Wednesday, December 07, 2016

AERC Lauds Passage of Trails Stewardship Act

December 5 2016

Late last month, the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (NFSTSA) was signed by President Obama. The American Endurance Ride Conference, along with partner organizations like the American Hiking Society, American Horse Council, Back Country Horsemen of American and the Wilderness Society, were proud to be proponents of the bill.

The bill requires the U.S. Forest Service to partner with organizations that can help to decrease the backlog of trail maintenance plans, currently at $314 million. With 158,000 miles of trails, the U.S. Forest Service’s trails are integral to many endurance rides, and AERC welcomes the opportunity to work with the USFS to plan and coordinate trail maintenance wherever possible.

“The signing of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act by President Obama is a great opportunity for volunteer trail advocates of America to keep our trails open on United States Forest Service property. So much of the forest service budget is used yearly to fight wildfires, leaving little funds to maintain trails,” said AERC Trails and Land Management Chair Monica Chapman of Pleasanton, Kansas.

“Now is the time for AERC members and other interested equestrians to get organized and contact your local Forest Service Ranger and ask how you can help keep trails maintained for an endurance ride, to condition your horse, or just enjoying nature,” Chapman said.

Chapman traveled multiple times to Washington, DC, to promote the bill and expressed her gratitude to Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), the bill’s sponsor.

Because AERC members compete in distances from 25 to 100 miles per day, well-maintained trails are an integral part of the nonprofit organization. The group has more than 100 members who are AERC-Certified Trail Masters, who have the knowledge to properly design and build new trails and maintain and improve existing trails.
The organization, founded in 1972, also has an active trail grant program and is the nation's leader in encouraging the use, protection and development of equestrian trails, especially those with historical significance.

More information on endurance riding is available by visiting or by calling the AERC office at 823-2260. By request, the office will send out a free information packet to prospective members.

Contact: Troy Smith
American Endurance Ride Conference
866-271-2372, 530-823-2260

Monday, December 05, 2016

18,000 Miles for Karen Steenhof: A Long Way From Sunday

by Merri
December 4 2016

It's a ways back to 1985 and Karen Steenhof's first endurance riding season aboard her little pony cross mare, Sunday. But she remembers the most fun ride she's ever had like it was last week.

"That was the year we had a very early snow. It started snowing on November 2nd, and it never stopped. We did not see the ground until February. There was a Cold Turkey endurance ride on Thanksgiving weekend in Eagle, Idaho. And this was my first year, so i didn't know that much about anything. And Sunday's shoes had been pulled because of winter."

Karen ran into someone in the grocery store who asked if she was going to the ride. "I said, 'They're not really having the ride, are they?' Well of course they were! I said my mare didn't have shoes, and they said, 'So much the better! We're on a foot of snow, you don't need shoes!'

"The ride was on a Saturday and Sunday, and I drove my car out on the first day just to see, and everybody was having a great time. So I hitched up my trailer and drove out there with little Sunday - and I got the trailer stuck in the ditch on the way.

"But that ride was the most fun. It was the last ride of my rookie season. Sunday just went along on this 50 mile ride in the snow, and the great part was learning that you could do things that you never thought you could do."

31 years and some 17,655 miles later, Karen Steenhof is still having the same enjoyment riding the endurance trails aboard her current gelding, WMA Proclaim (Riley).

Born in Illinois outside of Chicago, Karen grew up in a very horsey community. "There were 14 polo fields and a fox hunt, so I started riding when I was 6. I got my first horse when I was 11. I rode English hunt seat; I was a junior member of the hunt, which was fun. Endurance riding is kind of like fox hunting without having the jumps."

Karen moved to Colorado in when she was 14, then attended Colorado State University, then the University of Missouri before moving to Idaho where she started working for BLM as a graduate student. She became an analytical wildlife biologist then ultimately retired as a research wildlife biologist for the USGS in 2008. If you're a birder, it's a real treat to ride the trails with Karen.

Sunday was Karen's first horse she owned as an adult, after finding her in the newspaper in 1983. "I boarded her near Eagle, and I would go out riding in the foothills every once in a while. I used to have a dog, and in his last days, just before and after he died, my grief was to kind of transfer my attention to the horse and ride farther and farther into the hills. At that point I started running into endurance riders.

"I finished my first 2 LDs (Limited Distance - 25 miles and 30 miles) on Sunday. She had amazing sickle hocks, and the veterinarian Loretta Burman told me when she completed me on the second LD, 'You're fine, but don't ever take this horse on a 50!'

"2000 miles later…" Karen laughed.

"Sunday did fine. But after 2 years in endurance, I realized I had to get an Arabian."

And so started Karen's lifetime of endurance riding aboard Arabians. She's put serious miles on almost all of them, and each one found a good home - often Karen's back yard - after their endurance careers. She's ridden mostly in 50 mile rides, though she's completed 19 out of 20 75's and 9 out of 13 100's along the way. "I always loved 75s and multi days. But I don't know if my body's up for 75s anymore."

Her seasons have ranged from 50 miles to 1290 miles completed. She snagged 25 Best Condition awards along the way (thank her previous gelding Rusty for most of those), and with 336 completions in 357 starts she has a 94% completion rate.

Two of her most favorite rides over the years - which exist no more - have been the 5-day Ft Schellborne XP in Nevada, and the 50-mile Buckskin Challenge in eastern Idaho. "Ft Schellborne was peaceful. It was the hidden Nevada. You know, the Nevada you see on the highway is flat, and then you go into this beautiful country on horseback.

"The Buckskin Challenge was a really hard ride. There aren't that many rides that I can remember saying, 'Oh no, it's over already!' Usually you're like, 'Whew - finally, I'm finished!' But this one I was thinking, 'Oh, I wish we could go longer!' I was crushed when they decided not to have that ride anymore."

Ambers Thorn was Karen's first Arabian, and her "most special horse."

"Where I grew up was all Thoroughbreds; Arabians were these little prissy horses. So I found this ad on the outhouse door at one of the rides, about this 5-year-old chestnut gelding named Ambers Thorn (War Zarim x Amber) with chrome, 14.1 hands, and a big trot.

"I went and picked him up at my friend Andrea Day's. She jumped on him bareback and rode him around in a circle. I guess I didn't ask her that much; he just looked very broke. So I just got on him and started riding him at home.

"I'd call Andrea now and then and say, 'Oh yea, we had a great ride,' and every time she'd say, 'Wow, that's amazing, he didn't really have that much time under saddle.' Each time I'd tell her about some progress, and she finally said, 'You know, he only had a saddle on twice when I sold him to you!'" Karen laughed.

Karen and Thorn covered 7200 miles of endurance trails together, (they ranked 8th in National mileage standings in 1995), though he actually wasn't that easy to ride and he had a lot of physical issues.

"I worked through so many problems on him. He was the next best thing to going to vet school, because he had almost every kind of issue there was." The gelding was diagnosed with osteochondritis dessicans (OCD) in his shoulder, and he came back from that. He had 2 annular ligament surgeries - one in front, one behind, and he came back completely from the first one in front, though the second one in back he never completely came back from. He also had an anterior enteritis where he almost died in Calgary in the North American Championships (one of Karen's 1 3/4 FEI rides). Then he started having tying up issues, and it took a while for Karen to figure out that her cross-training in dressage was causing that.

"Thorn was also always a challenge in that he was very hard to rate. And he did spook at things, but I was elastic back then!"

Karen started looking for another endurance horse after the Calgary ride. She got Cyandarac (Cyam x Prairie Dawn, by Gallant Royal) from Andrea Day again. "'Simon' had a few more miles on him than Thorn had, but he also was very opinionated!" Karen said. "In a 5-day ride I could never get him to relax and stand at one of the out checks and eat his own food. He would always drag me around until sometimes maybe on day 5. He was a character. He still is a character!"

Karen's first ride on Simon was in 1994 (Thorn's last ride, at age 19, was in July of 2000). They went on to earn a little over 4000 miles together. Simon was the PNER (Pacific Northwest Endurance Riding) Champion in 2002.

"Simon is not a personable horse. He's the boss of the pasture, even though he's 28 now. He's still just always kind of cranky and opinionated."

WSR Spellbinder was Karen's next endurance horse. This gelding came from Gail Williams in Washington in 2000. "Spellbinder was a character too. I think I put 1300 miles on him. He was just a handful - he just wanted to race. So he was kind of not that fun for me to ride.

"When he came up lame in the fall of 2005, Ona Lawrence decided to trade me him for her gelding El Jay Zalal (Willow).

"What a sweet little horse he was. He came to me having done 2 endurance rides. On the second one with me, he broke my wrist when he fell down and tripped." Did she finish the ride? "Of course! it was 45 miles into a 60, and it never occurred to me not to go on. Never crossed my mind." And of course, she was still elastic back then!

"I kept riding Willow after my arm healed, but not in endurance, because he kept stumbling." Willow ended up with the life of luxury, after Karen's neighbor Tish bought and lavished love on him. "Willow hit the lottery!" Karen said.

Admiral Gil (AM Gilded Gypsy x AM Bay Bridge, by AM Sea Captain) was Karen's next endurance horse. He was 5 or 6 years old when Karen found him in Oregon on the Dreamhorse website.

The pair rode 1500 miles of trail together starting in 2006, even though Gil turned out to be Karen's most insecure horse to ride. He was a stumbler and a spooker too, and she came off him many times.

Looking for an additional endurance horse, Karen tried out a mare for a couple of months. Getting off to lead her across a creek when she balked, the mare knocked her down, ran over her ankle, and broke her fibula. The incident only added to her own growing insecurities.

"By now I'd had a couple of these injuries, and I was losing my confidence. And Gil is the most insecure horse I've ever had, so I was in a slump for a while there. Because Gil wasn't giving me the confidence, and I wasn't giving him the confidence, it was kind of a bad mix."

When in the fall of 2009 Gil started having some lameness issues, Karen put out the word she was still looking for another endurance horse. Her friend Skyla send her an ad of a horse to check out. "The person who had him had no ideas how to take pictures," Karen recalled. "The horse had this giant head, and this teeny little butt. I thought he was the ugliest horse I'd ever seen! He was advertised as half Arab and half Quarter horse."

But when Karen went to look at him, the horse didn't look like that at all - he looked much better. And when she lunged the horse she really liked how he moved, and she knew she wanted him. Turned out a neighbor Regina had owned this horse several years prior and she recognized him and confirmed that HMR Redstone (Rusty) was no part Quarter, horse, but purebred Arabian (DA Athir Muharrik X Mistanny Dab, by HMR Mistabi).

Rusty was 10 when Karen got him, and the pair started down the endurance trails in 2010. "He was such a handful. He was always competitive. You had to have him near the front so he couldn't see a bunch of horses in front of him. And that was hard."

Over 1830 miles together, Rusty was PNER champ in 2013, 7th in the National Best Condition standings in 2012, and 2nd (reserve champion) in the National Best Condition standings in 2013. 

It was ultimately bilateral lameness - caused by bad shoeing - that did Rusty in. That happened roughly around the time Karen had major family issues to take care of, so she had a forced sabbatical from endurance for almost 1 1/2 years. Because of this she wasn't in a rush to find another endurance horse, and she had time to shop around.

Last year she was turned onto a gelding in Oregon owned by Karen Standefer. Friends pointed out he had great racing bloodlines, to which Karen replied, "I don't need another hot horse! I don't want to race!" WMA Proclaim (Riley) actually had raced on the track, twice, and race results say he was "not a factor."

WMA Proclaim had already done a few endurance rides (several LDs and 2 50s), and he had proved to be calm and rate-able, finishing first, top ten, or mid-pack, and earning a Best Condition award. Karen arranged to try him out during a fall endurance ride, riding him by herself and trail riding with a friend, and he never got excited or worried, nor spooked from anything.

So it was Riley who brought Karen back to the endurance trails in 2016. The pair got to know each other, as they established a strong base together of 12 LDs and 3 50 mile rides, in Idaho, Oregon, and Utah, finishing top ten, or mid-pack, and earning a Best Condition award.

And Karen timed it just right to earn her 18,005th endurance mile in her Idaho back yard with a 6th place finish in the October Owyhee Hallowed Weenies, the last ride of the season.

She looks like she's found her "safe, sane, short" endurance horse - as Julie Suhr has put it - for the older rider, because, as Karen said with a laugh, "I'm 63, and my body's falling apart!"

Karen can look out her back window and see both her past in endurance and her future: she still has 4 of her endurance horses. Simon is 28, Gil is 20, Rusty is 17, and Riley is 9. (Thorn died in 2012 at age 31.)

"I seem to get roughly 1000 miles every 2 years, and it would be fun to get to 20,000 miles, but I don't know if my body will hold up. And now my whole thing is to go to different rides that I've never been to. I really want to do that."

During the 2016 season, she and Riley competed in 3 new rides for Karen: the Pacific Crest in Oregon, and Strawberry Fields and the Outlaw and the Virgin in Utah.

The future trails look bright and inviting, as Karen and Riley have a good start on their way to accomplishing her new endurance goals.

Top photo: Karen and Riley finish 3rd in the 2016 Old Selam, their first 50 miler together

Sunday, December 04, 2016

10,000 Miles for Gretchen Montgomery

December 1 2016

by Merri

The West region's Gretchen Montgomery reached the 10,000 mile mark in AERC competition at the Gold Rush Shuffle over Thanksgiving weekend. Spending her retirement time between Bridgeport and Ridgecrest, California, Gretchen hit the cent-mark aboard her part Standardbred mare HS Coquette.

Gretchen and Coquette have over a thousand miles, and many other thousands of miles have come aboard her mare Definetly Spice (formerly known somewhat affectionately as "Bitchy Spice") - her Decade Team horse, and the gallant gelding Royal Raffiq, who died in 2010.

Gretchen manages the Fire Mountain ride in Ridgecrest in January, and the Eastern High Sierra Classic in Bridgeport in August.

See more on Gretchen here:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sign Up Now for the 2016 AERC Convention

March 10 and 11, 2017 - Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center - Grapevine, Texas

We're counting down the days!

We're looking forward to heading to Texas for the 2017 AERC convention! AERC's convention is the most fun you can have without your horse! Two days of informative and thought-provoking seminars on Friday and Saturday, shopping galore, seeing old friends and meeting new ones, awards presentations, Hot Topics seminars, plus fun Friday night entertainment and the awards banquet on Saturday night.


Prefer to send in the form by mail or fax? Click here for the printable registration form.

Other options: You can sign up by phone: 866-271-2372, or fill out the form in your December EN and mail it to AERC, PO Box 6027, Auburn, CA 95604. (You can even fax it: 530-823-7805. Our fax machine doesn't get much of a workout lately and it would welcome your faxed form.)

Friday's speaker lineup includes Randy Rasmussen of Back Country Horsemen of America and Dr. Yvette Nout-Lomas, Colorado State University Vet School Assistant Professor (plus one additional speaker TBA). Saturday's speakers are Drs. Jeanette Mero, Meg Sleeper and Susan Garlinghouse. These will be two days of intense learning, all at the spectacular Hilton DFW Lakes

From the Hilton DFW Lakes website: "We offer everything you need on 40 lushly landscaped, lakeside acres. Our award-winning hotel features a refreshing blend of spacious accommodations, limitless recreation and unmatched conference facilities. Lose yourself in a unique resort-style setting while enjoying all of the services and amenities of a modern conference center. Recipient of the AAA Four Diamond Award for the past six consecutive years. Find out more at the hotel website.

FREE airport shuttle provided from nearby DFW Airport (but not Love Field, which is about 20 miles away).

Make your hotel reservations! Call toll-free 800-984-1344, and reference 2017 AERC Convention, or use this Hilton DFW Lakes online reservation link.

What to do before or after the convention? Check out some Dallas area attractions.

VETERINARIANS: The Veterinary Committee will be hosting a two-day Veterinary Continuing Education course in conjunction with the convention. Watch for details coming your way in late Fall 2016.

TRADE SHOW EXHIBITORS: We'd love to have you! Trade show information will be available in the Fall.
For more information on the convention, and to sign up for 2017 Trade Show see

Monday, November 28, 2016

Perfect Ten Equine: LV Integrity +/

November 28 2016
by Merri

LV Integrity +/ , owned by Joyce and Dennis Sousa, achieved the exceptional honor of "AERC Perfect Ten Equine" over the weekend at the Gold Rush Shuffle in California by surpassing 10,000 AERC miles.

Created in 1997 and sponsored by Joe Long, past AERC president, former Southeast Region director, and member of the AERC Hall of Fame, this award is for equines that have completed 10 years, 10,000 miles, 10 first place finishes and 10 best conditions throughout their career.

LV Integrity +/ is only the 9th horse to achieve this honor since the inception of the award.

Ridden by Joyce for most of his career (he also carried Dennis, and their daughter Jennifer Niehaus), 23-year-old "Ritzy" earned his miles and Perfect Ten award over 18 seasons.

This year was arguably one of Ritzy's best. In addition to his Perfect Ten Equine accomplishment, he achieved his 2016 Hall of Fame induction and his 40th 100-mile completion. Additionally, Joyce and Ritzy escorted Joyce's granddaughter, Alex Niehaus and her gelding Airborne along 855 miles of trail, including 5 100-mile rides.

"Yes, it was a great ride season," Dennis wrote. "We have been truly blessed."

For more on Joyce and Ritzy, see:

AERC Juniors Kick 100-Mile Butt

or, Ride Like a Girl! Anya Levermann and Alex Neihaus Set New Junior National 100 Miles Championship Standards for AERC in 2016

by Merri
November 28 2016

What started out as a simple personal goals for two endurance riding Juniors ended up as an exciting, neck-and-neck 'race' throughout the 2016 season for the Junior National 100 Miles Championship.

14-year-old Alex Neihaus, of Cloverdale, California, and 16-year-old Anya Levermann, of 100 Mile House, BC, Canada, both surpassed the previous record of 500 miles in their 100-mile adventures around the country.

Alex ultimately finished the 2016 season with 605 miles in 100 milers, riding two different horses, and Anya finished with 805 miles in 100-milers aboard four different horses.

Alex and Airborne in the 2016 100-mile AERC National Championship

For Alex, the competition for the Junior National 100-mile champion "just sort of happened. We just wanted to get out there on the trails," she said. "It was only my first year of doing 100s, so I just wanted to learn about it, how to do it, really. So my grandma decided that she would help me along the way." That Alex's grandma happens to be 24,000-mile endurance rider Joyce Sousa who happens to have two horses in the AERC Hall of Fame, including her 23-year-old mount LV Integrity (Ritzy), was just icing on the cake. "We just did as much as we could, and it was really fun."

Alex started riding endurance in 2010, finishing her first LD with her mom Jennifer and dad Jon. Before this season, she had accumulated 1085 lifetime endurance miles and 310 LD miles.

Throughout the 2016 season, but for one of the 100-mile rides, Alex rode her 15-year-old gelding Airborne. "I got him in 2014 from a friend, Robert Weldin, who lives in my area in California. Robert got hurt and thought he wasn't going to be able to do any more 100 mile rides. So he gave Airborne to me." Alex and Airborne completed 305 miles together their first season, and 730 the next season. "We've just been really good together," she said.

The 100-mile odyssey started in the 20 Mule Team in southern California in February. Joyce and Alex finished near midnight in a ride time of 15:33, for Alex's first 100-mile completion. "I was ecstatic," Alex exclaimed. "I thought it was so cool. It was tiring! I remember we were on the last loop, and I was practically sleeping on Airborne - I couldn't hardly keep my eyes open!"

Alex and Joyce's next 100-miler was at Mt Adams in Washington in May. It was one of Alex's favorite rides. "It was hard mountainous terrain, but it was really fun and really well marked," she said. It was a ride where Alex learned about doing what was best for a horse to get him through a 100. Ritzy was a bit tight in the hind end with 15 miles left, so they walked most of that 15 mile loop in the dark. Their finish time of 14:58 still put them in the Top Ten at the finish with horses fit to continue.

In June, chalk up another 100-mile finish - and win - in the 105-mile Sunriver Classic in Oregon in June. (105 miles because some radio guys on the last loop accidentally sent riders the wrong direction.) This ride was also, needless to say, one of Alex's favorite rides.

Alex recalled, "The weather was pretty crazy. It was sunny sometimes, raining sometimes, snowing sometimes. We stayed in around fifth place all day, then on the last loop we just started passing people. Our horses felt great. We finally caught up to the first place rider, and we cantered past her, and we stayed up in front the rest of the loop! It was pretty amazing!" Their finish time of 13:48 brought them home just as it was getting dark. (Anya also rode and finished Sunriver.)

Both girls were tied at 305 miles when they both rode the same course in the 100-miler at Santiam Cascade in Oregon in August. They both also finished this challenging ride to remain tied at 405 miles. Alex said, "I wore a bandana around my face the whole day because I rode behind my grandma, and the dust was just terrible. It was a very tough ride. We got lost on one of the loops; we were doing circles. At the end of the ride we figured that we probably did about close to 120 miles." Alex admitted that being lost in the dark was frustrating, but that's all part of endurance riding. "I just dealt with it!" Joyce and Alex finished in eighth and ninth place in a ride time of 17:21 hrs.

Alex and Airborne in the 2016 100-mile AERC National Championship

Alex and Anya were the only two Juniors to ride in the 100-mile AERC National Championship in Utah in September. Both finished to remain tied at 505 miles. Despite Joyce, on Ritzy, and Alex, on Airborne, missing a turn (some bikers had politely pulled over to let them ride by - accidentally obscuring a trail turn sign) and doing extra mileage again, it was an exciting experience for Alex, both for just participating and for completing, finishing eleventh in a ride time of 17:48.

It was only a week after the AERCNC that Alex found herself at the starting line of the the iconic Virginia City 100, in Virginia City, Nevada, on a different horse. Airborne needed a rest, and Robert Weldin had hoped to provide a horse for Alex, but it didn't work out. So he enlisted the help of Carolyn Meier, from Nevada, who offered up her horse Silmarils Diamond. "I just hopped on him," said Alex. "I had never even ridden him before, and that was a tough, tough ride. I can't even believe I finished it. I was ready to Rider Option! But I didn't.

"The SOBs (the infamous Sons of B*tches hills that you hit during the hottest part of the day) - those were extremely hard. And Diamond was a tough horse, one of the toughest horses I've ever ridden. It was only his second 100 mile ride. He was really extremely headstrong; it was a lot different from riding Airborne! But he was sure on his feet, and he never got tired, it seemed. That was really awesome."

Alex's Virginia City 100 buckle left her tied yet again with Anya (who finished a 100 that same weekend across the country) at 605 miles, but it ended up being her final 100-mile ride of the season, while Anya ultimately went on to complete two more.

But Alex accomplished her original goal of learning all about riding 100s and completing them. "I learned a lot about pacing and horsemanship and taking care of the horses at the vet checks, that the horse always comes first. And on the trail, whenever we would get the chance, we'd get off and walk or run the horses to give them a break."

Anya and Monk in the 2016 100-mile AERC National Championship

Anya Levermann's goal was simply to ride as many 100 mile rides as possible during the season. "I knew the 100-mile Junior Championship record was 500 miles, but I didn't necessarily want to beat the record. I just wanted to win the award since it was my last year as a Junior rider."

That quest didn't start out so well, when Anya was pulled from her first two 100-mile rides. At the Biltmore 100 in May in North Carolina, Anya's mount Amber Kiera, owned by Dessia Miller, was pulled at 86 miles.

At the Titanium 3-day Pioneer FEI ride two weeks later in Canada, Anya planned to ride the 100-milers on both Saturday and Sunday - because what endurance rider wouldn't be up for riding two 100s in a row? It turned out to be a rainy-snowy-muddy weekend.

Riding her own 14-year-old gelding, Sey Wiking Tu (Tootsie), on Saturday, resulted in a pull at 40 miles from a slight lameness. The next day she hopped on her sister Katya's horse, 11-year-old Kharmichel LK (Draco), and, riding with mom Katrin aboard Double Exposure PW (Buddy), finished third and fourth in 18:35. "There were only five riders, and one pulled, so we finished third and fourth and last!" Anya said. "My sister is focusing on school this year, so she let me ride her horse."

Anya's next 100-mile ride was the Sunriver Classic in June in Oregon aboard the top international horse Monk (the same ride that Alex won). Owner Chris Martin had contacted Katrin earlier in the year, looking for a rider for Monk, because regular rider Lindsay Graham had a baby, and Monk was idling and itching for a ride.

What was it like climbing aboard this fast horse, who was part of the USA Team at the Kentucky World Equestrian Games Endurance Championship in 2010? "He did really well; I had a lot of fun riding him. And it was really to nice to ride with Hannah Pruss and Salome." Anya and Hannah had met briefly at an AERC Convention, and she volunteered to sponsor Anya at Sunriver when the word went out.

What Anya doesn't mention is that she got sick the last part of the ride and started throwing up. And every endurance rider either knows or can imagine that it's no fun being sick and throwing up while riding on the back of a horse. Owner Chris Martin recalls, "The ride went horrible; it rained and snowed. Anya and Hanna were top 3 or 4 during the last half of the ride, then Anya got really sick. I still remember the look on her face when I told her I had no problem with her pulling. She let us know that she was not pulling!" The pair finished fifth and sixth in a ride time of 14:17.

Next, Anya earned a coveted Big Horn 100 belt buckle in July. Riding Draco again with her mom (aboard Buddy) the pair finished the historic ride in 13th and 14th place, in a ride time of 20:26.

"That was a hard ride!" Anya recalled. "The whole time we knew we were under a time pressure. And we had heard the stories about getting lost, and we didn't want to get lost. And my mom was also worried about how the horses would do, because they hadn't really done a big mountain ride yet. But the horses did great. They finished with all A's and pulses in the 40's."

Next up: the dusty and rocky Santiam 100 in Oregon in August aboard Draco again. Riding with her mom, and with Junior Sanoma Blakeley, the trio ended up finishing second, third, and fourth, when several of the front runners ended up being pulled. They finished in a ride time of 16:30.

Anya and Alex - now tied at 405 miles - next shared the trails in the AERC National 100-mile Championship in September. Anya's ride aboard Monk in this one was a bit less tame than her previous one. He was fast and full of beans. "Monk knew horses were in front of him all day. And once we turned for home - forget it!" Riding with sponsor Pam Bailie aboard Bailie Skrit Ablaze, the pair finished second and third in 10:34.

Just a week later - the same weekend that Alex was adding the Virginia City 100 to her resume, Anya and Draco, and Katrin and Buddy, zipped down south for the Oregon 100. Riding with Sanoma Blakeley again the trio completed that ride in 15:56, again finishing second, third, and fourth.

By this point, both Alex and Anya - tied at 605 miles in the Junior National 100 Miles Championship, had exceeded both their personal goals and the previous record, and it had provided an exciting 'horse race' for those following these two young, tough, enthusiastic riders.

Anya went on to complete two more 100s this season. Kevin Waters had offered his horse DE Golden Ali to Anya for the October Las Cienegas ride in Arizona, but when Kevin was unable to ride with Anya, he enlisted Christoph Schork's help. Christoph provided her with GE RR Jazz Dancer (Pinky), and, riding with Kerry Redente and Rushcreek Stub, the pair finished sixth and seventh in 17:15. "Pinky was great!" Anya said. "He was still bouncing down the trail on the last loop!"

Anya wrapped up her 100-mile season, finishing the November Broxton Bridge 100-mile ride in South Carolina aboard Dessia Miller's horse Cognac Amberfyre (Farley). (And with the ever-unending energy of youth, she also finished the 75-mile North American Young Rider Team Challenge the next day.)

It's not so easy for aging endurance riders to climb aboard strange horses for an endurance ride, and while Junior riders make everything look easy, it gave Anya pause for thought. She said, "This year I rode a bunch of different horses, but most of the horses are trained very well. I'm just nervous sometimes for the start because I don't know how they're going to react.

"But I never had a problem. A couple of the 75s I rode this year, I got bucked off on the pre-ride. Most of the horses are very competitive for the FEI, but most of the horses I rode were all really good horses."

While the two girls jet-setted around the country in what turned out to be a friendly, mild 100-mile championship 'race' throughout the season, neither rider saw it as much more than accomplishing a personal endurance riding goal. And in doing so, both passed the previous 100-mile mileage record of 500.

And lest you think the girls rested on their laurels between their 100-mile rides, think again: Alex added 300 more miles of 50s, for a perfect 12 for 12 season and a total of 905 miles, and Anya added another 175 miles, for an 11 out of 13 season and a total of 980 miles. Both girls plan to have a little more relaxed season next year.

"The last two years we've really been going hard," Alex said. "So I think next year I'm just going to ride with my dad; he's bringing up a horse that's only done one 50. Maybe I'll do a 100 or two with my mom, and I think that'll be about it."

"I kind of have to go to school sometimes," Anya laughed. "I didn't know I was going to the AERC National Championship until the Tuesday before, and on Wednesday school started. The first thing one of my teachers had said was that to pass his class, we had to have good attendance. And then I left for two weeks.

"But I still get good grades; I have all As, so I think that's pretty good. But I think I already have 15 absences this year.

"Next year, for FEI I want to get my elite status, which is ten 75-mile rides. I think I want to do some more 100s, and do some more rides with [my horse] Tootsie because I didn't get to ride him very much this year."

Families and friends of the girls are understandably delighted by their accomplishments.

"I am sooo proud of my girls (mom Joyce and daughter Alex)," Jennifer Neihaus said. "It was a wonderful finish to the season."

Katrin Levermann echoed that thought. "I am worn out by the travels, but that's what we do for the girls... right!? They work hard for it. And it does seem to pay off at the end. [Katya just got awarded a full scholarship for University - top academic student in her school]. I'm proud of both of my girls!"

This season, these two gracious, poised young Juniors set a stellar example for AERC endurance riders of what it means to just get out and Ride.

Top photo: Anya Levermann and Monk, Pam Bailie and Bailie Skrit Ablaze in the 2016 100-mile AERC National Championship

Sunday, November 20, 2016

USA’s forest and horse riding trails to get TLC at last - Full Article

November 20, 2016

The US Senate has passed the National Forest Service Trail Stewardship Act (H.R.845/ S.1110), which would direct the Forest Service to take action to address the current trail maintenance backlog.

The move has been applauded by the American Horse Council, which has made trails a priority. The AHC has been working with Backcountry Horsemen of America, the Wilderness Society and many other recreational groups to advance the bill.

The passing of the act follows House passage of the bill earlier this fall, introduced by Representatives Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Tim Walz (D-MN) and Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

A June 2013 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Forest Service has deferred trail maintenance needs that exceed half a billion dollars, and only one-quarter of the agency’s 158,000 miles of trails meets agency standards for maintenance. This maintenance backlog is causing access and safety issues for equestrians and all trail users on national forests.

The AHC’s Ben Pendergrass said many people had worked to achieve passage of the bill over the last couple of years, and it was an important victory for equestrians and everyone who enjoys national forests...

Read more:

Walter Tibbitts: October 14, 1923 - November 07, 2016 - Full Article

Posted Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Board of Governors of the Western States Trail Foundation honors the memory of Walt Tibbitts, an amazing man whose devotion and contributions to the Western States Trail, to the Tevis Cup Ride, and to the horses and people who challenge them, is legendary. Walt passed away after a short illness on November 7, 2016 at the age of 93.

Infusing the imperatives of the present with the best of the past, Walt’s steady guidance helped the WSTF meet many challenges along a winding trail that spanned 45 years. With the wisdom of experience and unfailing good humor, his values were a keystone for the Foundation, and the energy and motivation he possessed continue to inspire.

As a young horseman with the heart of an explorer, Walt was intrigued when he first heard about this crazy 100-mile adventure held annually in his beloved High Sierra. After a successful Tevis debut in 1967, he was totally hooked — by both the excitement of the sport of endurance riding and the magic of the Western States Trail. With Tevis Cup completions in each of four successive decades (1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1996), Walt earned the coveted 1000 Mile Buckle in 1996, notching a Haggin Cup win along the way in 1969 with his wonderful Appaloosa gelding, Ruff Spots Banner.

Walt lent his prodigious organizational talents to the Western States Trail Foundation when he joined its Board of Governors in 1971. He served as WSTF President in 1995 and 1996, and was particularly instrumental in securing safe access through Section 29 in the high country. Adapting the proven principles of Wendell Robie’s founding vision to the changing face of the future characterized Walt’s 40-year tenure on the Board; he guided the Foundation toward strategic decisions which have kept the Ride at the pinnacle of the sport...

Read more here:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

November's Endurance Day on Horses in the Morning with Karen Chaton - Listen

This month on Karen Chaton's Endurance Episode we get to know some endurance Mustangs with Mark Montgomery, and Long Rider Samantha Szesciorka talks about her Nevada Discovery Ride. Listen in...

Friday, November 11, 2016

Kristina Chesterman Memorial Ride Pays It Forward

November 9 2016
by Ride Manager JayaMae Gregory

What makes the Kristina Chesterman Memorial Ride so special isn't just the riders, the horses, the camp, the trail, or the prizes, or even the cause, but the feeling. It's going down the trail and knowing you are riding for something beyond just miles, points, or finishes. It's that feeling you get that you are keeping a memory alive, that feeling that we are all connected somehow, in our shared passion for horses with a girl who died too young.

It's also that feeling that we get knowing our entry fee is being used to help another someone, someone just like ourselves, from our own endurance family...

Sunday's Pay-It-Forward ride benefitted two of our fellow endurance riders this year (I couldn't pick just one recipient this year)...

Amber Clark is a local Northern CA rider and trainer who broke her back earlier this year after falling from a horse. She will be going through extensive rehab, and won't be able to train or ride for awhile. She has been an active member of the endurance community and a good friend to many, and we are proud to give a little Pay-It-Forward to her!

Kevin Myers left us earlier this year. He was such an influential human being, a talented ballet dancer, a runner, a rider, an advocate for the well being of horses, and progressive in his hoof care work with horses and the EasyCare company. A small donation is being made to Rusty James Toth, in Kevin's memory, which will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Pyramid Society Announces Enrollment Dates for This Year’s Egyptian Arabian Performance Horse Award Program

November 9 2016

Lexington, KY – (November 10, 2016) The Pyramid Society’s Performance Horse Award Program is now open for enrollment through March 31st, 2017. Designed to support and promote the versatility of Egyptian Arabian horses in a wide range of performance disciplines, this innovative program will recognize those Straight Egyptian and Egyptian Sired/Bred horses competing throughout North America during the 2016 competition season. This program offers complimentary enrollment for all eligible horses with no Pyramid Society membership requirements.

“We are so pleased to provide this world-wide visibility for our talented Egyptian Arabian performance horses. Although representing a small percentage of bloodlines throughout the Arabian breed, Egyptian Arabians continually take home a high percentage of top awards in the show ring and in other competitive disciplines. We invite and encourage your participation and sponsorship to help assure the continued growth of this valuable program.” states Jaleen Hacklander, Chair of the Performance Horse Award Program Committee.

The 2016 point system and awards are divided into four specific competitive divisions including disciplines ranging from Hunter to Dressage and Endurance to Driving, Sport Horse, and more. Respective winners will be recognized at the 2017 Egyptian Event and will receive custom awards, as well as visibility through international publications, and extensive online promotions.

The Performance Horse Award Program is made possible solely through the generosity of our Supporting Sponsors: Hadaya Arabians, Miars Arabians, Kehilan Arabians, J&J Arabians, Cariswood Farm, Al Ameen Arabians and Aimbri Arabians.

For complete program information and guidelines and sponsorship information, visit; call (859) 231-0771 or email

The Pyramid Society is the world’s leading international membership organization dedicated to the Egyptian Arabian horse. Founded in 1969, it has maintained its mission to promote and advance these unique bloodlines through educational venues, local and regional activities, international representation and an active online community. The Society’s focus culminates at the Egyptian Event, the organization’s breed showcase and competition held at The Kentucky Horse Park annually the first week in June.

The Pyramid Society
Carol Aldridge, Member Services
Ph: (859) 231-0771

The Future of Green Bean Endurance Competition

Endurance Granny Blog - Full Article

November 1 2016

That Lovin’ Green Feeling

As many of you may be already aware from the many t-shirts scattered among the regions. the Green Bean Endurance competition continued to draw new riders together, inspire, and foster belonging in the sport. Our little crew’s personal 2016 stats as of October of this year:

Total Miles Attempted: 15,330
Total Miles Completed: 12,650
Overall Completion Rate: 83%
Total Metabolic Pulls: 7
Total Lameness Pulls: 26
Total OT: 9
Total Rider Options: 27
Percent LD to Endurance: 54%
LD Completion Rate: 86%
Endurance Completion Rate: 80%
75's Attempted: 2
75's Completed: 2
Shannon Conrad - Biltmore 75
Kristen Gonyaw - Mustang Memorial
100's Attempted: 7
100's Completed: 5
Phylicia Mann - 20 Mule Team
Sara Borkosky - Biltmore Challenge
Laura Spear - Sunriver Classic
Jenny Gomez - Tevis Cup
Abigail Madden - Tevis Cup
Current TEAM leaders as of October: OTV Pony Tails, Picked The Blazin Belles, High point individuals in the TEAM competition are Debra Tibbitts, Heather Accardo, Cassandra Green and Claire Morris.
In the One Horse One Rider competition: Erin Hurley is leading in OTV and Jen Moore in the Picked/Cooked division.
Seedling Success: Leonardo Fuentes is our “out of the pod” leader.

Our group has had a few regional meet ups this season. The last was hosted by the Daniel Boone Distance Riders at Rendezvous October 8th. Nearly all of our Midwestern riders showed up for the gathering and Two Horse Tack graciously sponsored some beautiful prize give-aways to those in attendance.

2015 was our first season of competition and we had many members among AERC endurance riders at large who helped support the cause. As we segued into year two we focused more on commercial sponsorship, lower rider fees, and bringing our “brand of bean” forward to make our riders recognizable as a vital segment of the endurance riding community with t-shirts and matching splashes of lime green tack.

Deb Moe kept the technology straight, and I have worked the sponsorship end and served as emotional cheer leader for the group, while Maranda Bibb has lovingly nurtured a new small but important segment of our group called Seedling. The cuteness and effort of these kids is amazing. .

All said, we have impacted the sport. We helped to generate close to $12, 000 a year in AERC memberships. Our attendance at rides brought ride managers an estimated $30,000 plus in ride entries. There are also many, many Green Bean riders who are out there winging it independently with their regional groups, totally unrelated to us. This new and younger demographic helps to build AERC strong, and bring fresh excitement to the sport. GBEcompetition is small at about 158 members, and 500 associate (interested) members...

Read more here:

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Thoroughbred Incentive Program Introduces Recreational Riding Program

November 2, 2016 12:12 PM
Industry Press Releases, Off Track Thoroughbreds

To showcase Thoroughbreds that are not competing in shows but are still successful in a second career as recreational mounts, The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.) today announced the Thoroughbred Recreational Riding Incentive Program.

The program is designed for Thoroughbred owners who spend most of their time outside of the show ring, whether on trails (including competitive trail rides), endurance rides, or even driving.

"Many off-track Thoroughbreds and owners are more suited to recreational riding than to showing," said Kristin Leshney, T.I.P. coordinator. "The Thoroughbred Recreational Riding Incentive Program enables recreational riders to be rewarded for choosing Thoroughbreds."

Multiple awards are offered depending on the number of hours spent riding or driving, ranging from a T.I.P. patch for 25 hours to a T.I.P. fleece jacket for 10,000 hours. To receive awards, riders must record their riding time in one-hour increments, rounding down to the whole hour. Arena riding, lessons, and show hours are not eligible for awards.

"We are excited to have more Thoroughbreds becoming part of the T.I.P. program and gaining recognition for their diversity as equine partners," Leshney said.

For purposes of eligibility for Thoroughbred Recreational Riding Incentive Program, a "Thoroughbred" is defined as any horse that has been registered with The Jockey Club or a foreign Thoroughbred stud book recognized by The Jockey Club. All horses must have a T.I.P. number with the correct rider listed.

More information about the Thoroughbred Recreational Riding Incentive Program can be found on the T.I.P. website at

Created and announced in October 2011, T.I.P. recognizes and rewards the versatility of the Thoroughbred through sponsorship of Thoroughbred classes and high point awards at sanctioned horse shows, performance awards, and non-competition awards. Additional information about T.I.P. is available at and on the T.I.P. Facebook page at

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Anne Ayala Scholarship Applications Open!

The 2017 Anne Ayala Scholarship applications are open to AERC Juniors and Young Riders in good standing from their high school senior year through age 21 (must be younger than 22 as of 1/1/2017).

The award honors Anne Ayala, who with her horse Overlook Nuryev ("Beau") received the Pard'ners Award in 2000 and became a Decade Team in 2003.

Be sure to fill out the application and send it in for arrival by 1/7/17.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

New AERC Member Page Added Benefit of Membership

October 21 2016

One of the many benefits of being an AERC member is the enhanced Member Page on

The AERC Website Committee has worked diligently to provide enhanced personalized member pages complete with new information and better access.

When paid members log in to their page, they can view their official record, information on their horse registration, mileage records on their horses, and directories for looking up individual members by region. If you're a ride manager, there's a section for ride manager use.

Members can also set up a personal calendar where they are notified with email alerts of online calendar changes, online posting of ride results, updated point standings, new rides in your selected regions, and more.

The website committee was led by Lisa Schneider with members Steph Teeter, Troy Smith, Eric Rueter, Mike Maul, and programmer Russ Humphrey.

And it's time to join or renew for the 2017 ride season at:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

AERC Approves New Young Rider Division

October 24 2016

The AERC board passed the proposal to create a Young Rider Division for regional endurance awards. It will be a new division with the same awards rules as the weight division awards.

Young Riders (ages 16 - 21, and unsponsored juniors) will get points and awards in their own division, and will also be able to compete with the other (Feather, Light, Middle, Heavy) divisions for overall points and awards.

Thanks BOD Junior representative, Sarah Holloway, for making a great case to the board during the meeting!

More information will be coming from AERC once the details are finalized. The division will be active for the coming ride season (starting December 1 2016), but there will be a transition time for results publication while the computer system and data entry are updated.

Monday, October 24, 2016

October's Endurance Day on Horses in the Morning with Karen Chaton - Listen in

October 11 2016

On today's Endurance Episode we chat with author of Endurance Years Gone By Lori Oleson, Christine Amber helps us stay safer on the trails and Valerie Ashker has an update on her cross country ride aboard her OTTB's. Listen in...

Listen here:

Miniature Horse Completes Endurance Ride - Full Article

Mini completes 25 mile endurance course.

Completing one of the American Endurance Ride Conference’s rides can be quite an accomplishment for any horse, but for Wee B Jelly Bean, it was a truly heartwarming athletic achievement.

You see, Jelly is a miniature horse (AMHR #271916A), and her completion at the Hat Creek Hustle 25-mile ride in Northern California was the first of a kind.

After scouring AERC’s rule book and consulting with the AERC national office, Jelly’s owner, Elicia Kamberg of Smartsville, California, discovered there is nothing in the organization’s rules that requires the horse to be ridden during the competition, so . . . well, let’s just let Jelly tell it:...

Read more at:

Friday, October 21, 2016

Horseriding accident results in demonstration of kindness - Full Story

by Dixie Brunner

While no one wants to have an accident, occasionally a difficult circumstance leads to finding humanity in others. Brooke Benner, from Los Angeles, Calif., learned the hard way about a stranger and his family’s kindness toward others.

Benner was visiting the area in early September, when she had a bad horse accident in the middle of a 50-mile endurance race on the Kaibab near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. She e-mailed the Southern Utah News to express her gratitude to her knight in shining armor, for his prompt action in getting her help.

Kanab City Mayor Robert Houston happened to be waiting for a different riding group, the Red Rock Ride participants who were arriving the same day, when he observed the woman waiting for some emergency help.

“She had experienced a bad accident and was at the park entrance,” said Houston. “She looked as though she needed emergency help quickly.”

Houston drove the woman to the base of the Kaibab and met up with a Kane County ambulance that was enroute. He said it had been a long drive with the sick woman, and he was very concerned that she had experienced a bad head injury...

Read more here:

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Endurance riders ride for love, not money

Vonnie Brown pauses on the trail to take in the scenery. Endurance riders often get to see places that the average person does not have access to.

Traci Rosenbaum ,
October 4, 2016

Big Sky Country was settled by people on horseback, and the state has always been associated with the days when cowboys rode from horizon to horizon with just their horses for company.

A small group of local riders keep in touch with those Montana roots through a group called the American Endurance Ride Conference, an organization that sponsors 25- to 100-mile endurance rides across the country.

Endurance riding is a home-grown sport that started in the U.S. and has spread throughout the world since it was formalized in 1955. Riding takes a lot of time and money, and in rider Bill Miller’s experience, the average age of riders is 50-something, and most are retired or semi-retired...

Read more here:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

AERC 2017-18 Director-At-Large Nominations Close Tomorrow

AERC 2017-18 DIRECTOR-AT-LARGE NOMINATIONS close Friday, September 30. There is a full slate of candidates but it's not too late to toss your riding helmet into the ring.

Requirements: current AERC membership, a $5 nomination fee and a nomination statement (up to 600 words, due next week).

Call the AERC office until 4:00 Pacific today, 866-271-2372, or use our handy online nomination form:

Winding Trails: Sleeper competes in World Championships - Full Article

By Staff | NJ Advance Media for
on September 28, 2016

SAMORIN, SLOVAKIA — The United States' Meg Sleeper and Tom Hagis gave a strong effort across a rugged five-loop course at the 2016 Longines FEI World Endurance Championships for Seniors on Saturday.

Although they rode with confidence, they were unable to overcome the vigorous challenges the course presented and were pulled at vet checks along the way...

Read more here:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Blood on the Trail: The history that equine endurance racing will never escape is back to haunt it - Full Article

New book "American Endurance" looks back at the controversial roots of endurance racing in the United States

By Fran Jurga | 9/26/2016

When last week's FEI World Endurance Championships ("WECH")in Slovakia made the news for all the wrong reasons, echoes of endurance races of the past rumbled to the surface. For the past 125 years, organized equine endurance spectacles have pitted horses against fate. Thanks to FEI TV, we could all watch the WECH horses in action, acting out the latest chapter in endurance history, for better or worse.

This fall, that colorful and often controversial history will be spotlighted in a revealing new book that cannot--and should not--be ignored.

To be truthful, the only time we usually hear about endurance at the international level is when something goes wrong, and it usually has to go very wrong to attract the media's attention at all. How much worse can it get?

Last week, Ajayeb, the 15-year-old chestnut mare ridden by Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum (UAE), was euthanized on the trail, after she tripped and fell on the fourth loop of the track, suffering an irreparable injury to her right front leg. reported that he mare allegedly slipped on a plastic water bottle discarded by riders who came before.

Victory celebrations for some countries stopped short when the first group of finishers didn't meet the veterinary inspection criteria. Two horses ridden by United Arab Emirates riders,Napoli Del Ma (Saif Ahmad Al Mazroui) and Quran El Ulm (Ganem Abdullah Al Merri), were vetted out and Uruguay’s LG Muneerah wasn’t presented by Jonatan Rivera Iriarte.

Grumbles and growls from around the world criticized the race on even more issues than direct welfare questions related to the fatality and the condition failure of the first to finish. Many competitors rode rented European horses that they did not own or even normally ride because the transport for their own horses was not paid for by the event.

The required FEI necropsy of the deceased horse was bypassed because the horse could not be transported across the border to Austria to undergo post mortem tests at the University of Vienna. According to news reports today in the British magazine Horse and Hound, the horse's remains were shipped to a crematorium instead.

All of this might have been written last week--or 100 years ago. Endurance--at least the American version of it--is about to look itself in the mirror when Random House Penguin's new book, American Endurance: The Great Cowboy Race and the Vanishing Wild West by Richard A. Serrano hits the bookstores...

Read more here:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

2016 Distance Nationals 50 and CTR

September 25 2016

The 2016 Distance Nationals are underway in Vinita, Oklahoma, this weekend. They are being run in conjunction with the Appaloosa National Championship Endurance Ride.

Jacoby Hayes and DJBCC Mattingley Wizard won the AHA Purebred 50 Mile Championship in a ride time of 5:44. Terry Reed and TR Olena were second in 5:46, and Kathy Broads and Fougueux were third in 5:56. 9 out of 10 starters completed the ride.

Wendy Justice and Rococo Amber won the AHA Half/Anglo Arabian 50 Mile Championship in a ride time of 5:44. Louise Burton and CR Blonde Bombshell finished second in 6:12, and Kerry Lowrey and Takoda were third in 6:30. Junior Skylar Zortz and Rococco Safire finished 5th in 8:05. Five of six starters completed the ride.

All 3 starters completed the AHA Purebred CTR Championship, with Terryl Reed and TR Olena taking the Championship win with a score of 197. Deanne Prusak and TA Kaiser were Reserve Champions with a score f 194.

2 starters were in the Half/Anglo CTR Championship, with Taylor Walker and Backstreetstrutter GSA taking the Championship with a score of 193. Miranda Miller and Brittany Rolsthedice were Reserve Champions with a score of 188.

The 100 Mile ride is underway today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

14th Annual Arabian & Half-Arabian Sport Horse National Championships are Nampa, Idaho Bound

(16- Sept.-06) − AURORA, COLO. – The Arabian Horse Association (AHA) is celebrating the 14th anniversary of the Sport Horse National Arabian & Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show September 21 – 25, in Nampa, Idaho at the Ford Idaho Horse Park.

This horse show is unique - not just to the Arabian horse breed, but to other breeds as well. AHA is the only breed association that offers a Sport Horse only, National Show for its horses and exhibitors.

Arabian Sport Horses are known for their athleticism, strength and diversity and will showcase these abilities at the National Event. From Dressage to Hunter/Jumper, Pleasure Carriage Driving to In-Hand classes and much more, AHA invites the residents of Nampa and surrounding areas to come out and see the best equine athletes in the industry. Class sessions begin respectively at 8 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The show is FREE to the public and also offers the Total Arabian Interactive Learning (T.A.I.L) tours on Thursday, September 22 at 6 p.m.; Friday, September 23 at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and on Saturday, September 24 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tours are FREE and open to all ages. Tours are led by an expert guide and invite attendees to participate in a behind-the-scenes view of the show. Kids and families on the tour will meet Arabian horses, watch classes and take home information on the Arabian horse. Contact AHA at or call (303) 597-8251 to schedule a FREE tour of the facility and meet some Arabian horses!

Event attendees can learn more about the history of the Arabian horse by enjoying the Tour of Arabian Horse Legends: A Miniature Exhibit. The exhibit will be open daily and boasts a timeline of where the Arabian horse started, and where it is today.

Additionally, the Sport Horse National Show is hosting a silent auction to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Nampa and the Arabian Horsemen’s Distress Fund (AHDF). Donation items, both equine and non-equine will be accepted at the horse show. AHA invites the community to participate in the auction and help to support these two organizations. Contact for more information on the Sport Horse Nationals Silent Auction.

For more information on AHA’s Sport Horse National Championship Horse Show, visit

Contact: AHA

Three Events – One Breed: Experience the Diversity of the Arabian Horse

(19-SEPT.-16) – AURORA, COLO. – Heralded as the most diverse and athletic horse on the planet, the Arabian horse excels in a variety of disciplines, all with grace and beauty. This week kicks off three prestigious events for the Arabian Horse Association (AHA) – the Arabian breed registry in North America.

First, on Wednesday, September 21, the 14th Annual Arabian & Half-Arabian Sport Horse National Championship kicks off at the Ford Idaho Horse Park in Nampa, ID. Running through the 25th of September, Sport Horse Nationals is the only Sport Horse show offered by a breed association.

From Dressage and Carriage Driving, to Hunter/Jumper and In-Hand classes, Sport Horse Nationals demonstrates the athletic diversity of the Arabian and Half-Arabian/Anglo-Arabian horse. A live-stream of the indoor arena can be viewed at Learn more about the show at

Then, on the evening of Wednesday, September 21 at 7:00 PM EST, the Arabian horse will be presented at the Arabian U.S. Open Horse Show, as part of the Rolex Central Park Horse Show in New York City, New York. While not a national or rated show, this platform displays the Arabian horse on a worldwide stage, potentially to an audience that has never before experienced their magic.

Horses and riders at the Arabian U.S. Open attend by invitation only, with just eight classes offered: Arabian Mounted Native Costume, Arabian Junior Mare Halter, Hunter Pleasure Pro/Am, Arabian Junior Stallion Halter, Western Pleasure Pro/Am, Arabian Senior Mare Halter, Country English Pleasure Pro/Am and Arabian Senior Stallion halter.

This unique setting is a huge marketing opportunity for the Arabian breed and is presented by AHA and Aljassimya Farm. To learn more about this show, visit The show will be live-streamed Wednesday evening by the Arabian Horse Global Network on

Finally, on Thursday, September 22, the first ever multi-breed National Distance Ride will take place in Vinita, Ok. The AHA Distance Nationals has teamed up with the Appaloosa Horse Club for a four day competition that proves the endurance of the Arabian horse; challenges rider and horse teams to compete to their best ability; and awards hard work and determination.

The Arabian horse has dominated the Distance sport for years due to the breed’s stamina and natural endurance abilities. The event is comprised of a two day Competitive Trail Ride National Championship and a 50-mile and 100-miles National Endurance Championship Ride for both Purebreds and Half-Arabian/Anglo-Arabian horses, along with several open Endurance and Competitive Trail rides. Distance Nationals wraps up a year of hard work, determination and many miles for AHA distance riders and their horses. Learn more about the AHA Distance Nationals at

Three events – one amazing breed. The Arabian horse will truly set the standard this week for diversity and athleticism in motion. Endurance, Sport Horse, Halter and Performance horses will all prove to the world why the Arabian horse is the best – all within the same 48 hours!

To learn more about the most amazing breed on earth, visit and discover the Arabian horse!

Contact: AHA

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Brandon Reed and BA Treacle Win Virginia City 100

September 18 2016

Brandon Reed and BA Treacle won the 49th annual Virginia City 100 endurance ride Saturday near Virginia City, Nevada. They finished at 10:55 PM. The start was 5 AM, in front of the Bucket of Blood Saloon in downtown Virginia City. The mare is owned by Hugh and Gloria Vanderford; Brandon rode her to a 14th place finish in the Wild West 50 in June, and a second place finish on the Camp Far West 50 on September 3.

BA Treacle also won the Best Condition award. High vet score went to 4th place MM Cody, ridden by Samantha Ellis.

44 riders started, 29 finished.

Interesting stats from the ride (thanks Lucy Trumbull!)
• Robert Ribley's 27th place finish was his 97th 100-mile finish
• Jamie Kerr finished 26th, after years of being head vet for the ride
• Carolyn Meiers completed her 10th VC 100. She sponsored
• Junior Alex Neihaus, who finished her 6th 100-mile ride this year!
• Gina Hall and Fire Mtn Destiny - Destiny's 12th VC 100 finish! an all-time record
• there were 11 first-time VC riders who completed
• Pat Chappell got her 17th VC 100 completion
• 5th place Suzanne Ford-Huff finished her 47th 100-mile ride
• NASTR Triple Crown winner (NV Derby 50 in the spring, NASTR 75 in the summer, and VC100 in the fall) - Leigh Bacco and Picante

Full results, photos can be seen here:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

2016 AERC National Championships in Utah: Riding With Buffalo - Part 3 (the 100)

by Merri

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

Just 17 starters in the AERC National Championship 100 on September 10, but it was a strong, competitive group. Riders left on the trail at 5 AM, dark.

Suzy Hayes and Greenbriar Al Jabal ("Atlas") led the way out, and yes, it was quite dark. "I couldn't see anything!" Suzy said later. "Like my husband says, 'It was darker than the inside of a cow!' I just had to trust Atlas and let him go." Just four miles out, she found herself splitting a herd of buffalo, but Atlas just carried on.

An expectant group gathered at the out vet check at the White Rock Bay parking lot: vets (head vet Olin Balch, Karen Balch, Greg Fellers, and Jared Christensen), vet students, who would be taking pulses and getting a taste of vetting at an endurance ride, crews, and friends of crews.

Out to watch and participate for the weekend was Robert Bouttier of Drinkers of the Wind Arabians, sponsor of the 50 and 100 Mile Championship winners and Best Condition, with custom blankets. Robert enjoyed jumping in to help Christoph at the vet checks; Christoph has partnered in the past on several successful horses bred by DWA Arabians.

Anya and Monk
It was a treat seeing Junior Anya Levermann's father, Peter, present at this ride. He was giving his wife Katrin a break for the weekend. Peter and Anya drove down from BC (Canada) in their car, taking two days to get here. Anya was riding Chris Martin's Monk, whom she rode to a 5th place in the Sunriver Classic 105 in June. I like to call the Levermanns endurance jet setters, as this year, Anya and, often, her mom, are traveling all over the country doing 100 mile endurance rides together, including the Titanium Run, Big Horn and Santiam Cascade. Anya is, in fact, tied with fellow Junior rider Alex Neihaus for the Junior National 100 mile award - both were at 405 miles before the National Championship. Alex was also riding this AERCNC 100 on her horse Airborne, with her grandmother Joyce and Joyce's newly minted Hall of Fame gelding, LV Integrity.

Alex and Airborne

The first riders began arriving into the first pulse-down-trot-and-go vet check at 14 miles in just under 1 1/2 hours. It's a flat, nice, rockless stretch that horses can move out on.

The leading riders into this first check were a hint as to how the finish would ultimately turn out late in the evening. Dean Hoalst (Pay Attention) and Melissa Ribley (Ever Ready) were the first to arrive, with Suzy Hayes close behind. Dean and Suzy pulsed down first ahead of Melissa. Just after them were Leah Cain (OT Dyamonte Santo), Pam Bailie (Bailie Skrit Ablane) and her sponsoree, Anya Levermann (Monk). After a gap of 9 minutes, Ann Hall (HCC Zara RR) pulsed down, followed by "the two Jennies," Jenni Smith (M Dash Stella) and Jennifer Waitte (M Dash Czoe), aboard Waitte's two homebred mares.

The rest of the riders trickled in over the next 23 minutes, a spread of 41 minutes between first and last: Christoph Schork (GE Pistol Annie), Alison Farrin (Shalimar Yukon), Kevin Waters (Belesemo Impressario), Joyce Sousa (LV Integrity) and her granddaughter Alex Niehaus (Airborne), Robert Ribley (Regret), Kecia Smette (LC Tripleplay) and Kathy Backus (Dynazel).

Thursday's 50-mile winner, Jill Haunold, helped crew for Dean Hoalst. Jill and Dean rode together for the first 14 miles of the 50. Dean had the smallest crew bag ever in the 100 mile ride. It was so small - it was packed for 4 out checks at this spot - ride management overlooked it off-loading everybody else's crew bags. In fact we were so astounded by Dean's tiny bag, that we rummaged through it, so that we could perhaps learn how not to pack body bags full of things for single out vet checks.

Seriously, look how small Dean's vet check bag is!!!

I mentioned in Part 1 how this ride was small in numbers, but big on friendly competition, and seemed like one big family. At this vet check, and throughout the day, while crews waited around for their own riders who were on trail, almost all of them jumped in to help other riders when they came in to the vet checks.

L-R: Leah, Anya, Pam
The horses headed out onto the mountain to finish their 14 mile loop, back into this out vet check for their first hour hold. Dean, Suzy, Leah, Pam, Anya, and Melissa were still within 3 minutes of each other at the end of the 14 miles. This group kept up their fast pace and left a gap between the next group of nearly 30 minutes. Ann and the Two Jennies arrived next, and unfortunately Jenni Smith's mount M Dash Stella was pulled for lameness. Jenni and Jennifer always have a good time riding together, "chattering away," Waitte said, but Waitte and Ann Hall teamed up the rest of the day, also having a great time together and chattering away whenever I came across them. The great smile never left Ann's face all day; she was thrilled to be riding on Antelope Island for the first time, and for the stars to align for her to be riding her beloved Zara in the Championship 100.

Following them 10 minutes later were Christoph, Kevin, and Alison. There was an approximate 45 minute gap back to Joyce and Alex, followed by Robert, Kecia, and Kathy.

Next was a 22 mile loop, back up the mountain for an abbreviated repeat of the previous loop, then the 12 mile stretch back to basecamp at 50 miles and another hour hold. The morning had started out quite chilly - cooler than all the previous mornings - but the day was quickly warming up and, with no wind, becoming the hottest day of the week.

Leading the way into camp at the 50 mile mark were Anya and Monk (he was full of beans today for Anya, who was riding him in a sidepull) and Pam and Bailie. Melissa and Leah, then Dean and Suzy, were hot on their tails. Leah's and Pam's horses pulsed down first; Pam would wait for Monk who pulsed down 4 minutes later, so it was Leah and Santo who would head out first on the second half of the hundred.

The next few miles were a long, hot climb up the south end of the island's mountain, 14 miles before the next water stop (it was impossible to haul water anywhere on this loop, "so make sure your horses are well hydrated before you leave camp," ride manager Jeff Stuart cautioned, "and ride accordingly"), and another 6 miles into the out vet check at 70 miles.

Leah and Melissa

All 6 of the front horses pulsed down within 5 minutes of each other and passed the vet check, cleared to go. But as the lunch stop went on, Dean was concerned that his horse wasn't eating. He opted to stay longer in the vet check, and eventually pulled rider option, because he decided it was not their day. Kathy Backus' horse Dynazel pulled here for lameness.

Suzy Hayes and Atlas left in second place on the next loop, but Atlas also had not eaten all that well at this vet check, which was unusual for him. So she was going to baby him the next stretch, ride him according to how he felt, and not push to stay in or near the lead.

Ride manager Jeff took me on the ATV on the start of this loop, the long, sometimes steep climb up this Sentry trail to the ridge on the southern half of the island, with a terrific view of the eastern half of the Great Salt Lake (and ridecamp far below) and the western half of the lake. I hung on for dear teeth-gritting life and thanked my lucky stars for a good driver and trusty ATV! We passed Ann and Zara, Jennifer and Czoe going up the hill; then we waited for them on top to trot on by us. Of course they wore big smiles on their faces. These two got a lucky glimpse of a few of the island's big horn sheep herd.

As Jeff and I headed back down on the ATV, we met Christoph, Kevin, and Alison coming up the mountain. Christoph and Kevin were on foot. Running. Uphill. In the heat. Christoph estimates he was off and running some 10-15 miles of the ride - his customary MO for endurance rides. (Kevin may have run double that; leaving the last out vet check in the late afternoon with 28 miles left, he walked and ran on foot, managing his horse who had earlier had an occasional hitch in his hind giddyup.)

First into the 70 mile out vet check for a 1 hour hold, just after 2 in the afternoon, was Leah and Monte, 2 minutes ahead of Pam and Bailie, Anya and Monk. Melissa and Ever Ready were another 2 minutes back, followed by Suzy and Atlas a minute later. The gap to the rest of the group was 52 minutes. There were still approximately 30 miles to go, where anything could happen, but these front runners still looked strong after this hot loop.

Ann and Jennifer arrived next. "That stretch was amazing," Ann enthused. "It was beautiful! We rode up to these big cliffs, and I watched Jen up ahead of me, and it looked like she was going straight up this rock wall." Those two were followed 40 minutes later by Christoph, Kevin and Alison. Still later were Joyce and Alex, Kecia, and Robert.

Heading out for one more loop in the mountains of around 14 miles, riders came back through the vet check for one more 20 minute hold. First in again was Leah, maintaining a two minute lead over Pam and Anya. Suzy Hayes and Atlas had moved into 4th, 5 minutes behind Monk. Atlas ate better at the out vet checks, and he perked up more as the weather got cooler. Suzy was letting him dictate his own pace. With only 7 minutes separating these top horses and riders, with 16 miles to the finish, and with the weather cooling down, any of them could arrive home first.

The sun fell behind the mountains, but it was still daylight when, at 6:52 PM, Leah Cain and OT Dyamonte Santo crossed the finish line in first place, in a ride time of 10:32. The pair was 2 minutes ahead of Pam Bailie and Bailie Skrit Ablane, and Junior Anya Levermann and Monk. Suzy Hayes and Greenbriar Al Jabal came in 4th, in a ride time of 10:51. Leah was first Lightweight, Pam was first Featherweight, Anya was first Junior.

There was almost an hour gap to 5th place Ann Hall (12,000 miles) and HCC Zara RR, 6th place Jennifer Waitte (10,000 miles) and M Dash Czoe, and 7th place Melissa Ribley (21,000 miles) and Ever Ready, in a ride time of 11:48. It was Jennifer's 23rd 100 mile completion, and Melissa's 53rd 100-mile completion.

Christoph Schork (30,000 miles) and GE Pistol Annie, coming off a 50 mile win at the Grand Canyon just 6 days earlier, finished 8th in a ride time of 13:18. Christoph was first Middleweight. Alison Farrin and Shalimar Yukon finished 9th in 13:19. Finishing 10th in 16:09, and first Heavyweight, was Kevin Waters (27,000 miles) and Belesemo Impressario. It was Kevin's 37th 100-mile completion.

The next three to finish, in 17:48, were a picture of perseverance. Junior Alex Niehaus and Airborne, her grandmother Joyce Sousa and LV Integrity, and Kecia Smette and LC Tripleplay, were worth waiting up for. Leaving the last out vet check, Joyce and Alex actually went off trail up on the mountain - not their fault, because some kind bicyclists had pulled over and stopped to let them by - and had stopped in front of the red pie plate indicating a turn. People far below in the vet check actually saw them going the wrong way, and a series of frantic texts were sent to Joyce, but Joyce didn't see them until they'd gone several miles out of the way. So you can call that a 105+ mile ride they completed!

The completion was Alex's 5th 100-mile ride of the season. When I need advice on how to ride 100's, I am going to talk to 15-year-old Anya Levermann and 14-year-old Alex!

LV Integrity: what more can be said about this 23-year-old Hall of Fame horse that hasn't been said already? This was his 40th 100-mile completion, out of 46 100-mile starts. Some horses don't have an entire career with a record of 40 out of 46 starts at any distance. His mileage stands at 9845 miles over 18 seasons. No wonder he's in the Hall of Fame. (To read more on Joyce and LV Integrity, see From Bucker to Blessing, written after he reached 9000 miles last December.)

Not to mention it was Joyce's 90th 100-mile completion, and she has two horses in the Hall of Fame (Ritz and Jim Bob), but this 24,000-mile rider would always rather talk about her amazing horse anyway.

LC Tripleplay, on the other hand, completed only his second 100-mile ride in the Championship. But who knows, Ritz probably gave him plenty of endurance tips on the trail under the moonlight!

The final rider was Robert Ribley and Regret, a leggy handsome 17-year-old chestnut gelding in his 10th season of endurance, who is now 5 for 5 in the 100-mile ride department. Not to mention Robert is another AERC Hall of Famer (Pard'ners Award in 2009 with Tari), a 35,000-mile rider, and it was Robert's 96th 100-mile completion.

Next morning, 6 of the Top Ten horses showed for Best Condition: Leah Cain and OT Dyamonte Santo, Anya Levermann and Monk, Suzy Hayes and Greenbriar Al Jabal, Ann Hall and HCC Zara RR, Melissa Ribley and Ever Ready, and Christoph Schork and GE Pistol Annie.

It was Leah's OT Dyamonte Santo who won Best Condition, and Melissa's Ever Ready who won High Vet Score.

So it was a small but excellent field of horsemen and horses who contested the 2016 AERC National Championships at the beautiful, unique, and challenging Antelope Island State Park. Head vet Olin Balch complimented the horses and riders at the awards ceremony. "You all did a fabulous job as riders. There were no treatments on the 50 or 100."

Though Dudley and I finished next to last on the 50 on Thursday, it truly was an honor to be in such estimable company on the endurance trail.

top photo: Leah and Santo trotting out at the out vet check

Thursday, September 15, 2016

49th Virginia City 100 This Weekend

September 15 2016
by Merri

The 49th annual Virginia City 100 takes place on Saturday near the historic mining town of Virginia City, Nevada.

45 riders, including three Juniors, are expected to start this iconic bucket list ride. The late addition of Junior Alex Niehaus is an exciting one. Alex and fellow Junior rider Anya Levermann just finished the AERC National Championship 100 last weekend in Utah, and the two girls are tied for the National Junior 100 Mile award with, so far, 505 miles this year.

There are several VC100 icons in this year's ride. Connie Creech, riding LS Steele Breeze 10, will be going for a record 25th buckle. AERC Hall of Fame Pard'ners Award winners, Gina Hall and Fire Mt Destiny will partner up again. Gina has 16 finishes, and Destiny has 11.

The trail consists of three loops (51, 25, 24 miles), each returning to base camp in Virginia City. It covers hard pack and rocky terrain on historical wagon (now jeep) roads with some sandy single track footing and several mountain climbs.

Endurance rider Joan Zeleny describes it well: "I think it's tougher than Tevis… not enough shade to cover a lizards butt... long views of a long trail... rocks and more rocks..."

Stay tuned for stories and photos at:

2016 AERC National Championships in Utah: Riding With Buffalo - Part 2

by Merri
Part 1 is here.

Start for the AERC National Championship 50 on September 8 was at 7 AM, just before sunrise. Dudley and I left the trailer and Saruq and Dezzie, looking for our riding partners, Simone Mauhl and Boogey. Fortunately Dudley doesn't mind leaving his stablemates; he's happy to go out with just about anybody.

Simone and I rode around ridecamp waiting for the other 19 riders on the 50 to get going down the trail. We timed it just right so the rest of the field was past the ranch and around the corner on the single track trail as we started out - it was like we were going out for our own fun trail ride by ourselves along the lakeshore of this beautiful island!

With buffalo! We saw our first herd just a mile or two out of camp. Neither horse paid any mind to them (the herd was 50 yards away); the two just trotted purposefully down the trail. Loop 1 (14 miles) took us straight north along the eastern edge of Antelope Island for some 12 miles, before we turned in toward the White Rock camping area on White Rock Bay.

As the sun rose above the eastern Wasatch range in the pleasantly cool morning, it threw our long shadows across the buffalo grass toward the mountain spine of the island.

Trail markings were minimal for the rides - they weren't needed. No ribbons; just the occasional red pie plates at any critical junctions. "Just follow the trail you're on," said ride manager Jeff Stuart. "If you come to an intersection where you're supposed to turn, you'll see a red pie plate. Otherwise, stay on the trail."

That worked great, and we never had any questions - except at the chain link fence that we went through. I was in the lead for less than 10 yards when I realized there was perhaps just one set of horse hoof prints on the trail below Dudley's feet. I recalled some talk at the ride meeting about turning at the chain link fence (it pays to listen at these meetings!). I pulled out my handy dandy trail map, and indeed the map said to turn. Simone and I backtracked to the fence, and read the hoof prints turning left up the fence. It was Dudley who found the red pie plate on the ground! Probably a buffalo hoping for a piece of pie took it down. Since we were the last riders, we didn't have to hang it back up for anybody.

We continued up the trail, heading for White Rock Bay. This vet check was just a pulse and go, but we stopped for 10 minutes to let our boys have a good drink and a little bit of food. We could just see Connie and Sarah heading out ahead of us on the next loop, just about 15 minutes ahead of us.

Next loop of of 22 miles took us on a climb onto the island's spine, where we could see the spread of the Great Salt Lake to the east and to the west below us. We followed the Beacon Knob trail, then the Elephant Head trail, dropping over a ridge and down to Split Rock Bay, journeying into and through the burned area of the island. The trail dropped to near the water before climbing a long stretch of rocky trail, "Rock A$$ Trail," Simone and I dubbed it, zigzagging back and forth, up and up, back in a loop to the Elephant Head trail.

It had a special kind of beauty, this stark, rocky, blackened and charred moon-like landscape, contrasting with the deep blue of the lake in the distance, and the layered mauve and purple Lakeside and Newfoundland mountains further beyond to the west.

Our horses greedily guzzled from a special water tank set out on trail some 4 miles from camp. It was getting low, so we sure hoped it would be filled by the time we came out for our final loop that passed around this way again, before heading back to camp! We shared the tank here with Dean Hoalst and Errol Fife, who were already on this last loop, and who would finish 5th and 6th, some 3 1/2 hours ahead of us. See what I mean about the great diversity of riding you can do at a National Championship ride - racing and poking and everything in between - and still have a blast?

The vet check was welcome for our hungry horses, who hadn't been impressed with the burned vegetation on the trail (not even the brand new green sprouts of grass; they must have tasted poorly because Dudley eats everything!). Both horses never lifted their head from their feed buckets during the hour hold.

Our final 22 mile loop took us back out on an abbreviated version of our previous loop in the hills. We found a good gap through a long string of moving buffalo, though there was one rambunctious, bucking buffalo baby romping around his mother that we gave a wide berth, moving off the trail to accommodate them. Dudley thought the Big Fat Hairy Cow baby was just plain silly.

We Boogey-ed (get it?) back around to our favorite - refilled - water trough (thank you, ride management!!!) where Dudley was so thirsty, he almost plunged his entire nostrils under water while drinking. He drank so long and so deeply I got concerned enough to pull (didn't work) then yank him out for a breath!

After another 4 miles, back at the vet check, we didn't have a mandatory stop, but we swung back in to give our horses another drink, and to snack for 10 minutes. When we headed out for the 12 miles back to camp, we came upon Beth Buzis and TR Phantom, just as we approached a big water trough… with Big Fat Hairy Cows standing at it.

The buffalo were drinking. We wanted to let our horses drink. We all eyeballed each other. I nudged Dudley forward. He gave the buffalo the stink eye. The buffalo blinked and started to back off. The three of us moved in and our horses drank, while the buffalo politely waited around for us to finish. They really are bizarre creatures - and rather huge - particularly the bulls. But still so soft and fuzzy and rather cute with their little brown eyeballs surrounded by a lot of big brown frizz and fiber. But we were ready to bolt away if need be!

Leaving the water trough (the buffalo returned to finish drinking), we realized we had a whole, very close, migrating herd to get through on the trail down the fence line. Cars were stopped on both sides of the road to wait for the buffalo, and to watch and gawk at them (and us!).

"Now what do we do!" I said to Simone and Beth. We could have gotten off trail temporarily and ridden down the other side of the fence - but there was no trail there, and there were buffalo there too. Impossible to go around the herd, because we'd have to slice through them first.

"Well, I'll let Dudley decide!" And Dudley just kept on walking forward on the trail, confidently throwing the stink eye about, and the cows and calves and bulls just moved on out of his way, and made way for all of us to ride on down the trail.

The only somewhat disconcerting thing was the breathy fire-breathing gurgling rumbling coming from some of the buffalo throats. They sounded exactly like Khaleesi's dragons on Game of Thrones. If you don't watch Game of Thrones, this is what dragons sound like (around 0:56 to 1:02). Dragons and buffalo.

We left that herd behind and dropped onto the nice flat smooth sandy trail near the lake shore for our southward last 10 miles to the finish line. We did have a couple more buffalo obstacles to contend with - two bulls. One standing right on the trail that we politely swung far around, and one who was sitting down right near the trail. Even sitting, he was very large, and when he moved a hind leg to scratch his fuzzy itchy neck, that unnerved Dudley more than anything else had!

One more vet-check-no-hold at 6 miles to the finish, and our horses felt great. But since this was the one stretch of trail that had the only grass that our horses had a taste for (long tall grass with seeds on the top), we walked or slow-trotted a lot of these last miles, our horses grabbing snacks the whole way. Dudley's main goal on an endurance ride, after all, is getting all A's on his gut sounds!

And we crossed the finish line in just under 9 hours - 4 hours after the winner - accomplishing our goals of finishing with forward, healthy, sound horses in the AERC National Championship 50. Former head Tevis vet Dr Greg Fellers did the final check on Dudley, and the Dude finished with all A's - except for B's on 2 of his 4 gut quadrants, which he commenced to correct immediately back at the trailer. Dudley was pretty proud of himself.

Fellow southern Idaho rider Jill Haunold, riding Solara SS, was the winner of the 50 in a ride time of 4:43. Jill picked out this now-8-year-old Arabian mare off the classifieds. She didn't cut it in the show ring, and had changed owners 7 times in 7 years, but there was something about her that attracted Jill.

They didn't get along much for the first year or so, but they have figured it out in their 2 seasons of endurance together. This year Solara has completed 6 out of 7 rides (the lone pull a rider option), winning every one of them. They also received the AERCNC Best Condition award. This on top of it being Jill's birthday made for a pretty darn good day for them!

Sarah Holloway was the only Junior rider and consequently scored lots of swag from several of the many generous National Championship sponsors, including Jen X pads, Riding Warehouse, Kerrits, and Crazy Legs Tights.

18 of the 21 starters completed the ride.

It was a great day!

Part 3, coming soon!

Results photos and more at: