Thursday, March 30, 2017

Kansas: Big Hill to host national horse challenge - Full Article

March 29, 2017 7:43 pm
By Marsha Hayes Back Country Horsemen of Kansas member

CHERRYVALE — On Saturday the equestrian trails at Big Hill Lake, Cherryvale, will be the site of 50- and 25-mile challenges for horses.

Sanctioned by the American Endurance Ride Conference, the ride has drawn over 50 entires from various states including Utah, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska as well as Kansas.

Ride manager Wendy Justice encourages anyone interested in the sport to visit Ride Camp at the South Big Hill Equestrian Area from Friday through Sunday. Judging for the Best Conditioned Award will be Saturday afternoon and evening as the first finishers return to camp.

“Attending a competition is one of the best ways to learn about the sport,” Justice said. “Everyone is really friendly, and there is so much to learn about horses...”

Read more here:

Janice Kay Dean 1952 - 2017

Janice Kay Dean

August 20, 1952 - March 22, 2017

Salem, Oregon - Janice Kay (Wilson) Dean, 64, died March 22, 2017 with her family by her side at her home in Salem, Oregon. She was born August 20, 1952, in Oakland, California. She found her life partner when she married Tom Dean in 1971. In 1970, Jan graduated from Rio Americano High School in Sacramento, California. After moving to Oregon, Jan obtained her BA from Oregon State University and her Masters Degree from Portland State University. She retired in 2015 from her Assistant Director position at Oregon Youth Authority.

Jan is survived by her husband Tom, son Jeremy Dean (wife Sherice Dean) and her two grandchildren Gavin and Zander. She had the most generous and loving heart and touched the lives of all who knew her. Her family and friends will always be thankful for the gift that was her life. While Jan had many interests, she especially enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren, running marathons, riding her endurance horse, cycling with her husband and creating gourmet meals. In keeping with the family wishes, there will be no funeral service. Comments can be sent to
Published in StatesmanJournal on Mar. 24, 2017

- See more at:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

2017 Tevis Cup Headlamp Policy

March 29 2017


In the early days of 100 mile rides, riders would carry flashlights when riding at night. The problem was that riders couldn’t hold the flashlight still while riding. The bobbing light would bother the horses and give the riders motion sickness. Etiquette did evolve for the use of flashlights during this period. Riders did not ride upon other horses with their flashlight beam flashing about and riders turned their flashlight off when asked. Flashlights were mostly used for an emergency or for equipment repair.

Now there are LED headlamps. They weigh almost nothing, mount nicely to a rider’s helmet, and for under $25, one can be purchased with lumens ranging from 150 to 2,200. The use of these headlamps is displeasing to many riders as the lights have become more common and brighter. There are complaints that these lights scare horses when coming from behind, these lights make it difficult for other riders and the horses to see in the dark as the beams are blinding, and the lights make some riders motion sick. Some riders complain that these bright lights ruin the enjoyment and solitude of riding down the trail in the dark. This is a situation where the equipment of some riders ruins the enjoyment for other riders.

After many years of complaints, the Board of Governors is now addressing this issue. The BOG has decided to implement a rule limiting the size of lights/headlamps and educate riders to the etiquette of their use. Of course the use of headlamps for emergencies and equipment repairs is always acceptable. The Cup Committee will enforce the following rules regarding the use of headlamps/lights during the ride.

Headlamps or any other devices providing light during the Tevis Cup Ride are subject the following policy:

• Headlamps shall not exceed 250 lumens.

• Riders shall turn their headlamps off as they approach other horses and riders from behind.

• Riders shall turn off headlamps at the request of other riders.

• Glow sticks attached to the front of a horse are allowed.

The Cup Committee will monitor for lights that are too bright and ask riders to not use them. The Cup Committee will also address complaints about riders that are disrespectful with their use of headlamps. The intent of this rule is to find a middle ground where some lights can be used but not to the annoyance of other riders.

Tevis Cup Snow Update

SNOW Update, because we know everyone is wondering:

March 27 2017

1. We believe there is a high probability that Tevis will be able to use the original trial since this is a late ride on August 5th. Hope for a warm spring and early summer .

2. If the trail is unsafe or impassible due to snow, we are working on having an alternate start near Soda Springs with overnight camping. We have two to three sites that we are in contact with and they seem to be definite possibilities. This plan will allow us to intersect the original trail at the Redstar vet check, at worse, and intersect Lyon Ridge before Cougar Rock, at best. The mileage will be made up in the Royal Gorge area ( This is very possible but not absolute.

3. In the very worse scenario, Robinson Flat will be snowed in and we will work on setting up a trial similar to 1983 which involved French Meadows. We think this is a remote possibility because the ride is on August 5th. We also have no absolute knowledge at this point if that is feasible.

Tony Benedetti, WSTF President

Holistic horse trainer April Battles comes to Maui - Full Article


The healing services of international horse expert April Battles are now available in Maui. Battles is an international certified instructor of equine musculoskeletal unwinding and owner of Holistic HorseWorks, which helps horse owners and trainers bring their horses back to proper form and function.

Kihei-based Battles offers services direct to horses, and training for owners in the form of group classes, one-on-one private sessions, and videos available free and for purchase. Her systematic approach facilitates physical, energetic and spiritual changes which are immediate and lasting.

“April empowers horse owners,” said Marla Braun-Miller of Kahalawai Farms and Stables...

Read more here:

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sisters planning cross-Canada horseback trek starting in N.S. - Full Story

Published March 27, 2017

Two young Canadian sisters are saddling up next month in Nova Scotia, then setting off on a journey of a million hoofprints.

Jewel and Katie Keca plan to dip their feet — and their horses’ hooves — in the Atlantic Ocean off Mahone Bay on April 22, then head to Canada’s Great Trail, hoping to reach the West Coast by November.

“We’re going to see how far we get,” said Jewel, 18. “We’ll just take our time and see where we end up.”

Katie, 23, said, “It’s just me and Jewel and our two horses. Our parents are driving to Nova Scotia with us, but just to send us off, and then we’re on our own.

“We’re hoping to not rely too much on other people. We’re planning to camp in a tent every night, but if we can find a barn to stock up on feed that will be amazing. Obviously, we will pay for the feed.”

The sisters have dreamed of a long-distance trip on horseback since they were small girls, said Jewel, who has been riding for eight years.

“I was in high school (when) I realized I didn’t really want to go to university,” she said. “So I decided to pursue this dream, hoping that Katie would come with me.

“At first, she was hesitant, but then I bought her a horse,” Jewel said with a laugh. “And she ended up coming.”

The sisters’ equipment list for the trip includes endurance saddles — with “special extra-padded seats, to avoid saddle sores,” Jewel said — and riding helmets.

“We’d love to wear cowboy hats, but we have to stay safe.”

The sisters have mapped out a rough route, but mostly they are “just winging it,” Jewel said...

Read more here:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Alabama: RBCEP hosts Hodges Hootenanny - Full Story

By Alison James
Email the author
Published 8:28 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Last year, it was the Rock Bridge Canyon Canter. This year, it’s the Hodges Hootenanny. But whatever it’s called, the equestrian park’s endurance ride is a challenge that is open to all who are in it for the long haul.

The Hodges Hootenanny, which is set for April 21-22, will include a 50-mile and a 25-mile ride, as well as a 10-mile introductory ride. The competition is being coordinated by endurance rider Tina Cochran.

The event replaces the Rock Bridge Canyon Canter of last year, whose organizer decided to host her ride in Bankhead Forest. Not wanting to see the park lose its spring endurance ride, “I stepped up and decided I’d do it,” Cochran said...

Read more here:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Oregon: Physical therapist and horse lover Wes Rau - Full Article

As a physical therapist and horse lover, Wes Rau finds satisfaction in knowing he can make an impact for both the animal and the rider.

by Lauren Davis Baker, for The Bulletin Special Projects
Published Mar 11, 2017 at 12:00AM / Updated Mar 21, 2017

Wes Rau is checking out the patrons of Wild Ride Brewing as they wander into the Redmond establishment in search of beer and a bite. He looks patrons up and down. As an experienced physical therapist, he can’t help assessing posture and gait as he people watches. By force of habit he scans for visual cues that indicate how well the bodies he seeing passing by are functioning. Rau is all about keeping bodies moving — running smoothly and efficiently — making it possible for his clients to keep doing the things they love to do.

From the Redmond office of Step and Spine Physical Therapy, Rau endeavors to help his clients achieve their goals by improving strength and mobility. From skiers to cyclists and from runners to golfers, physical therapy enables a wide range of athletes to remain active as long as possible.

Now in his 60s, Rau is well aware of the challenge of staying fit and healthy despite the ravages of time. He is meeting that challenge head-on.

“I want to be an aging competitive athlete,” he said, noting that his personal goal is to compete in a 100-mile competitive endurance horseback ride.

As an equestrian hiself, Rau has a special fondness for working with horse people.

“They’re easy,” he said. “They understand the relationship between movement and health.”

That understanding likely comes in part from knowing that movement is essential for horses to maintain their physical and mental well-being. Horse owners know that if a horse stops moving, every major organ in his body is effected, including the large intestine. If the intestines shut down, the condition can be serious — even life-threatening. So, horses are encouraged to keep moving within reason, through injury, illness and even surgical recovery.

While lack of movement may not be as life-threatening for humans, it significantly affects their quality of life.

“Wes helped me when I first started battling lower back issues,” said 81-year-old Dolly DeCair. “After my hip replacement, he had me back on a horse within six months.”

Getting back in the saddle was important to DeCair, an accomplished endurance rider who has competed in six Tevis Cup Trail Rides — a grueling 100-mile route that stretches from Salt Lake City to Sacramento, the very ride that Rau has set his own sights on...

Read more here:

Monday, March 20, 2017

2017 March's Endurance Day on Horses in the Morning

Horsesinthemorning - Listen in

March 14 2017

Today on Karen Chaton's Endurance Episode Tom MacGuinness shares why qualifying for WEG 2018 was so important, Sarah Schick talks about hoof balance for equine athletes, Patti Stedman introduces a web based course for Endurance riders. Listen in...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Colorado: Horse disease outbreak biggest in decades - Full Story

By Carly Moore | Posted: Wed 11:44 PM, Mar 15, 2017

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- A contagious disease is causing major concerns for horse owners in the Grand Valley.

Owners are on high alert of a serious outbreak of what's called equine Strangles disease.

It’s one of the biggest outbreaks vets and owners have seen in a couple decades.

Vets said it’s like the flu or strep throat for horses, and it spreads very quickly from horse to horse. People who care for animals can also spread the infection on their shoes and tools.

“Everyone is very concerned, about what's going on,” said Shane Prentice. “It has the potential to spread across the valley, if we aren't on top of it.”

“This is by far the most I've ever seen in the valley... it's a significant number of cases, and it's something people should be aware of,” said Dr. Dominic Carrica, owner of Amigo Animal Clinic.

Once horses are diagnosed, they require mandatory quarantine, because it’s such a contagious disease...

Read more here:

Friday, March 17, 2017

AERC and USEF Joint Statement Regarding Equine Welfare

March 17 2017

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) join other countries around the world in expressing increasing alarm over continued disproportionate equine deaths, equine doping and catastrophic injuries in National and International events held in Group VII.

The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) has previously sanctioned the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with suspensions, rule changes and educational measures. Clearly, further intervention is required, and therefore, the USEF and AERC were very pleased to learn that the FEI is working with new leadership at the United Arab Emirate Equestrian & Racing Federation (EEF) to put in place and ensure compliance with safeguards to protect horses and when warranted, impose tougher and more severe sanctions.

USEF and AERC share strong beliefs and concerns regarding horse welfare and fairness in competition and we recognize that not all Group VII endurance venues are tainted by the lack of respect for horse welfare. Innovations in other regions of the UAE are to be commended.

The USEF and AERC are committed to working together and with the FEI and National Federations worldwide to ensure that the welfare of our horses and fairness in competition in the sport of Endurance is given the highest priority.


About AERC
The American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) was founded in 1972 as a national governing body for long distance riding. Over the years it has developed a set of rules and guidelines designed to provide a standardized format and strict veterinary controls. The AERC sanctions more than 700 rides each year throughout North America and in 1993 Endurance became the fifth discipline under the United States Equestrian Team.

In addition to promoting the sport of endurance riding, the AERC encourages the use, protection, and development of equestrian trails, especially those with historic significance. Many special events of four to six consecutive days take place over historic trails, such as the Pony Express Trail, the Outlaw Trail, the Chief Joseph Trail, and the Lewis and Clark Trail. The founding ride of endurance riding, the Western States Trail Ride or “Tevis,” covers 100 miles of the famous Western States and Immigrant Trails over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. These rides promote awareness of the importance of trail preservation for future generations and foster an appreciation of our American heritage. For more information please visit us at

Contact: Troy Smith, AERC Publications, 866-271-2372,

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tevis Ride Director’s March Message

March 9, 2017

The 2017 ride season should be in full swing, but out here in the west someone forgot to tell Mother Nature. In March we have close to a record snowpack in the Sierra Mountains which keeps trail repair crews off the trails as well as the equestrians from training on the trail in these early days of the season. There are trees down on the trail in the canyons that will not be removed until April. On the positive side that keeps the erosion to a minimum from horse traffic on wet trails.

I expect the snow pack to melt in time to allow us to use the historic trail on the August 5 ride date. If the snow pack makes it impossible to use the trail through the Granite Chief Wilderness area, an alternate trail would be used. This would most likely pick up the historic trail in the area of Robinson Flat and follow the traditional trail to Auburn. **It is too early in the season to speculate what the conditions will be in August.**

Tevis has had a great relationship with Calstar air flight rescue company. Calstar has been sold and is now part of the AirMedCare network. This company has greatly increased the geographic service area for members, and a yearly subscription is available at the group rate of $55 to each rider, crew member and volunteer involved with Tevis. Past Tevis group members will get their renewal letters in the mail and new members can subscribe by calling 800-793 0010 or visiting their website at Please remember to mention Tevis to receive the Tevis group rate of $55.

We are delighted to get the ride chart results out for the AERC conference. Last year’s Tevis riders will get their copies mailed to them directly next week. A great deal of information can be gained from studying these charts whether you are riding to win or riding to finish. The WSTF Board of Governors would like to give a big Thank You to Kathie Perry and Phil Gardner for all the hard work and dedication they put into pulling the data together to create this ride chart for riders to use in planning their future ride pacing. If you know someone who needs a copy, please call the WSTF office.

Tevis is offering a free entry to the winning essay from a sixty-year-old or older first-time rider who would like to ride in 2017. Please refer to the Tevis website for more details of the contest. This contest is a result of the inspirational 2016 Tevis experience of 75-year-old Jessie Caswell. Jessie's story of his ride to a top ten finish (as well as all other top ten riders) is covered in the Tevis article in the September 2016 Arabian Horse World as well as in the 2017 Tevis Forum which will be out in June.

I hope to see you out on the trails and at the rides.

Enjoy the journey,
Chuck Stalley

3 Young Riders are Recipients of AERC's Anne Ayala Scholarship

AERC chose 3 young riders as recipients of the annual Anne Ayala Scholarship, presented at the AERC Convention in Grapevine, Texas, March 10-11.

Connie Burns-Caudill presented the awards:

"All 3 of them are seniors who are straight “A” students, have great work ethics and excel in endurance riding.

The first recipient has almost 3000 endurance miles which includes; 9 – 75 mile rides and 3 one day 100 mile rides. She has volunteered on many rides including one that she helped her Mother manage. She is also a dedicated Hockey player driving 60 miles one way just to practice. She is hoping to complete the Tevis this summer before entering the University in September.
Katya Levermann from 100 Mile House, BC, Canada

The next Young Rider has over 3000 endurance miles and nearly 1000 LD miles. She has completed the entire 250 mile Shore to Shore trail an astonishing 7 times! She has always competed on Morgan Horses. She is also a dedicated athlete participating in cross country and other sports in her high school. She plans to major in pre-veterinary studies at college and hopes to eventually serve as a ride vet and give back to the sport by protecting the safety of the animals involved.
Morgan Loomis from Philipi, West Virginia

The final recipient has ridden a total of 3000 miles in both LD and endurance and over 100 events without a single pull. She has logged over 40 hours of endurance volunteer time. She has been coaching a middle school science bowl team. Besides having straight A’s all through high school, I have also heard that she had perfect scores on her SAT and ACT tests. Since science is has always been her passion, she plans to study Material Science Engineering and pursue a career as a Research Professor.
Lily Turaski from Friendsville, Tennessee

Sunday, March 12, 2017

National Award Winners at AERC Convention

The AERC fun and festivities at the annual convention, held this year in Grapevine, Texas, concluded with the Saturday night banquet and awards ceremony, and the announcement of the National awards.

Jackie Bumgardner of Ridgecrest, California, was posthumously named to the AERC Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame Horse is GE Brazil's Envy, owned by Ann Kratochvil of Ridgecrest, California.

Pard'ners Award winners are Don Bowen, from Dorris, California, and his gelding Wild West ("Willy").

Other highlights of the evening were Joyce Sousa receiving the Perfect Ten award for her gelding LV Integrity +/ (10,000 miles in 10 years, 10 wins, 10 Best Condition awards), the Ann Parr Trails Preservation Award going to Greg Jones, M.D., and the Volunteer Service Award going to Susan Garlinghouse DVM.

There were 51 new Decade Teams (at least one 50 mile ride for a horse and rider team for at least 10 years) in 2016.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Centauride: Long Rider Coming Through Your State

The Centauride: One woman. One horse. One goal: 48 states for Domestic Violence Awareness

Meredith Cherry and her Peruvian Paso-Mustang palomino gelding Apollo are doing nothing short of epic.  They will be traveling alone together for four years, 10,000 miles, to 48 states, on a continuous ride. 

Meredith is doing this long ride to raise awareness about domestic violence.  This "silent epidemic" is extremely prevalent in our society.  Although it is not often talked about, it is estimated that 1 in 3 women will be domestic violence victims at some point in their lives (usually between the ages of 19 and 34). 

Meredith will be riding to domestic violence centers, women’s shelters, schools and community centers to bring awareness about the realities of this issue and to provide hope to women dealing with the effects of DV in their own lives.

Meredith and Apollo began their journey on January 1, 2017 and plan to complete the ride in 2020. 

A little about Meredith and Apollo.

"I've been riding horses for 20 years, and have a B.S. in Equine Science from Colorado State University.  Apollo is the first horse I've owned.  I was raised as a city girl, moved to the country as soon as I could, and love dirt roads, seeing the stars at night, deer in the yard but not in the garden, and bugs (most of them, anyway). I also like to write about food, gardening, essential oils, and the California missions (I've written two travel guides for these)

I escaped a domestic violence relationship a few years ago, and what I had missed most during my marriage was horses and travel.  Thus came about the wonderful, crazy idea to buy a horse with my paltry divorce settlement and ride it around the country.  And since I feel so grateful for this opportunity, and so saddened at the thought that anyone else is going through what I did, I felt it was right to use the ride to help everyone I could meet along the way.

I met Apollo in 2014, and it was love at first sight.  He is a spunky Peruvian Paso-Mustang palomino gelding who is a different color in the summer versus the winter.  I waited a few months after I bought him to tell him about our long ride plans though!  He's not so sure he wants to work that much, but since he does like seeing and tasting new things, he's agreed to be my ride partner."

For a map (maybe you will have a place for Meredith and Apollo to stay), and more information on this adventure, see

Thursday, March 09, 2017

June Tevis Talks Featuring Pat Parelli

February 28, 2017

Save the date! This June, the Western States Trails Foundation will again be hosting an intimate evening at the State Theater/Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center for a conversation with a legendary horseman. This year we are excited to welcome Pat Parelli to the stage. More information, including how to purchase your tickets, will be available on the Tevis Cup website so check back frequently and subscribe to our email list at

Tevis Talks brings you Pat Parelli! June 7th at the State Theater in Auburn – a limited number of gold-level tickets include an intimate hour-long chat with the famous clinician.


• Doors open at 6- no host bar

• Show starts at 7:30 PM


General Admission Tickets $ 22.00

Gold Level Tickets* $ 175.00

*includes preferred seating, appetizers, cocktails and an hour with Pat – limited to 15 people

Available for purchase online through the Tevis Store.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

2017 AERC Convention Starts This Weekend

March 8 2017

The annual AERC Convention begins Friday March 10 in Grapevine, Texas. The 2 days of seminars, shopping, Saturday night banquet and awards presentations guarantee an educational and fun time for attendees.

Seminar topics include Becoming a Public Lands Advocate; Gadgets for Gait Analysis; Equine Transport Research Results; and Equine Learning and Human-Horse Relationships (on Friday); Colic and the endurance Horse; Safety from Home to Competition to Back Home Again; Murmurs, Arrhythmias and Heart Rate Recovery; and Simple Carbohydrates (on Saturday). Free Hot Topics sessions first thing Friday and Saturday mornings include Responsible Equine Management and Revisiting the AERC Drug Rule.

You can still sign up for and attend the Convention! For more information, see:

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Prize Possessions - Full Article

American River Classic endurance ride manager Joby Souza recently came into possession of a pair of trophies long thought lost. He wants to see them restored and put on display. But he’s having trouble finding the money.

Saturday Mar 04 2017
By: Jeff Nicholson

Joby Souza still remembers his reaction the first time he saw the trophies.

“My jaw dropped. I thought they were pretty fantastic, very unusual and unique. Something that should be brought back to life,” says the 42-year-old ride manager of the American River Classic.

Souza is sitting at a picnic table at the American River Canyon Overlook Park in Auburn, one of the primary checkpoints of the endurance - it serves, in fact, as the finishing point for the short-course riders and the midway and finale for the long-distance competitors.

There's little sign this day of the hustle and bustle to come on April

29: a few trucks with trailers, the occasional horse and rider passing through, stopping at the watering trough.

Even so, Souza's delight in these trophies, in this race, is clear. He greets the riders who come through by name, looking at least eight years younger than 42, his short light hair untouched by silver, eyes squinting in the sun. He asks them if they're going to ride in this year's race. To a man and woman, they all say yes, as long as the weather and trail conditions will allow.

The ones who come by when the trophies are still out, sitting on the rim of the circular trough, admire them.

“This ride is a historical piece of Auburn, and we would like to see this ride continue and have these trophies refurbished,” Souza says...

Read more here:

Saturday, March 04, 2017

TCA Award of Merit recipients of 2017 announced - Full Article

March 3 2017

Thoroughbred Charities of America has named equestrian Denny Emerson and Down the Stretch Ranch as its first TCA Award of Merit recipients of 2017. Award of Merit recipients are nominated by the leadership of state Thoroughbred owners and breeders associations and are presented at each state association’s annual awards ceremonies.

Originally started in celebration of our 25th anniversary and now its third year, TCA Award of Merit recipients represent those individuals and organizations working to uphold TCA’s mission among the constituencies of the state breeders associations,” said Mike McMahon, president of TCA. “Within our industry there are many organizations and people working on behalf of Thoroughbreds and those who care for them. We feel it is very important to recognize the efforts of those that often don’t receive recognition for their dedication and commitment.”

Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron presented Emerson with the TCA Award of Merit on February 11 at the North Carolina Thoroughbred Association’s annual awards dinner in Chapel Hill, N.C. Described by the Chronicle of the Horse as one of the most influential horsemen of the twentieth century, Emerson is the only equestrian to have won both an international gold medal in eventing and a Tevis Cup buckle in endurance riding...

Read more here:

Bonnie Mielke: A Lifelong Ride - Full Article

Karen Pilarski ,
Published 3:28 p.m. CT March 2, 2017

Retired Mukwonago teacher trains horses for long-distance riding

Bonnie Mielke's face lit up as she spoke about her love of horses. She was at the Mukwonago Community Library wearing a jacket with the name of her horse, Loki.

Loki is a fifth-generation of horses Mielke has trained to do long distance riding. Mielke became involved with the sport in 1974.

The retired Mukwonago teacher recalled growing up on a farm and hearing her mother talk about horses and cowboys. She wanted a horse but her family was of limited means.

Mielke's dad told her to finish college and buy a horse herself after she had a job. She quipped, "So I did."

She purchased a horse named Mitzi, an unregistered Arabian, because she was beautiful. Mitzi was Loki's great-great-grandmother.

In 2016 Loki was the regional champion for the American Endurance Ride Conference, Upper Midwest Endurance Competitive Rides Association champion and Arabian Horse Distance Riding Association part bred and grand champion. Loki is third in the national champion in Limited Distance for American Endurance Ride Conference...

Read more here:

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Dream Makker: A *Real* Endurance Horse (and More) in the Making - Part 2

Part 1 is here.

by Merri
March 2 2017

With behavioral kinks sorted out, and a solid foundation of partnership between them now, Crysta Turnage and Dream Makker were ready for his first endurance start in May of 2010 as a 5-year-old. It was not an auspicious debut.

Crysta originally planned to ride the 2 days of LDs at the Nevada Washoe ride with some of her regular riding partners. But they weren't able to come at the last minute, so Crysta went with Plan B, opting for the 50 on the first day with her good friends Lucy and Leslie, who were happy to escort Digs and Crysta on a slow ride.

Bad luck struck on the first loop, when Digs clipped himself going down one of the infamous S.O.B. hills. He got back to camp for the first vet check with an inconsistent lameness. The vet first said it was the left front, then at the recheck said it was the right front. Knowing the next loop was sand hills, Crysta opted to pull him. "His very first ride was a RO-L. So we haven't had to worry about preserving a perfect ride record!" she laughed.

While Diego's mental matters had been sorted out, the other half of the Dream Makker endurance equation was coming to light. "In regards to endurance, he's been a challenge in that he's always had very delicate legs. This is a horse that, even from the very beginning, I'd take him out on a little 10 mile ride, and he'd come home and stock up in his corral overnight. That's just him." And these leg issues have randomly plagued Digs throughout his 7-year endurance career, adding another aspect to endurance riding that so many endurance riders must often deal with.

Crysta and Digs took the rest of the year to continue both his physical and mental conditioning, and be able to start the next season fully ready for 50 mile rides. With 4 starts the next year, 2011, Crysta considers that their first actual season. Digs finished 3 of his 4 rides - two 50's and 1 LD - getting pulled with a minor lameness on one of the 50's. "That pull was another good learning lesson. He was trimmed too close to the ride and ended up foot sore. He does best if he's not trimmed more than a week before any event."

Then due to various issues - including a new job and much less time to ride and condition - the pair managed only 3 rides over the next 2 seasons, with Digs finishing 2 50's and getting pulled lame on one.

In the interim, they also branched out into other events, adding to Digs' repertoire of skills. The gelding enjoyed cattle sorting (he tried to bite the cows if they weren't moving fast enough), reined cow horse clinics, and he performed in several parades in full Arabian costume. It just proved what a solid, and fun, horse Digs had matured into.

In 2014, Crysta had more time to ride and condition. Three strong 50-mile starts and finishes on Digs early that season had her entertaining thoughts of that iconic 100-mile Tahoe-to-Auburn ride with her now-solid 9-year-old.

"We were having a really good year so far, and we were prepping to ride Tevis. He'd been doing amazing on our training rides, and we were doing a lot of NEDA rides (a local endurance riding and driving club) in addition to AERC rides, and he was very strong and very consistent."

Then at the May Mariposa Run for the Gold ride, trotting in off the first loop, Digs had a big hind slip on some oak leaves going down a hill. He scrambled and caught himself from falling. At the vet check, the vet could see a slight, inconsistent lameness. Digs went on to complete the Mariposa ride sound, but at their next ride in the June Wild West, Digs had a major groin cramp coming in from the first loop, and he was pulled.

At the July Lake Almanor 50-mile ride, Digs finished the 50, but Crysta could still feel a kind of a skip in the hind end. Veterinarian Michele Roush looked at him and said he looked great, but when they lunged him in a circle, they could see something.

"So at that point we scratched all our plans to do Tevis," Crysta said. "I just gave him some time off, thinking we were probably dealing with some muscle issues at that time. I tried bringing him back in November, but even on training rides, that slight hind lameness came back after 10 miles on the trail."

Other issues had also arisen throughout that season. It turns out Digs had thrown his back out and misaligned his sacrum during his slip in May, and it took a lot of body work with a chiropractor to set him straight. When ultrasounded at the vet clinic, it was discovered that Digs had a high suspensory avulsion on the right hind. Instead of pulling the suspensory itself, he'd partially detached it from the bone. The vet also discovered he'd strained his right front suspensory, possibly from catching himself when he slid in May.

The veterinarian put them on a 90 day rehab program, first hand walking, then an hour riding under saddle at the walk, and eventually working in 5 minutes of trotting at a time. "Thankfully his initial time off had already started some healing. We did all that rehab over the winter… all done after work, in the snow, walking around the neighborhood in the dark."

When re-ultrasounded in February 2015, they got the green light: "The vet told me, 'He looks awesome, go ride the horse. Tevis isn't out for the year.'"

But Crysta was ultra-conservative with Digs, and kept her Tevis dreams on the back burner for yet another year. "We just started back with doing shorter training rides again, then working to the 20 mile rides. We did our one 50 for the year in September, in the Kristina Chesterman Memorial ride. We took the entire 12 hours, with only 3 minutes to spare, and I burst into tears when we crossed the finish line."

Crysta had actually started to feel that slight hind end lameness again on the last loop of that ride. The vet didn't see anything at the finish, but Crysta was worried that she had brought Digs back to endurance too quickly, despite the 14 month break from it.

"I think I can feel it more under saddle than what it shows, probably because I'm so paranoid and attuned to it now. When you know you've got a horse that's got a lameness issue, you judge every step that they take. You start to question everything.

"2015 was about putting everything back together again - getting Digs sound again, getting his body corrected, doing different activities, getting him strengthened. We did a lot of dressage lessons that summer since I couldn't take him to rides, working with him on how to use himself better, how to really come through from behind and lift his back and support himself better as we're riding."

The pair qualified to be Sweep Riders for the Tevis Cup that summer. And through their participation in numerous parades, they earned the unique honor of being one of 2 dozen horses and riders that would represent the AERC in the Tournament of Roses parade on January 1, 2016.  "I didn't even realize that was on my bucket list until the opportunity arose.  Once I heard about the AERC Group, I just HAD to be a part of it.  It was one of those lifetime memories I'll cherish forever."

Crysta and Digs in the Tournament of Roses Parade

The time out taken for rehab and re-conditioning and the extracurricular activities helped prepare Diego for a new 'real' season of endurance again in 2016. The idea of the Tevis Cup started forming at the AERC Convention in February, when Crysta's friend Pam Anderson won the Tevis Cup entry in the raffle. Crysta had won the raffle's Tevis Cup entry in 2007, the year she finished on Sinatra.

The pair hatched a plan: they would condition and attend rides together, and pre-ride parts of the Tevis trail together; and if the stars aligned, Crysta and Digs would escort Pam and her gelding Shezada Saheem on the Tevis Cup. The two geldings clicked together, and the season started out well enough.

The 4 of them finished the Rides of March together. Crysta said, "Digs was fine, but not stellar. He got through it OK, no lameness issues, but he didn't feel like a Tevis horse at that time. But it was early in the season, and I told myself we still had plenty of time to get there."

Crysta and Digs then finished two April rides, Whiskeytown Chaser and the American River Classic, riding slow, but finishing without any problems.

Photo by Rene Baylor - Gore/Baylor Photography

The 4 teamed up for the Cooley Ranch 50 in June. It turned out to be a miserably hot traffic-jammed 8-hour commute, and it was a hot ride. The plan was to take it easy and ride both days of 50's, but on day 1, Digs came up with the same on-again-off-again hind end lameness at the 30-mile check. He failed to recover - his pulse hung at 68, and Crysta was sure it was because of the hind end lameness.

"Cooley was our go-no-go ride for Tevis," Crysta said. "And with being pulled metabolic, it threw this huge question mark in the plans.  I took Digs to a well-known lameness vet for an evaluation after Cooley Ranch. The vet couldn't find anything obvious going on in his hind end. It was his left rear which he had been having trouble with this time, not his previously injured right rear. The vet did find a bone bruise on his right front fetlock, which may have been a contributing factor. We started Digs on a round of Pentosan and some Surpass for his fetlock, and he had a few weeks off per recommendation.

"I hadn't had that one ride on Digs yet, all year, where I was like 'Yes. He's awesome. He's totally on and he feels amazing.' I'd sent in my Tevis entry, but I was debating on pulling it, because they hadn't reached the deadline where there was much of a fee to cancel at that time." Crysta knew the stats: even with a perfectly sound and fit horse, one has about a 50% chance of finishing the ride.

Then a couple of terrible monumental events influenced the situation.

Crysta's son Taren riding Digs, Crysta leading Gunny

Around this same time, Crysta had been bringing along her new horse Gunny, a 6-year-old Arabian gelding she found as a rework-needed rescue case on Facebook. She'd done a lot of confidence building and restart work with him, and had just had her first little ride on him.

At the end of June, Gunny got himself into an appalling panicked wreck in her home arena when he got tangled in his bridle. "It was the most horrifying thing I'd ever had to deal with. He was throwing himself on the ground and bashing his head on the ground before I could get his bridle off."

The vet came out immediately and treated him with what she could, but Gunny ended up with severe neurological damage, putting out the vision in his left eye, and paralyzing part of his face to where he couldn't drink. He deteriorated over the week and started to have seizures, and on Tuesday Crysta made the decision to put him down the next afternoon.

Crysta could not get out of going to work Wednesday morning, and her husband AJ stayed home to keep an eye on Gunny until Crysta and the vet could come in the afternoon.

"So I'm at work that morning, knowing we're going to put Gunny down in the afternoon, and I get on Facebook, and I hear about Kevin Myers. It was that day it came out that Kevin had committed suicide. I went in the bathroom at work and had a total breakdown, just shaking and crying. I called my husband and said, 'I can't stay here, I don't know how I'm going to get through these meetings. I'm totally falling apart."

Crysta's dear friend Kevin Myers - who had given her Dream Makker as a youngster in 2008 - devastated the world around him when he ended his life the day before.

"My husband told me, 'You can do it, you're just going to have to block it off, put it aside for now and totally focus at the task at hand. I know you can do it.' Somehow I got through my meetings until I could leave, and I went home and we put Gunny down the same day I'd heard about Kevin.

"That was ultimately my motivation for riding the Tevis. Here's a very dear friend, that Tevis was very special for him. And here's this horse I'd just gotten, that I'd had a lot of hopes and dreams and big plans for, and now he's gone too.

"I still didn't think Digs and I would actually finish Tevis, but I thought, at least I'm going to start, just to honor everyone who wants to do Tevis and can't. I thought, we are going to ride for Kevin, and Lisa's horse Tux (just weeks earlier, Crysta's friend Lisa lost her horse while marking trail for the Tevis), and my own sweet Gunny. We are going to ride for those who will never have the chance to go down this magical trail again. And while our chance of finishing may be lesser than others, we have a CHANCE and I'm going to take it. Because you never know what life has in store. And I'm going to carry them all in my heart, and hopefully get them to Auburn."

July 23 2016 - the 61st Tevis Cup

165 riders and horses at the starting line, 2 of which are Pam Anderson, aboard Shezada Saheem (Sammy) on their first Tevis Cup adventure, and Crysta Turnage, aboard Dream Makker (Digs), an endurance horse with an imperfect, unimpressive record, with 600 miles to his name (and never even back-to-back 50-mile finishes), on his first 100-mile ride.

From finishing in 2007, Crysta knew pace-wise what they needed to do. The four of them made it without mishap to Robinson Flat vet check, the first hour hold at 36 miles. "Digs had to trot twice for the vet at Robinson Flat; the vet saw something but it was inconsistent. He couldn't even pick a leg, just 'hind end,' but we were cleared to go. I hadn't felt anything in the saddle yet, but it certainly put my radar up."

The horses were strong though the hot canyons, but Crysta was starting to feel the little hind end hitch again coming into Foresthill, the second vet check at 68 miles. She was being really careful, managing which diagonal she was posting on, to give him a break on that left rear.

"At the Foresthill vet check we had to trot out THREE times, with them adding a vet each additional time, so we had three watching by the end. And then the vet held our card, and we had to come back for a recheck before leaving. It was the left hind again. Talk about nerve wracking!"

Crysta and her crew fed Digs and got everything ready, in case they were going back out on the last 32 miles. A friend, Karon Dutcher thought that Digs had a cramp in his left rear, and she pinpointed the muscle, showing Crysta's crew, friend Ronda Gentry and husband AJ, how to massage it.

Crysta was having this huge internal debate with herself. "I was thinking, he's not 100% right, should I just Rider Option and pull him? We'll be going for four more hours until the next vet check. It's a long way to get to Francisco's (Gate and Go at 85 miles), and that's the worst place to be pulled, with the logistics of being hauled out.

"Then I decided, well, let's just see how he looks at the recheck, and let the vet make that decision. If he's still questionable, then I'll pull him." AJ trotted out Digs for the re-check while Crysta watched with the vet. "He looked really good. Much better! We were cleared to go.

"Leaving Foresthill, Digs was super strong, because he'd ridden that section of trail 3 times over the last couple months." Everything was fine until they passed the Cal 2 point at 78 miles, when Digs suddenly went Dead Lame. "Like the leg had fallen off. I had such a guilt trip! I thought I broke him. I shouldn't have asked that of him."

Crysta threw Digs' rump rug down to keep his hind end warmer, and she jumped off to lead Digs, instructing Pam to ride on without her. After a long while, three ladies came up behind them and wanted to pass, but the trail wasn't wide enough. Crysta got on Digs so they could move a bit faster to get to a wider area in the trail. She asked him to jog… "and he felt good again! I left the rump rug on him, and we jogged on and off, and he still felt fine by the time we arrived at Francisco's."

Catching up with Pam there, Crysta massaged Digs' hind leg again while the horses rested and ate. She took Digs to the vet for the moment of truth. "We trotted out and back, and the vet said, 'OK, here you go,' and handed me my card. He was cleared to go!"

Two hours later, at 3:31 AM, Pam and Crysta arrived at the Quarry, the last Gate and Go check, at 94 miles. "Same thing. We let the horses eat, got the rump rugs on, got our blankets on, grabbed some snacks for us, massaged Digs, headed over to the vet… trot out, trot back, 'Here's your card,' and off we went!"

The girls covered the last 6 miles of the Tevis trail in an hour and 15 minutes, arriving at the finish at 4:53 AM, with 22 minutes left. Now came the final moment of truth.

"Jamie Kerr vetted us out, and I had my husband AJ trot him, so I could watch him go. I started crying as I watched him trot out, because he looked GOOD."

It had been a long, long trail, and a very challenging journey from that first dubious endurance start - a pull - back in 2010. Crysta and Dream Makker had completed the Tevis Cup.

"It was very emotional. The ride wasn't about me at all. I knew I could do it. But could Digs? It was about honoring those who couldn't do the ride, and about achieving a goal with Pam and riding as a team. 

"To set that goal together with her, way back in February at the AERC Convention, of, 'Let's do this Tevis thing', and to help get a rider and a horse who had never been through Tevis before, and Digs with all his issues he had - to get there, and to get through it, and to actually finish, when I started the ride thinking that there was no way we were going to make it to the finish, that we were going to get pulled somewhere along the trail…

"It was just amazing. I don't know if anything will ever compare.

"Digs has come so far, from being that spooky crazy horse that kicked me in the face, and dumped me on the ground and broke my arm, and freaking out about a kid climbing on the fence, to becoming the horse I absolutely trust to take care of me, and anyone else who rides him. He's reliable, and he's just amazing, and this Tevis was really special, because of Gunny and Kevin and Tux, and all of that. It was like, 'Roll credits!' - the ending to a great movie."

Crysta and Digs will continue down the endurance trails, taking each ride as it comes (Digs was pulled lame at his next 50-mile ride in October, on his left front leg, which ironically hasn't had a problem before). Long-term, flexible goals are riding more 100's, and working on being a Decade Team.

"Does one Tevis finish make him a 100 mile horse? I don't know. But we're going to try some more of them. And as for Decade Team - with all his lameness issues, a couple of seasons we only rode and completed one 50. But I fully intend we'll get Decade Team."

With Crysta's careful management, exceeding patience, immense caution, and the lack of her need to push her horse hard, there's no doubt they'll get there.

Crysta and Dream Makker's endurance odyssey was by no means what everybody would or should take to reach their goals, but their journey was infinitely rewarding, the end product being a completely trustworthy partner, an ultimate working partnership in a sport (and many other activities) they both enjoy.

"I love to share Digs with people, because it has been such a journey to get where he's at now. It gives people hope. They don't have to be extraordinary and be riders with all this mileage. i just hit my 2000 miles last year.

"It's all been part of that learning process as I go."

*top photo at Cougar Rock by Bill Gore - Gore/Baylor Photography