Melissa Woicek (left) of Stone County begins the 25-mile portion of the AERC race at Big Foot Saturday. Woicek won the Turtle Award as the last finisher. Enterprise photo by Jody O'Hara
Stone County Enterprise
By Jody O'Hara
Oct 30, 2015
The Big Foot Horse Trail in the DeSoto National Forest was the focus of the American Endurance Ride Conference this past weekend.
Hunting for Big Foot involved 16 riders in a 50-mile endurance ride and 24 more in a 25-mile ride.
Jane Lee of Poplarville was the manager for the event and said she had wanted to share the riding facilities at Big Foot with a larger group of riders.
"This is where I come to train and condition and I thought, 'We should share this,' because it's such a fantastic facility and it's really rather unknown," she said.
Lee owns the No. 1 horse in the Southeast Region of the AERC, a paint named Ruby, and has been involved in the sport for seven years.
She took on the task of managing a race because she believes she's taken a lot from it.
"I felt the need to give something back to the sport," she said.
On Friday, riders brought their horses to a check-in station where veterinarians gave them a thorough going over, checking for hydration, muscle tone, soreness, tack galls, soundness and heart rate.
Steve Huffman of Tupelo was on hand with his Spanish mustang, Choctaw Warrior.
"We came down to support Miss Jane because she's putting on this race in Mississippi," he said. "There used to be a lot of races in the state, but it's kind of died off over the past several years."
On Saturday morning, the 50-milers left first, followed shortly by the 25-milers.
Local rider Melissa Woicek, aboard her rescued walking horse, Peotyr, was participating in her first endurance ride and was presented the Turtle Award for being the last finisher in the 25-mile event.
"That's really quite an accomplishment, to go out on your first endurance ride and finish with a horse that is happy, safe and sound," Lee said. "Our motto is, 'To Finish is to Win,' and she certainly did that."
Lee said the overall event was a huge success.
"For our first time, we had great participation and the feedback was all really positive," she said. "We were able to introduce a bunch of riders from several states to our beautiful DeSoto National Forest and the amenities we have to offer for riders here."
Riders were on hand from Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana and Texas.