Friday, December 22, 2006
What do you do with a thousand horses in your front yard? That sounds like a second grade riddle, but it turns out to be a question with genuine meaning. It's one way of thinking about the logistical challenges of an exciting equestrian event to be held in rural Kansas and beyond in 2007.
Rob and Beverly Phillips live near Lawrence, Kan. Rob is coordinator of the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race and Endurance Ride. As described previously, this event is an 800 mile endurance ride along the approximate route of the old Santa Fe Trail.
Rob says, "One of the main objectives of the race is to educate the public not only on the national historic Santa Fe Trail, but also to introduce the sport of endurance riding to thousands."
The ride will start in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Sept. 3 and end in Independence, Missouri on Sept. 15, 2007. Horses and riders will be traveling Tour de France style, in that they will ride a 50 mile route each day and then be transported to the next leg.
Overnight stops will be at temporary race villages containing comprehensive services. Those will be located in rural places such as Burlingame, Council Grove, Lyons, Larned, Dodge City, and Elkhart. Elkhart, for example, has a population of 2,156 people.
The ride is open to all breeds of horses. Teams of riders who meet the qualifications are encouraged to enter.
Rob Phillips says, "It is our desire to produce a world class endurance event of riding 800 miles celebrating the Santa Fe Trail." The ride has been sanctioned by the American Endurance Ride Conference, the official sanctioning body for equestrian endurance riding in the U.S. and Canada.
Partners and sponsors of the event include RFD TV, The U.S. Postal Service, the New Mexico Sports Authority, the Bureau of Land Management Mustang and Burro Adoption Program, and the Kansas Lottery. The Imus Ranch, a working cattle ranch for kids with cancer, has been designated as the race charity. The Postal Service will even sponsor a special Pony Express ride.
It sounds like a great event. But it means that a throng of horses will be coming through Kansas, with all the riders and trailers and feed and spectators and media and everything else that accompanies them. They will need housing, food, water, and lots of services. So back to our original question: What do you do when a thousand horses show up at your doorstep?
Rob Phillips wants to answer that question in the best possible way. He is partnering with communities along and near the trail route so as to create opportunities and ideal experiences for everyone involved.
On Jan. 3 and 4, 2007, the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race is holding a meeting in Dodge City to explain this project and see how people can get involved and benefit from it. The meeting title is--what else--What Do You Do with 1000 Horses in Your Front Yard? Speakers include Rob Phillips; John Conoboy of the National Park Service; Dennis Latta of the New Mexico Sports Authority; Janet Starnes-Burch of the U.S. Postal Service; Mike Hansen, executive vice president of RFD-TV; and more. I'm involved with the program as well.
Topics to be discussed include becoming a race village host city, conducting other possible Santa Fe Trail events, television coverage of the event, the economic impact, and how can communities along the trail maximize their participation in this event? For more information, contact Rob Phillips at 785-218-3265.
So what do you do with a thousand horses in your front yard? Well, you feed 'em and water 'em and put 'em up for the night. Then you invite their riders in for supper and entertain 'em. In a larger sense, that is what will be happening with the horses, riders, spectators and more who will be part of this event. We commend Rob and Beverly Phillips and all those involved with this project for making a difference with their creativity and vision.