, Alicia, whose horse was looking for company and then we were a group of three. The first loop winds in and out of the woods and sometimes around fields. The trail loops back on itself many times. We rode at a moderate pace, although faster than my ride the day before...

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Death Valley Encounter XP Ride Dec 2018 - Kip

TheMonkeysKnowNothing Blog - Full Story

Commentary by Kip the endurance horse
January 13 2019

Little late writing this. The Monkey has had some bronchitis and laryngitis ( same stuff I had after Moab a couple of years ago) and a few other things so I had to wait in line.Geez!

Once again we all had fun in Trona! Mr Monkey and Ice did all four days! I'm proud of them especially Ice who skipped and danced over all those rocks bare foot!She has cast iron hooves I think!

I only did two days because of the monkey's bronchial condition.Geez. Anyway, on day one we got to ride with the front runners for the first cold and windy loop. The monkey just wanted to get her wheezy little body back to the warm trailer so off I went following Christoph's cute little filly. Her Monkeyship usually only lets me catch up to Christoph on a ride to say hello then pulls me back. Today was my day! It was Christoph's cutie, Mark Montgomery's Mustang Gus and......littl' ole me! We had a ball for the first loop. Wheee! I was as hungry as a horse (funny about that) at the hold and wanted to stay there but those youngins' would listen to me. Wait I said, there's no salad bars on the trail. Not even slim pickins'!Just sticks and dirt!Let's chow down here.

Wouldn't listen. So I went after them with my mouth stuffed with hay. Then I remembered,Gus told me he was 8. Hey, I'm three times their age. Yep! Three times! Three times plus one I think. So I came to my senses and let them go...

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Horseback Riding Graves Mountain in Syria, Virginia - Full Article

May 8 2017
by Susan St. Amand

Close to Skyline Drive and Luray Caverns, read about riding out from Graves Mountain Lodge in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

On an unusually warm spring weekend in late April, members of the Shenandoah Trail Riders and Horseman's Association ventured to Graves Mountain in Syria, VA to participate in a benefit trail ride for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Graves Mountain Lodge provides overnight accomodations in a lodge that is rustic in appearance and family style food in their restaurant, along with a gift shop.

On this 300+ acre family-owned property, you can enjoy life's simple pleasures such as fishing and hiking. It is also a working farm with a pick your own apple orchard and provides educational farm tours to school children. Graves Mountain Lodge also hosts many events on the premises throughout the year, such as the fall Apple Festival and Bluegrass Festival, which attracts a large crowd.

In a partnership with Graves Mountain Lodge, Circle B Stables provides guided horseback riding tours. It also offers day parking for persons wanting to trailer their own horses to ride, or in our case, primitive overnight camping for multi-day stays...

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Why Viñales, Cuba is the Perfect Backdrop for Horseback Riders - Full Article

May 7 2017

Travel expert Jeannette Ceja rides horses in Viñales, Cuba, just two hours from Havana through tobacco fields and lush forests.

Cubans frequently told me that I had to make time to visit one town during my stay in Cuba. To really know Cuba, I have learned to always listen to what the locals recommend. And the experience exceeded every expectation I had.

One must pay a visit to a breathtaking town called Viñales located a little over two hours away by car from Havana. If you love horseback riding, Viñales offers the perfect backdrop of mountain forests, caves and endless tobacco fields. You will literally feel as if you are in a movie. Visitors can go on many trails led by local trail ride guides that will lead you anywhere you like. Make sure to request a visit to a local tobacco farm during your ride...

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Mongol Derby: ride across the ancient trails of Genghis Khan - Full Article

Taming in a Mongolian horse in this iconic race is no mean feat, says Camilla Swift

by Camilla Swift
17 January 2019

Forget Aintree or Ascot, the Mongol Derby is the horse race to beat all others. It takes place on Mongol Steppe in Mongolia and it covers a thousand kilometres. The horses are not your trained, riding-school variety but native, semi-feral Mongolian ponies. I’m short, but even I looked pretty silly on board these tiny creatures.

The Mongol Derby is based on Genghis (or Chinggis, as he is known in Mongolia) Khan’s ‘Örtöö’ messenger service, which enabled information – and messengers – to travel from one end of his empire to the other in a matter of days. Given that at one point the Mongol Empire stretched from central Europe to Japan, organising the system was no mean feat. It entailed, essentially, a series of ‘horse stations’, each around 20 to 40 km from one another, at which a messenger could sleep, eat, and pick up a new horse.

It’s called a race, but as far as I was concerned, it was more a matter of getting from start to finish in one piece. I couldn’t quite picture a thousand kilometres (I still can’t, to be honest), but what I did know was that it meant riding for around 12 hours a day. And that sounded painful...

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Frigid Fire Mountain - Nina Bomar

January 13 2019
by Nina Bomar

It was bitterly cold and I had so many layers on that I looked like a woman in a moon suit. One expensive jacket after the next yet I couldn’t warm up.

I was a few minutes late to the start and it seemed as if everyone had already left. Cheeky and I quietly moseyed out of camp, called out our number and we were off. I pretended I wasn’t freezing but I found myself constantly fidgeting with all the layers, scarves, hoods and zippers. The morning started off with a wet mist that graduated quickly to a cold rain, accompanied by a frigid wind that seemed to cut through all that I was wearing.

Cheeky was feeling frisky and he had a good pace going on, which would bring us back to camp for the first vet check nice and early. He pulsed down quickly, we vetted through and everything went smoothly. Juan accidentally slept through it all and when he heard us outside the trailer, he came out frantically knowing that he’d blown it. I threw a few blankets on Cheeky, made sure he had plenty of food and then huddled in the tack room and tried to get warm. Juan quickly made me a hot coffee, while the hold time passed by quickly and we were soon back out on trail.

The second loop had more rain, and cold air but Juan was ready and waiting for us this time when we arrived back at camp. It was to be the 1 hour lunch hold and by then we had already completed 30 miles of trail with only 20 more to go. I was frozen like a popsicle. The rain was coming down steadily and we didn’t talk much. I added a rain poncho and rain pants on top of everything else and that helped to warm me up.

The final loop was long but Cheeky handled it like a champ. For the first few miles he protested and seemed rather incredulous that I was asking for more under such dire weather conditions. He complained loudly for the first few miles and then he gave in and went to work with the strength and forwardness that he’s known for. I loved our time together.

This morning Juan made me some coffee and now he’s warming up my gloves like they’re tortillas. We are not desert rats but instead beach bums... The air here is so harsh that it feels like opening up a freezer door and then taking a big inhale. It’s time to head home after a wonderful weekend at the Fire Mountain Endurance Ride. We give many thanks to ride management, all the wonderful veterinarians and the many volunteers who without their efforts, we would not have this amazing sport of endurance riding.