Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ozark Club promotes sport of endurance riding

Ozark Country Endurance Riders sponsor 25-to-30 mile and 50-to-100 mile contests.

by Ann Keyes
For the

Who: Ozark Country Endurance Riders

Mission: Ozark Country Endurance Riders "believes in the integrity of the sport of endurance riding," says a Web link to the equestrian group. OCER strives "to encourage the education of equine enthusiasts, to promote the preservation and use of trails"; the group places the welfare of horses first and foremost.

About: OCER is a regional riding club that covers Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The group sponsors limited distance horse rides from 25 to 30 miles; endurance rides run 50 to 100 miles. All OCER rides are sanctioned by the American Endurance Ride Conference, a group that serves as a national governing body for long distance riding. Rules and guidelines are provided that call for strict veterinary controls, according to American Endurance Ride Conference.

OCER sites the AERC guides as reason for membership: The health and well-being of horses is constantly checked throughout AERC and OCER rides. OCER, with nearly 100 members, also observes trail etiquette and expects members to reflect as much. Thrill of competition, by the adding of points in various areas on rides, is also included in membership with OCER, says group president Kathy Cruthers.

"We don't win a lot of money. No, actually, we don't win any money," says Cruthers with a laugh. "We win some nice awards at the end of the year, and we just enjoy going out and camping with our horses and getting together with friends. We pretty much all know each other and welcome newcomers, too, and before too long they feel like they're one of the family. It's one competition where you may be competing against somebody, but if they need something on a trail, then you're more than happy to help them out."

Cruthers says most horses ridden for endurance are Arabian or part Arabian, but any breed can participate; most members condition their horses by riding several days a week. Membership to OCER is $20 annually for individuals and $25 for families. The group has no formally scheduled meetings; members find out about rides via an occasional newsletter.

Upcoming: Clayton, Okla., is the site for OCER's "Mid-Summer Night's Madness" endurance ride. The nighttime event, scheduled July 28, includes contests for 25- and 50-mile horse rides.

Further ahead: Look for OCER to launch a Web site and increase newsletter mailings, says Cruthers. And OCER has endurance rides scheduled every two weeks from September through December. OCER comes to Missouri in mid-October, Cruthers says; the location is yet to be announced. Thanksgiving weekend OCER rides the Show-Me State in Collins.

Want to join or need to know more? Find a printable membership form at ocermembershipform07.pdf. Send postal membership inquiry to Belinda Skiles, 1914 Quail Creek Road, Marion, Kan., 66861. Call Cruthers in Fayetteville, Ark., at (479) 443-6595.

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