Tuesday, June 23, 2020

City of Rocks Pioneer Ride: Endurance in the Time of Coronavirus

by Merri Melde-Endurance.net

It was 10 years ago that Steph and I were driving back from the Big Horn ride in Wyoming, and we detoured through City of Rocks National Reserve in the bottom of central Idaho, and Steph said, "Wow, this place is amazing, we should put on an endurance ride here!"

Because what ride manager doesn't think nothing of (first of all) ride managing a new multi-day endurance ride and (second of all) putting on a new one that is 4 hours away from home where you have to organize and pack and load all you need for 10 days of camping in the heat/wind/rain/cold/dust and setting up ridecamp and designing and marking trails and riding them and of course doing the reverse at the end of the ride.

City of Rocks Pioneer endurance ride was held this year for the 10th time in 9 years (one year we also hosted the National Championships), and Steph passed over the ride manager reins to Regina Rose this year. Regina had the added bonus of trying to navigate post-COVID-19 lockdown state, county, local, and AERC regulations, as all horse sports had shut down for months. City of Rocks was one of the first rides to be approved to start up again by AERC, after Regina put together a Covid ride plan designed to keep riders and veterinarians and volunteers safe during the event.

And, being one of the first rides to happen again post-Covid lockdown, Regina had so many riders enter that she had to close entries and start a wait list. Since the normal ride meetings (as well as communal meals) were verboten under the new ride rules, riders who pre-entered got the added bonus of a 34-page (homework) packet that included all the ride information they'd need. (And if you didn't enjoy your reading homework, imagine what fun it was for Regina putting the Covid plan together.)(And when you asked Regina a question, her first response was, "Did you read your rider packet?") :)

Some of the new rules under the Covid-19 plan for riders included wearing face coverings, either masks or bandanas in the vet check (all vet checks were conveniently in ridecamp) or, in the case of Dave Rabe, his tank top, which he doesn't wear half the time anyway when the weather is warm. :), spacing out in the pulse down areas, spacing out in the 4 staked-out vet lanes while waiting to vet your horse, hand sanitizing stations for volunteers and vets, and for washing stethoscopes and hand-held heart monitors between each use. Riders had to pre-register online (probably the hardest part!), and they received their awards as they arrived at Ridecamp.

Any minor inconveniences riders might have had with the new Covid-19 protocols were over-ridden by the thrill of the opportunity of being back on the endurance trails. Of course the scenery at this ride, and the challenge it provides you and your horse makes up for most anything. I overheard several riders proclaiming it one of the most beautiful rides they've ever done.

It's not an easy ride: basecamp is at 5500 feet, and you'll climb to 7500 feet - sometimes on each loop. Jeff Stuart rode the 55-miler on day 2, and he told Regina, "Man, you took us up to Mt Everest!"

Day 1 had 124 starters (76 in the 50 and 48 in the LD), day 2 had 97 starters (44 in the 55 and 53 in the 30), and day 3 had 68 starters (29 in the 50 and 39 in the LD).

We had many new riders to City of Rocks, some of whom had this ride on their Bucket List, some from as far away as California. We had a number of Hall of Famers/Pard'ners Awarders - humans and a horse - join us: Joyce Sousa, Hal Hall, Dave Rabe, Naomi Preston, Suzy Hayes, Gina Hall, and Fire Mt Malabar.** I rode day 3's 50 on Hillbillie Willie, and he ogled these famous riders on the trail, and he said hi to his mentor, Uncle Mal.

Also present at the ride this year was: WIND. The whole 10 days we were there. There was so much strong wind that any coronavirus particles blew to Iowa. The wind could be described in the words of a famous family mountain climber, John Melde (yes, my older brother), "This howling wind - aw c'mon, it's just air in motion, or is it - relentless, cutting, chilling, biting, freezing, pushing, shoving, tearing, ripping, rending, swirling, roaring, wailing, maddening?" Yes, it was all of those. But the rain (and snow up higher) did hold off until Tuesday morning after the ride! And no thunderstorms this year!

We did have a rider, Kim Elkins, lose her tacked horse in the park on Day 2's LD. On the subsequent days many people volunteered to look for the horse, on horseback and on foot. A super special shout out goes to the Church family in their search efforts. The family showed up to ride the LDs, and they stayed on for days after the ride ended, to search for the horse, on horseback and foot, every day, sometimes twice a day, in wind and cold rain storms. The horse had not been found as of a week later, but there are rumors that it may have been found by someone not connected to the endurance ride. We are awaiting further word on that.

In all it was a successful return to endurance riding in the time of coronavirus, and the new Covid-19 regulations for endurance rides were simply not a big deal for riders and volunteers.

**Here's the detailed list of 'Famers!
Joyce Sousa (Hall of Fame horses LV Integrity 2015 and Jim Bob 2005, Pard'ners Award with Jim Bob 2001)
Hal Hall (Hall of Fame person 1999, Hall of Fame horse El Karbaj 1978)
Dave Rabe (Hall of Fame person 2009)
Fire Mt Malabar (Hall of Fame horse 2018, Lee Pearce and Naomi Preston)
Naomi Preston (Hall of Fame horse Mustang Lady 2001)
Suzy Hayes (Hall of Fame horse Kootenai Zizzero 2011, Pard'ners Award with Kootenai Zizzero 1997)
Gina Hall (Pard'ners Award with Fire Mt Destiny 2015)
...and I hope I did not miss anybody!

More photos and such from the ride at:

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Bob Long's 2019 Mongol Derby: “I Hate to Think I Can’t Do It”

by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
January 21 2020

70-year-old Bob Long, from Boise, Idaho, was a rather unlikely participant in the 2019 Mongol Derby. Though he was a horse rider, and a cowboy in a previous life, he hadn’t heard of the Derby, nor even the sport of endurance riding in the autumn of 2018 when a friend told him about the event. A 600+ mile horse race across Mongolia, changing horses every 25 miles? Aboard half-wild semi-broke Mongolian horses? Despite the average age of competitors being in their 20s and 30s, he signed up without much research or thought, other than, “I hate to think I can’t do it.”

Last weekend Bob gave a presentation about his adventure at the home of Alayne Blickle and Matt Livengood at their Sweet Pepper Ranch in Nampa, Idaho. The scheduled two hour talk lasted four hours, and nobody wanted it to end. Bob was delightfully entertaining.

Bob wasn’t messing around with the Mongol Derby. If he was going to spend that much money on something like that (the entry fee is around $14,000), he was going there to win. It was a horse race, not a pleasure ride. He threw himself almost obsessively into his preparation, meeting and arranging to ride with Arizona endurance riders Lancette Koerner, Lawrence Serrano, and Tammy Gagnon, even if that meant driving several hours one way to ride several days a week. He rode the 50-mile Tonto Twist endurance ride in Arizona in January, and the 55-mile Old Pueblo in March. He met and learned from 2016 co-winner of the Mongol Derby, Marcia Hefker-Miles, who became a mentor to him. Marcia told him two important things that particularly stuck in his mind, and that he used in the race: never give up, and never stop riding, even if you have only 30 minutes left in the day. (This strategy was one key thing that helped him win.)

Back in Idaho after the winter, Bob rode Quarter horses for friends, all day every day. He took lessons from Matt. He went on a special diet. He practiced packing and repacking. He had to meet the weight requirement of 188 pounds, including his tack and gear. One clever thing he did, not only to protect against the dreadful insects of Mongolia (“They don’t just eat you alive. They fly off with you and then eat you alive”), but to save precious weight - he soaked his clothing and gear in insect repellant and dried it in the Idaho sun. Twice. He said bugs didn’t touch him, and they’d crawl off his bed at nights. He just came in about a pound under the weight limit, weighing in right before the start of the Derby.

Bob admitted he was not at the Mongol Derby to make friends among the competitors. He was there for one purpose: to win the ride. Most everybody thought he was too old, but this old cowboy had a few tricks up his sleeve - and on his saddle. One thing he used was printed cards, which on one side had English and the other side had the two dialects of Mongolian, that he presented at gers, asking the owners if he could water his horse and himself, or if he could stay for the night. It made communication possible, and he was always given the help he asked for.

One thing that he figures saved him time and again was the bucking rolls he put on his saddle - and fastened with screws, and checked the screws every night with a dime he carried in the side pocket of his ‘French leotards’. (I don’t think he wanted to admit he wore “tights.”). Many of his horses bucked the first half mile, but as long as they were moving forward on a straight line, bucking in the direction he wanted to go, he kept on going. Only twice he turned around and brought a too-rank horse back and switched for another one.

Another key element in Bob’s victory was his respect of the native customs. He wouldn’t dare eat the Mongolian food his night hosts offered, for fear of getting an intestinal issue, but he knew how to properly accept the food with both hands and say thanks, to try it, and to return it saying, “Thank you so much, but I’m full.” (He did carry with him seven days’ worth of his own food - mostly powdered nutrition that he mixed with iodined-water, and pepperoni sticks - in his gear, and he strictly adhered to that diet, and he only lost two pounds the entire week.) He took the time once or twice when a herdsmen insisted he stay at a ger a few extra minutes to drink whiskey with him. He presented blue ribbons, brought from home, to the herdsmen whose horses performed gallantly for him.

The 2019 Mongol Derby was a bit different in that competitors didn’t follow a prescribed path. This time they were given way-points, and had to use their own GPSs to navigate the best way to the next horse station. Bob had never used a GPS before he conditioned Tammy Gagnon’s horses back in the winter in Arizona, but he credits her with teaching him how to use one. His navigation of the shorter routes also helped in his victory. He also learned to “stay out of the way” and let the Mongolian ponies steer themselves around gopher hole colonies, because they knew what they were doing.

It rained the first three days of the Derby and was below freezing some mornings; it was 85 degrees on the fourth day. Bob was impressed that he never saw a fence anywhere. He was not impressed with the dogs that guarded the gers that the Mongolians lived in; he’d steer far around any that he wasn’t planning to stop at, because the dogs would run out and leap at his stirrups, with his pony running and kicking at them. Bob refused to sleep outside, and always stayed at a ger at night, as there’s the danger of wolves attacking. (That’s where the dogs do come in handy, as they protect the livestock.)

One can get time penalties for plenty of transgressions during the Derby, including horse lameness, dehydration or high pulse (pulses must be below 56 within 30 minutes of arriving at a station), or for the rider starting too early in the morning (before 6:30) or riding after 8 PM. Bob managed to not get any penalties during his Derby run.

Bob also managed to become a sort of Mongolian celebrity with his win. The last couple of days of his ride, out in front of the field (though he didn’t know by how far, since the race organizers and veterinarians wouldn’t tell him), he had the first pick of all the new horses at each station, and the herdsmen were eager to supply him with their best and fastest horses. At the finish, a group of Mongolian herdsmen presented Bob with a gift - his own Mongolian pony. Of course Mongolian horses can’t be imported to the U.S., so Bob gave the herdsman $100 to take care of his horse for the year, and asked that he present next year’s winner with this horse - a sort of living equine perpetual trophy.

Of the 41 riders from 12 countries that started the 2019 Mongol Derby, (three were eliminated in pre-training for the Derby, according to TheAdventurists.com, who sponsor the race, “boasting broken ribs, a punctured lung, torn rotator cuff, fractures scapula and severe vomiting and diarrhea”), only 27 completed. So many riders were in trouble and in need of assistance or evacuation, that on the morning of Day 6, the entire ride was shut down and riders held where they were for a few hours, while rescuers could get caught up and get back on the Derby trails. (Emergencies and semi-emergencies were: broken nose and concussion, hypothermia, severe chafing, incorrect GPS interpretations sending riders off in wrong directions, heat rash, dehydration and heat exhaustion, heat stroke, etc).

Bob is the oldest rider, and the third American to win the Mongol Derby - Justin Nelzen won it in 2010, Marcia Hefner-Miles tied with 2 others to win in 2016. To be sure, Bob had his share of luck, but nothing trumped his meticulous preparation for the Derby. And "Age is just a number," he said. That really had nothing to do with it.

Bob said he wasn’t sure what his next adventure will be. There aren’t many that would supply the same rush that he got in preparing for, and competing in, and winning, such an epic event as the Mongol Derby. Maybe he can relax now and enjoy some beautiful local trail rides.

But with such a keen and determined competitor as Bob Long, that’s pretty unlikely.

You can read more about the 2019 Mongol Derby, including many collected articles on Bob, at

Above photo is Bob at his presentation, wearing a traditional Mongolian deel

Monday, October 28, 2019

A Howlin' Owyhee Hallowed Weenies 2019

Monday October 28 2019

The Northwest endurance ride season wrapped up Saturday October 26th in a desert hurricane in the Owyhee Hallowed Weenies. (Rider Kaili Worth appropriately proclaimed it the "Hallowed Windys".)

A small but intrepid group of festive endurance riders and jovial volunteers braved the elements (or ignored the forecast) for one last 2019 trail party. Despite the howling winds, a number of costumes entertained the masses, including Thing 1 and Thing 2, a Trick Rider (Connie with That Guy strapped on her back), Fall and Winter, a scary skeleton, and more.

12 of 13 finished the 50 miler, with David Laws winning aboard his Kentucky Mountain horse Che' Ole, making that their 6th win out of 9 starts this year, and their third Best Condition.

12 of 13 finished the 25 miler, with Carrie Johnson winning aboard Payback Daysea Duke, their 12th completion in 12 Limited Distance starts this season, which included 3 wins and 3 Best Conditions. Second place Allison Kopelowitz and her Appaloosa Pepsi got Best Condition. This was Allison and Pepsi's first endurance season, and they finished all 4 of their Limited Distance starts.

The Best Chili Ever was served for the ride dinner (or else everybody was cold and starving, but it was awful good), and there were so many cakes we'll have leftovers for the Owyhee Tough Sucker in April!

And that's a wrap for the Northwest in 2019!

More stories and photos at:

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

2019 Oregon 100

September 17 2019

The Oregon 100 around Brothers, Oregon, is one of the longer running rides in the country, and ride manager Charleen Farrell, aka "Sharkee," has been there for most of them. Robbie Pruitt started ride managing in 2002. It's been a fundraiser for the Pacific Northwest since 2005.

When the ride took a hiatus in 2006, Sharkee was told she was taking it over in 2007. OK, she said, and she's done it ever since. "I guess I'm crazy."

With not all that many 100 mile rides in existence anymore, this ride sits pretty sweetly in the ride season when it's cooling off in the high desert, and it's quite do-able for both experienced riders and beginner 100-mile riders. It's an elevator ride, so if you're even *thinking* about attempting a 100 for you or your horse (or both), you can choose to ride 50 miles then elevate to 75 miles if all is going well, then elevate again up to the 100. You could also choose to ride a 25 miler or a trail ride. Or just come volunteer! The trails are all two-track roads - either soft and smooth, or negotiable rocks underfoot, and though there are some gentle hills, it's one of the flatter 100 mile rides. And the full moon was a bonus for those that rode into the night. 

A whole spectrum of endurance riders showed up for this year's ride: locals and invaders (from as far away as California, Nevada, Canada), beginners and veterans (think a Tevis Cup winner, a Haggin Cup winner, and a Mongol Derby winner!), and youngsters as young as 9 and oldsters as golden as 86! 

9-year-old Josslyn Terry (Cassee the vet's daughter) finished her 9th LD ride (with sponsor Libby Kalkoske), riding Darlene Merlich's 19-year-old gelding Lumpy. Josslyn is looking forward to dipping her toes into the 50 milers!

86-year-old Terry Doyle, from Alfalfa, Oregon, just down the road, finished the LD aboard his 20-year-old mare ("I last rode her about 7 years ago," he said), which vaulted him into the elite class of AERC's Century Club, which recognizes rider and equine teams whose ages total 100 or more. Terry just started endurance in 2011. His only regret is that he didn't discover endurance sooner!

10-time Tevis Cup finisher (and 16,000+ AERC miles) Janine Esler from Granite Bay, California, brought along a gorgeous golden Akhal Teke to do the 100. "There just aren't that many 100s that I can ride my horses in," she said. Janine's not tall, and her horse must have been 17 hands. I never saw her mount all day, so I'm not sure how she got on! She finished her 20th 100 mile ride.

When Lois Fox crossed the finish line of the 50 aboard her 19-year-old gelding Iced Mocha, she celebrated his 5000th endurance mile. It's the second horse of Lois' that hit 5000 miles - Rustie did the same in 2015 at this very same ride. You'd think by now that Iced Mocha is laid back and easy to ride, but, not so. "He's a raging idiot!" Lois said. He used to wear her out for 50 of 100 miles, but now he only wears her out for about 25 out of 50 miles. Tani Bates had bottles of champagne waiting for Lois after the vet proclaimed Iced Mocha fit to continue at the finish!

A familiar sight at the Northwest rides, the Blakeleys got a round of applause at Friday evening's ride meeting - particularly 18-year-old Sanoma, who won the Tevis Cup last month, and who all of us in the Pacific Northwest claim as our own! And not unexpectedly, the Blakeleys (mom Gabriela and dad Wasch) snagged first and second place in the 100 miler, cruising the course in 11:17 (Sanoma was pulled earlier in the day).

Canadian shipper - and 2016 Mongol Derby winner! - Heidi Telstad and her JV Jamison won the 75 miler and got Best Condition. 

Another pair of blue-chip endurance riders, Melissa and Robert Ribley, hauled up from California, finishing 4th and 5th in 18:04. Melissa (second place in the Tevis Cup, and the Haggin Cup winner in 2009) finished her 57th 100-mile ride, and Robert finished his 104th 100-mile ride. These two will be hosting and ride managing the AERC National Championships October 31-November 2 in Ridgecrest, California.

Put this 100 on your calendar for next year, and come out expecting the usual great trails, vets, volunteers, awards, food, riders and horses, and good times!

My ride photos are at:

More on the ride at:

Monday, August 5, 2019

2019 Top O' The World Pioneer

Monday August 5 2019

’Twas a weekend of adventure in the Targhee National Forest near Spencer, Idaho, site of the Top O’ the World Pioneer endurance ride. Jessica and Mike Cobbley and friends and family jumped in headfirst 3 years ago to start this ride, and it’s improved every year.

It’s a challenging ride. A fabulous mountain meadow base camp is at 6500’, and days 1 and 2 climb up to over 9500 feet onto the Continental Divide Trail. Top O’ the World is also the second leg of the Idaho Ironhorse Challenge: one horse & rider, 9 days, 465 miles (and also various 9-day combinations) of City of Rocks, Top O’ the World, and Autumn Sun. Four horses were in contention for the ultimate Idaho Ironhorse coming into the ride; three showed up to take on the ride on top of the world in eastern Idaho.

Excitement started a couple days before the ride when Suzy Hayes' and Lynn Lee’s 3 horses escaped and ran off into the night. A crowd of people stayed up late into the wee hours of the morning trying to find them - we got glimpses of their glowing eyeballs a couple of times, and Jessica H even got close enough to touch one horse… but they disappeared again.

Suzy and Lynn were out on an ATV with a bucket of grain looking for them next morning when the three of them strolled back into camp - because they were thirsty! I think they looked a bit chastened too, particularly the young bay who had an owie on his foot. We crowded around and pampered them while Tammy Gagnon doctored the injured foot.

And Susie rode her big bay Sanstormm next morning on the 50 because she was pretty sure he was the instigator! (He sure didn’t come when she called him that night.)

The nights were chilly (great for sleeping) and the days tolerable. If you carried a raincoat with you on Day 2’s loop 2, you were probably comfortable when that big and fast-moving thunderstorm hit, dumping rain and plenty of hail in the area. In ridecamp we saw it coming, and 3 of us literally had 15 minutes to run to our trailer, blanket 4 horses, throw 3 dogs in a truck, and grab important outside things (including a tent that almost blew into a big pen full of mules!) and throw them inside anything we could find before the rain hit.

On Day 1, 26 started the 25 miler, with 21 finishing. Carrie Johnson and Payback Daysea Duke pulled off the win in 3:51, the first of a triple win on all three days! Sixth place David Brown’s Tezeros Hot Shot won Best Condition.

37 started Friday’s 50, with 33 finishing. Susie Hayes and her escape artist Sanstormm tied with Christoph Schork and GE Pistol Annie for the win in 6:11, with Sanstormm getting Best Condition. The 3 Ironhorses finished: Debbie Grose and Jackpot Jackson, Lee Pearce and JAC Winterhawk, and Nance Worman and Last Chance Fance. But there’s a little more to the Ironhorse story on day 1… near the finish of loop 1, Debbie had closed a gate and was about to remount Jack from a rock, when the “said rock removed itself from below my feet”, Debbie said. And catching her fall, she broke her wrist. (The *other* arm from last year!) Of course she didn’t pull. Someone vetted Jack and took care of him, others took care of Debbie and bandaged her up and of course she went back out and completed the ride before Layne took her to the hospital (and she came back with a cast). "I had to finish," Debbie said, "because it was Jack’s 1000-mile mark!"

Day 2’s 25-miler had 27 starters and 26 finishers. Carrie Johnson and Payback Daysea Duke won both first place and Best Condition, in 3:22.

Day 2’s 55 had 18 starters and 13 finishers. Christoph Schork and GE Haat Rod Express tied with Dick Root and OFW Alivia in 7:41, with Ali getting Best Condition. Lee Pearce and Winterhawk sat out the day, as did Debbie Grose and Jack (Debbie would have ridden, but it’s like really bad news if you break a casted arm), so that left only Nance and Fance in the Ironhorse. They were caught out on trail in that big thunder/rain/hailstorm in the evening… but of course they were saddled up and ready to go again the next morning!

25 started Day 3’s 30-miler with 23 finishing. Carrie and Daysea won again, in 3:38, with second place David Brown and Tezeros Hot Shot getting Best Condition.

16 started the 50 with 14 finishing. Christoph Schork and GE Pistol Annie won in 6:20 and got Best Condition, with Lee Pearce and JAC Winterhawk finishing second. That leaves only Nance Worman and Second Chance Fance (a rescue, hence her name) carrying the torch in the Idaho Ironhorse for 50 milers. Fancy also won the Getaway Horse award here for the second year in a row. “Fance is such a blessing!” Nance says.

8 horse and rider teams are still in contention in the 25-miler division of the Idaho Ironhorse, having finished all 6 days so far. Shyla Williams and Bes Soumra Bint Karah are the only pair to do all 6 days at mixed distances. Dave Rabe is the only Iron Butt rider to have completed 6 days of 50’s on (3) different horses.

Autumn Sun Pioneer, the last leg of the Ironhorse is October 11-13.

More photos on the ride at:

Thursday, June 13, 2019

9th Annual City of Rocks Pioneer Endurance Ride: EPIC

June 13 2019

"EPIC" is how ride manager Steph Teeter described the 9th annual City of Rocks Pioneer endurance ride in Almo, Idaho. "We had heat, Thunderstorms (hail/rain/50mph gusts), cold, snow, more wind, the most beautiful scenery imaginable. Still cheerful riders and all of the horses looked great all weekend." (One wind gust blew a porta-potty over. Nobody was inside at the time.) :)

Katrin Levermann, who journeyed 2 full days from British Columbia to get there, also called it epic. "Put it on your bucket list! This ride is epic!"

"Disneyland for horseback riders," said Bobbie Walker, who rode all 3 days aboard Dreamer. "I can’t say enough about that ride. Not only is it a beautiful ride, but there is so much to see in addition to the rocks!"

"A feast for all the senses," commented Naomi Preston, riding "Uncle Mal," Fire Mt Malabar, to a second place finish on Day 1's 50 miler.

The horses thrived on the cooler weather. "I've been vetting rides for 40 years," said veterinarian David Hayes, "and I've never seen a better group of horses. They got stronger every day." Head veterinarian Jessica Heinrick agreed, saying endurance is the only horse sport where people really take excellent care of their horses - they have to, to be able to ride long distances.

Indeed, any kind of weather can occur at any time of year in south-central Idaho; and after last year's rather warm and dry and windy event, this year felt more like July with its storms and September with the rather cold weather over the weekend. Not that I, the Ice Princess, was complaining! You just have to get lucky with the thunderstorms (we did this year! They passed around riders and Ridecamp), and if you wear or carry the proper clothing - because conditions can change drastically in 15 minutes - weather won't even be a factor.

This year's City of Rocks Pioneer was the first leg of the inaugural Idaho Ironhorse Challenge: 3 days of City of Rocks, 3 days of Top O' the World (July 26-28), 3 days at Autumn Sun (October 10-13).

Ridecamp sprawled with a boatload of horses and riders in a grassy meadow just outside City of Rocks National Reserve, at 5500 feet, with a view of Utah to the south and Castle Rocks State Park to the north.

Day 1's trails took riders to and through Castle Rocks State Park. 40 riders started the 30 miler, with 36 finishing. Two of the muleteers from Heart 2 Heart Ranch stole the show, with Junior rider Annie Edmonds finishing first on Rusty, and Trinity Jackson finishing second on Ebony. Fifth place Cat Cook took Best Condition aboard her mare Diamonds.

20 riders started the 50, with 17 finishing. David Laws and Che Ole took first place by seven minutes over Naomi Preston on Fire Mt Malabar and Lee Pearce and JAC Winterhawk. Winterhawk took Best Condition.

The memorable weather took center stage on Day 2, with trails heading out across the desert and around one Big Bad Bull by a water trough (he was flirting with lady friends so he didn't bother anybody) and over the Boise/Kelton stage route, and by an old stage stop, before heading down the California Trail into City of Rocks National Reserve park.

Most of the 25-milers finished their ride before the weather excitement and its aftermath occurred. 37 started, with 36 finishing. Simone Mauhl and Boogey finished first, just a second ahead of her husband Wade aboard Sundance. Behind Anna McNamer and Dash in third were those mules, Sophie Martin aboard Irish, Trinity Jackson aboard Hope, and Leila Fry aboard Gracie. Boogey got the Best Condition award.

All 13 started and finished the 55 miler, with David Laws winning aboard Fancy Grace, with Sara Ewing and Cal's Carisma finishing second. Third place DWA Malik, ridden by Jeff Stuart, took Best Condition.

Most of the 55 milers had the (take your pick) anguish/excitement/delight of watching a fierce cold front blow in. (I put my third coat layer on, so it was a delight for me!) We were above the clouds for a time, watching the cold layer of rain/fog shoot over a pass and into the park valley below. The winds had to be ripping along at 50 mph. But our horses just kept trotting onward. During the last miles of the ride we were pelted with hail and snow (yay!), even while the sun shined down upon us lucky endurance riders. Steph Teeter and Connie Holloway drove up into the park with extra jackets for anybody still on the trail who was frozen. We stayed warm riding, but it was the vets and volunteers and ride management in camp who froze, waiting for riders to come in!

Day 3 repeated the trails from the day before, the only difference being the Big Bad Bull was laying down right beside our trail (his lady friends were gone and he looked tired), and there was 0% chance of precipitation, though it did spit a bit of snow on us in the afternoon!

45 riders started the 25 miler, with 44 finishing. The mules took the first 5 out of 6 placings, with Parker Wynn and Irish pulsing down first. 7th place Carrie Johnson and Payback Daysea Duke got Best Condition.

18 started the 50 miler, with 16 finishing. Lee Pearce and JAC Winterhawk tied with David Laws and Che Ole for first place, with Winterhawk getting Best Condition.

The Idaho IronHorse Challenge got off to a great start, with 18 horse/rider teams in contention, having completed all 3 days on the same horse - 4 of them on the 50-mile rides, and 14 on the LD rides.

The Idaho IronButt Challenge (one rider, multiple horses, any distances) has 6 riders in contention, and the Idaho IronTeam Challenge (horse & rider team, mixed distances) has 3. More on this in the next post.

City of Rocks is truly one of the most beautiful rides in the country. Next year's 10th anniversary is sure to be memorable. Put this Bucket List ride on your calendar.

More photos and stories at:

***Fact check: the storms did not miss Ridecamp. Hellacious hail thunderstorms Thursday afternoon... not long after we were congratulating ourselves on such a smooth day. Saturday got pretty interesting in camp too....
- Steph

That's right! I'd been referring to that wicked lightning storm (because we all know how scared of lightning I am) I think it was Friday evening that passed just NW of us in the park, and that looked so scary that Connie and I both got scared out of our tents and took refuge in the back of horse trailers!
- Merri

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Owyhee River Challenge Endurance Ride, as Told By the Horses

You might want to read this article on the Kentucky Derby, by the Kentucky Derby horses, here first.

May 16 2019

Phinneas: I won, I won, I won the Owyhee River Challenge 50 to add to the rest of my impressive life resumé. I always win. I even won a cattle drive once. I always win because I am badass and handsome and THE GRANDSON OF THE BLACK STALLION.

DWA Saruq: He didn't win. He actually finished 8th. I finished 7th. And he thinks he won a cattle drive??!! He did not seriously just say that?!

Phinneas: I came to the Owyhee River Challenge with my neighbors August and Saruq. August is OK. Saruq always thinks he's hot stuff because he used to be a racehorse. However, *I* am THE GRANDSON OF THE BLACK STALLION. For real. That trumps everything and everybody.

DWA Saruq: Actually, Phinneas is a *great* grandson of The Black Stallion. But who really cares.

I did the 25 with Carol, so I didn't have to deal with the GOTBS drama at all. I'm all about no drama, as long as my boots are on right and my hair is combed and I am presentable.

Phinneas: I am so badass, even though Merri was going to ride me on the 50, Connie got on before the start and bucked me out so that I wouldn't buck Merri off like I almost did 2 years ago at the start (I tried so hard!). I'm 21 and I can buck harder than a rodeo bronc if I want to. And sometimes, I just want to. Because I'm a badass. And, Grandson of The Black Stallion.

DWA Saruq:
I just grazed while Connie and Phinneas warmed up out of his shenanigans.

Fire Mt Malabar:
I am 20 and I'm the real star here, 7200 miles and 47 Best Conditions, but I like to keep a low profile.

WMA Proclaim: I'm a former racehorse too. I didn't really like to run much. Endurance is so much better. And call me Riley.

Jackpot Jackson: I'm the real story here. I'm a rescue and I haven't told anybody about my past. I like keeping it a mystery. But endurance riding is the best. And you can call me Jack.

Second Chance Fance:
I'm a rescue too. And I'm so cute. And my owner Nance just retired, notice how our names rhyme, and we are going to be doing a lot more riding together!

Phinneas: We didn't get out on the trail first, because of the buck-out thing, but I took off at a roar because I was for sure going to catch those 7 or 8 horses that charged out in front of me! Merri was trying to tell me to slow down. I always know what I'm doing, and I am always right. So don't tell me what to do.

DWA Saruq:
Whatever. We've got 50 miles to go, dude. Chill.

Here I am, roaring down the trail, pulling mightily on Merri and looking so terrifically splendid and impressively masculine with my head bowed to my chest and my mane magnificently flowing in the breeze, leading Saruq of course, and what do you know, within 3 miles we'd caught up with the front runners. They seemed to be coming back in our direction, but anyway, by golly I caught them and ended up right behind them! We passed the photographer and my trot was bigger than a World Equestrian Games dressage horse. I can't wait to see the pictures. I can't wait to see Merri's face and see if she was grinning or grimacing. She wouldn't let me canter because she was afraid I might dump her for the picture.

DWA Saruq: I cantered by the photographer on a loose rein.

Those front runners got out of sight again, but I knew I was going to win anyway, and I kept charging hard. We went up and down and around, and then up this long hill, through a gate, and back down the hill, then through another gate, then down and down this long 2-track dirt road that was great for trotting. I was in front of Saruq of course and having a ball, when Merri pointed out to me that there were no other horse hoof prints on our trail - I WAS WINNING!!! I told you I was going to win.

DWA Saruq: I ate a lot of good grass along the way there. Phinneas missed out.

The only thing that slowed me down near the bottom of this two-track was this big bad bull sauntering down the road right in front of us. I am badass, but I know better than to mess with a bull. So we walked the rest of the way down to the canal then went waaaaaaay around him and his girlfriends.

DWA Saruq: That's where some horses who'd gone off trail caught up and passed us, but I don't think Phinneas noticed, because I stuck my tongue out at him and pretended I was going to get in front of him. He didn't like that. This next stretch of uphill sandy trail was loaded with arrowleaf balsamroot. I LOVE the taste of those yellow flowers. While our riders babbled about the beauty, I just ate them as we walked along. I was thinking, Yea, they are beautiful, in my gut!

Phinneas: Since I was winning, I ate some of the yellow flowers and grass while I walked. It just added rocket fuel to my Go-Go-Go, and then I went some more!

Buddy: This was my first 50. I did my first 25 at Eagle Canyon 2 weeks ago. I was going great guns this morning with the front runners till we all missed a turn somewhere and ended up behind a bunch of horses. Then we started catching up again, and I was about to pass this big black horse and WHOA, he like had a total conniption fit, like it was such a HYUGE DEAL I was catching up to him and wanting to pass, and his rider took him off the trail for me to get by. I got out of there fast because I've never seen such a hissy fit. It might be because I am palomino and gorgeous and maybe he was jealous of me.

Phinneas: Some horse had the nerve to come up behind me and try to pass me! I almost let him have it but then I found myself off the trail and I couldn't get at him. No worries. I'd get in front of him again later.

OMR Pristine: I passed this handsome bay dude and this handsome black dude with a long flowy showy mane. I saw the black one give that golden boy a fit when he passed, but I think he was mesmerized by my seductive trot, because he just bowed his head and pulled on his rider hard, and then he tripped and almost fell down. And then he was all embarrassed because he scrambled back up and just bowed his neck and pulled harder on the reins. I pretended I did not see him trip to save his face.

DWA Saruq: And then we rode down into this red canyon to a creek, and we drank and got splashed with cool water while that photographer guy took our picture again. We ate grass but then Phinneas had a burr up his butt, something about winning, even though we hadn't even finished half the ride, so we moved on to camp for the vet check and lunch.

Phinneas: That first loop was such a piece of cake for me because I am so fit and fabulous. And Saruq was behind me the whole way!

DWA Saruq:
Only because I let him. Who cares. I ate a lot of yummy food on the trail.

Fire Mt Malabar:
Blusterball Phinneas did not see Naomi and I, and JAC WInterhawk and Lee, heading out on loop 2 ahead of him. Neener neener.

Phinneas: After lunch in camp, loop two turned out to be exactly the same trail as loop one. These humans must not have noticed that they had already ridden this trail. I ate more flowers though. And because it was hotter in the afternoon, this loop I stopped at all the water troughs and the canal to drink and get sponged off.

What are these same horses all doing back in our canal again?

Phinneas: Connie and Merri had the big idea to stop and take my picture in a particularly lush field of yellow flowers. It was annoying, because I needed to keep bombing down the trail in front so I could win, but, I will admit that I looked pretty magnificently stunning, so it was worth the Kodak Moment.

DWA Saruq: He did look pretty fetching, almost like a great grandson of the Black Stallion.

Phinneas: Here we were again, heading for that red canyon. We passed that golden horse that passed me earlier. Neener neener, told you I'd pass him. His rider was sick. We sent the photographer, who was again in that canyon, out to rescue her, so I was like a total hero on top of being the winner and the grandson of the Black Stallion. Then on the way out of the canyon, we passed that pretty mare, who thinks I am hot stuff. She winked at me.

DWA Saruq: It was me she winked at.

Phinneas: And before I knew it, here we were coming up the hill into camp, and everybody, horse and human, had their eyes on *This Guy* as I came across the finish line. I WON!!!!!

DWA Saruq:
I finished 7th and Phinneas finished 8th. Really. But don't tell him that. He still thinks he won and it's best to keep it that way. Just get my saddle off and let me roll in the dirt. Like, now, before I roll with my saddle on.

I finished my 25 much earlier in the day, and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging and eating!

Fire Mt Malabar: What did I tell you? Second place, and Best Condition #48. But I didn't point that out to Phinneas.

More on the ride at: