Thursday, June 14, 2018

2018 City of Rocks Pioneer Endurance Ride: Put it on Your Bucket List

June 14 2018

"City of the Rocks ride was absolutely amazing!!" - Idaho rider Sally Tarbet

We Crick people do our bestest to put on a great 3-day Pioneer endurance ride for those who want great trails and a good challenge. Over the 8 years we've done it, we've got our routine and jobs down pretty pat. That's not to say it's not exhausting, but it's pretty rewarding when numerous people take the time to write, or stop by before they head home, and gush about their experiences, and thank us for putting it on. And when you hear the term "Bucket List ride" tossed around a bit, well, the tiredness and tribulations (like that gnarly wind storm we had Saturday night!) seem trivial enough.

Gasp-worthy vistas and great trails and pretty darn good ride weather greeted a record number of riders for this year's City of Rocks ride near Almo, Idaho. Participants from as far away as Canada, Arizona, and California - as well as local Idaho first-time riders - partook of the delights, which, besides the excellent riding, were the town amenities of the Durfee Hot Springs (they know us by name now) and Rock City (they also know our names) and their fabulous pizza and gourmet beer selection. To be sure, we got some Washington and Oregon riders because Klickitat was cancelled, and Strawberry Fields is 3 weeks later this year instead of two, but whatever the reason, they pulled into Ridecamp in droves this year.

5 or 6 of us hauled horses and gear and a refrigerator (best idea ever!) the 4 hours from the Crick to a perfect basecamp at 5600 feet right outside of City of Rocks National Reserve, to camp out for 10+ days, and work non-stop setting up camp, marking trail by ATV, hiking and riding. John T even had the great honor (?) and VIP job of doing the water this year, since the indispensable Nicholes kids couldn't be present to help.

Over the week, Ridecamp grew bigger and bigger, on both sides of the road, till it was busting out of its seams. The locals were agog at this annual conglomeration of avid horse riders and campers.

An astounding 75 riders took to the trails on Day 1, touring Castle Rocks State Park to the north. 33 started the 25-mile LD, with those racing mules from Heart 2 Heart Ranch taking the top spots. Junior Lucy Martin's mule Irish pulsed down first in 2:51 for the win, with Junior Claire Sterling and Bear the mule second, and Trinity Jackson and Hope the mule third. Fourth place David Brown on that other Equus species, a horse, finished in 3:08 and got Best Condition.

30 riders finished, with Ann Kuck and Dirty Martini bringing up the Turtle spot in 4:58. Both Ann and Marty have come a long way together in their endurance journey; he's slowly coming to be one of those other Equus species, a good dependable riding horse!

42 riders started the 50, with only 1 rider option pull. We all want Jessica to get well soon, though she found an upside in being sick on The Big Brass, who can sometimes be very naughty. "Now I know I can puke off Brass without freaking him out - always good information to have!"

Stephanie Chase aboard DA Serabaars Secret and Christoph Schork aboard GE Atticus Golden Sun tied for first place in 5:20, with Secret getting the Best Condition award. That was Secret's 6th BC in his 5-year career.

Day 2 had 66 riders, with 33 in each distance. Trails looped along the Emigrant Trail through Emigrant Canyon and into the City of Rocks National Reserve past the iconic Twin Sisters granite spires, and back up into the park near or up to Indian Grove springs at 7200 feet.

Junior Sidney Jackson won the 30-mile LD in 3:25, and got Best Condition on the mule John Henry. Jill Hedt and Gracie the mule were second, and Trinity and Baby the mule were third. Only 3 pulls on the LD.

28 of 33 finished the 55-mile ride, with Christoph aboard the AERC War Mare GE Stars Aflame finishing first in 6:29. Second in 6:29.02 was Christoph's intern Tina Gottwald aboard Pinky (GE RR Jazz Dancer); they won the Best Condition award. On this day, Crockett Dumas aboard OT Rasa RSI (another AERC War Mare, and an AHA Distance Horse of the Year) met a cactus he didn't like when Rasa took a spin in a new direction Crockett wasn't prepared for. It of course did not deter Crockett from saddling Rasa up for the third day.

Day 3 had 62 riders, with the same loops through Emigrant Canyon, and up to Indian Grove, though the Indian Grove loop was done in the reverse direction so you could see totally different, still-spectacular scenery.

37 of 38 riders finished the 25-mile LD, with Lee Ann Clark and ROL Burning Love getting first place in 3:12, and the Best Condition award. Junior Baylee Morgan on the mule Bear was second, and Junior Parker Eversole on the mule Irish was third.

22 of 24 finished the 50-miler, with, guess who, Christoph aboard Medinah MHF tying for first again with Stephanie Chase on Secret, with Medinah getting the Best Condition award. They finished in 6:01. Tina Gottwald was third aboard GE Atticus Golden Sun.

A number of riders finished all 3 days on their horses. 8 rode all 3 days of the Limited Distance rides, with Carrie Johnson and Payback Daysea Duke getting the overall fastest time. 7 finished all 155 miles (3 of them from Canada, eh?) with Layne Lewis and Beauty's Harley getting fastest overall time. Both Carrie and Layne's horses got the Vet's Choice award, the Getaway Horse.

Veteran endurance rider Naomi Preston summed it up:
"One word. Spectacular! City of Rocks Pioneer 3 day ride in Idaho. A MUST for your bucket list! Reminded me of the gorgeous trails and fun at the old Race of Champions!"

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go sleep for a week.

*lots of fun photos at

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

2018 Owyhee River Challenge

With Smokey and Hillbillie Willie sitting this one out, Pickett Cricksters August and DWA Saruq and Dezzie headed to the Owyhee River Challenge 55 near Homedale, Oregon, with humans Carol, Connie, and Merri in tow (and Regina towing us all).

Connie's goal is Big Horn 100 with Saruq and Dezzie, and as Sarah couldn't make it for this ride, I (with of course The Raven) was the substitute jockey-du-jour on her horse Dezzie.

There were some reeeaaaalllly tough Owyhee suckers that participated in Friday's (possibly first-ever-in-Oregon) CTR ride, which Lucie Hess from Missouri flew out to oversee. Ann Kuck stole the win on that one, her first ever CTR ride, with her Dirty Martini - the horse, not the drink.

The CTR riders had a deluge of rain and wind, the wind of which continued on into Friday night, keeping most of us awake most of the night and wondering what was in store for the 25 and 55 milers the next day. When - amongst the wind gusts battering the truck and trailer - we heard the rain start to fall at 3 AM, Connie and I got up to put rain blankets on the horses.

As I laid awake trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep (I kept almost sleeping, almost dreaming that the rest of camp was unable to sleep and were all up and standing in a 3 AM breakfast line), I was pretty sure the weather must be better tomorrow. And since we were psyched up for bad weather, it was better the next morning - we only had wind to contend with most of the day. Which wasn't a bad thing, because it would have been warm in the afternoon without it.

22 of us riders climbed aboard for the 55-miler start at 6:30 AM on two big loops, with an hour vet check in base camp in between. This year ride manager Karen Bumgarner was able to route us into and along the pretty red rhyolite canyon of Succor Creek, a trail we 3 had never been on before. These series of red canyons that run through the Owyhee Canyonlands country are a pretty well-kept secret, which many of us would kind of like to keep, unless of course you're a horse rider and/or you appreciate them and will take care of them.

We 3 leap-frogged numerous riders throughout the day. We 3, and a few other riders, would like to publicly give a thank-you shout out to the younger and much more agile Kaili, our gate girl, for opening all the gates for us while we were riding with her.

Jessica Cobbley deserves her own special shout-out for experiencing probably the most adventurous ride of the 55, substitute jockeying for husband Mike, Talladega's regular rider, and experiencing a couple of Dega meltdowns, an unintentional splashdown in a creek, a broken stirrup, and another Dega meltdown or two.

Scariest part of the ride was the small herd of totally unintimidating longhorn cattle. Sure, Dezzie has seen cows before and doesn't care about them, but these bovines had Long Pointy Horns and he did not want any part of them and was rather appalled to have his picture taken near them!

20 completed the 55-mile ride, with David Laws and his Kentucky Mountain horse Che Ole, from Portland, winning in a ride time of 5:47, 24 minutes ahead of second place Beth Claussen and Beau De Valeroso. Fourth place Lee Pearce and JAC Winterhawk (riding with Naomi Preston and the redoubtable Fire Mt Malabar in 3rd) won Best Condition.

22 started the 25-miler, with Dudley's friend Boogey getting the win with rider Simone Mauhl in a ride time of 2:41. They just edged out Joan Zachary and Chico, and the entire Heart to Heart mule gang (7 of them). Boogey got the Best Condition award. There was only one rider option pull in the LD.

We had one of the best potlucks after the ride, and some good ride awards, which included a bottle of Winky Wash (for real), which was great timing as it came in handy for Monday's spring vet visit of teeth, sheath, and shots!

More photos and stories from the ride at:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

2018 Eagle Canyon: Third Time's the Charm

Year 1 for Layne Simmons, taking over as ride manager for the annual spring ride in Idaho's Eagle foothills, saw lots of cancellations because of the crappy weather (heavy Friday night rain = mud), even from riders who'd shown up planning to saddle up Saturday morning.

Year 2, Layne got the hurricane. More riders toughed that one out, but it sure turned out to be nice for:

Year 3, with the perfect weather and good attendance for the Eagle Canyon endurance ride.

A portion of this year's ride 25 and 50-mile rides would be donated to a good cause.

"I have decided to take to heart some of the discussions that are occurring in my region (PNER)," Layne posted, "and honor one of our fallen sisters from the proceeds of our ride. We will be giving 10% of all proceeds to the Women & Children's Alliance in Honor of SueB……"

Who is SueB?
 Susan Elaine Brubaker Newby died in 2008 during a mysterious horseback riding incident. After her death, family and friends realized that SueB – her nickname – was likely in an abusive marriage. SueB’s sister, Marjory Sente, and friends, Leslie Hampe and Teresa Andrew, turned to the WCA as a way to honor SueB’s life and increase awareness about domestic violence. Their hope: to help other successful, smart, beautiful women like SueB leave these relationships before it’s too late.

“Don’t wait until your sister, daughter or mother is a victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault,” Sente said. “Step forward now and make an investment in the WCA to raise awareness about domestic violence.”

A white cross perches on the canyon rim that we ride by. SueB would have been happy to see the riders out and thinking about her on this fine day.

23 riders started the 50 at 7:30 AM, with a number of them bucking on the way out. The one going out in the lead got my attention, Max Merlich on Xtreme Surprise: buck - "Hey!" - buck ' "Hey!" buck - "Hey!" These Oregon invaders, Max and "Rio", and Kristen Grace and her lovely well-behaved stallion HCC Elessar won the ride (Kristen getting the honor of walking over the finish line first) in 6:22, with Kristen's "Monster" getting Best Condition. Third place finisher Jeannie Simpson and SWA Ibn Daraah finished over an hour later.

Another bucking horse provided a little entertainment mid-day… and nobody was surprised that it was Taledega, only 10 minutes into his second loop, sans rider Mike Cobbley. "He started to go down to roll," Mike recounted later, "and when I stepped off I slipped and fell, and Dega jumped up, realized he was loose, and took off." Taledega came galloping down a steep hill into camp. The naughty horse was rounded up, Sally Tarbet led him back up the trail to meet Mike, who was hoofing it back down the trail to find his mount. Mike loves Dega, but I expect they had a heart to heart discussion about the state of things. Mike remounted and sent him trotting back up that sand draw at a stiff trot!

18 finished the ride, with the turtle award going to Trish Frahm aboard her cute Appaloosa, BPR Jamine Blu, in the mare's first 50 mile ride.

All 18 starters finished the LD, with MacKenzie Cronin and Misty getting first place in 3:14. Second place Joan Zachary aboard her Paso Fino Chico (3:21) got Best Condition.

Layne's plans for a coffee truck for the ride fell through, "but wait! We have Richard the Coffee Mule instead!!"

Richard (and his human, Matt) ( served Matt's homemade nitrogen-infused coffee throughout the day. YUM!!!!!!! Extra treats were the gourmet donuts from Boise's Guru Donuts. "We had an awesome day serving coffee and delicious scratch donuts to the Eagle Canyon Endurance Ride participants," Matt posted afterwards. "Amazing to see these super athlete horses and highly capable riders complete the 25 and 50 mile courses.

"I’m sure many would attribute coffee and donuts to their success :-) Richard spectated and supervised, though we did a short ride at the end."

Layne concluded, "Aside from some small trail sabotage from cows and humans, all went well. The weather cooperated this year, which was a plus, and we had a nice camp fire to round it out."

And the ride raised $931.74 for the Women and Children's Alliance in SueB's honor. "You all are AMAZING!" Layne said. "Thank you all so very much for supporting this cause."

More on the ride at:

More info on the Women & Children's Alliance:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

2018 Antelope Island

April 19 2018

There aren’t too many endurance rides that rival the combination of challenging trails and a spectacular scenic setting for Ridecamp and the ride trails than the Antelope Island 2-day endurance ride on Antelope Island State Park in the middle of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. With lake views from almost every trail, and Frary Peak lording over the island at 6596 feet, any direction you look can take your breath away. “Antelope Island is a little like Mongolia and a lot like the foothills of Mordor,” competitor Maddie Smith wrote.

Many slices of the endurance pie showed up for the 38th annual Antelope ride: first-time riders, AERC’s winningest rider; a Tevis Cup winner; cowboys on their annual single LD ride; a skilled dressage rider doing her first endurance ride; an enthusiastic Junior doing his second endurance ride with his dad; veterans with tens of thousands of miles, 2 former Mongol Derby riders, 2 future Gobi Desert Cup riders. The horses were just as varied: Arabians to Paso Finos to Mustangs to Appys to Quarter horses to Paints to Curlys to Anglos to Shagyas, to a Kentucky Mountain horse.

You had a variety of rides to choose from: Introductory rides on both days, an LD on both days, a 50 on both days, or a 2-day 100.

This year’s ride weather was pretty spectacular compared to last year’s test of stamina and endurance: no rain, hail, thunderstorms or gusting winds. This year's cool weather and a slight breeze kept the gnats away most of the weekend… although if you rode out on the Split Rock Loop trail curling around White Rock Bay on Sunday afternoon, you had to ride with your mouth shut unless you wanted bugs on your windshield (teeth).

The island is well known for its buffalo herd, but the buffalo at this time of year were few and far between (or, rather, on the southwest part of the island where we weren’t allowed to ride because it’s calving season); but the antelope, the occasional lone buffalo bull, and the scenery did their best to make up for it.

55 riders started on Day 1: 5 in the 2-day 100, 18 in the 50, and 32 in the LD. There were also more than a dozen riders in the Intro Ride.

Winner of the 30 was Brad Hanson on Chief, with Ronda Davis and Buster pulsing down a second later. 10th place Katalyn Senn and Echo got the Best Condition award.

Miriam Rezine from Bluffdale, Utah, won the 50 aboard her little ‘pony,’ MG Crown Jewel in 5:27. Suzy Hayes and Sanstormm, and Bill Hobbs and LS Sir Gibbs tied for second place in 5:31. Sanstormm got the Best Condition award. Suzy and her friend and crew extraordinaire Lynn Lee fled the bad weather of Montana for Antelope Island. They bypassed a closer Wyoming ride because it wasn’t far enough away from rain and mud. There were no pulls in the 30 or 50.

Five riders started the 2-day 100, with 1 pull at the end of Day 1.

13 riders started Day 2’s 25-mile ride, with 12 finishing. After finishing 8th and 9th on Day 1, Blackfoot, Idaho's Mike and Jessica Cobbley moved up to first and second aboard Talladega and The Big Brass, in 4:34 and 4:38. Dega won the Best Condition award, capping a great comeback on the endurance trail for a horse that colicked terribly last fall and almost died. But the tough little monster horse is back, and thought they were covering the miles entirely too slowly all weekend.

7 of 8 riders finished the Day 2 50, with Suzy Hayes easily winning the ride on her stunning Greenbriar Al Jabal. Suzy had planned to ride Sanstormm again, but didn’t like how he was moving in the morning, so she pulled ‘Atlas’ out of his hay and saddled him up. “He gave me the Stink-Eye,” Suzy said, “because he thought he was on an eating vacation.” Atlas smoked the 50, finishing in 4:31, an hour ahead of second place finisher Chetta Crowley - one of those Mongol Derby veterans, aboard Christoph Schork’s Pinky. Chetta had started the 2-day 100, and when her horse was pulled after Day 1, that left her free to ride the 50 on Pinky, riding with Christoph’s group on their second-day 50.

Christoph, aboard his War Mare and 100-mile National Champion GE Pistol Annie, and Stephanie Chase, aboard DA Serabarrs Secret, tied for the 2-day 100 miler win, in 10:52. Maddie Smith - the other Mongol Derby veteran - finished with that pair in third aboard GE Medinah MHF, and Tennessee Lane rode Gambler to fourth place in 11:46. Pistol Annie won the Best Condition award.

Ride management does everything they can to keep riders happy and coming back, and chalk this year up as another success. Jeff Stuart has been ride manager for the Antelope Island ride since 2014 (and been helping long before then), and he likes to show off “our island. I just want everybody to have a good time,” Jeff said. The Indispensables, Shirley and Dennis and Terri, kept things running smoothly behind the scenes, and Regina Rose brought her calculator mind and computer program for the paperwork.

If you haven’t done this ride before, put it on your calendar. It’s a beauty.

For more photos and tidbits on the ride, see

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Incredible Lightness of Being Standardbred

April 10 2018

Clop Clop Clop Clop

Flying into the fog, nothing but a strong breeze and Willie’s hoofbeats (and an occasional Willie whinny) blowing into my ears.

It’s Willie’s first ride of his second endurance season, the 25 miler at the Owyhee Tough Sucker, his home court. And though I ride him by himself on the trails all the time, it’s only his second time doing an endurance ride by himself. Willie, an off-the-track Standardbred has two modes: endurance horse and racehorse. He’s in his racehorse mode right now, though he’s well out in front by himself (hence the whinnies). He still thinks he’s got to catch somebody, because he knows there are other horses out on the trail, somewhere, and this is a race, even though I’m trying to convince him otherwise.

Clop Clop Clop Clop. He’s going fast, but we’ve reached a compromise: I won’t pull, and you won’t pull, and you can go fast, but not too fast. The second loop we’ll take it easier (I hope). He’s not pulling or leaning on the bit; he’s not too heavy on his forehand, but he’s pounding the ground, and I know he can be lighter. And I know if he’s lighter, he will stay sounder longer.

Even though I dislike it, I’m going to start working on him in the arena on collecting, rounding up, getting off his forehand, lightening up, balancing better. Mostly because Connie and Sarah will be here for coaching and helping! Connie’s an expert in the arena, and though Sarah’s only 15, Connie says she’s better than both of us in the arena.

When Connie starts teaching a horse to round up in the arena, there eventually comes that one certain moment where it just clicks and the horse first drops his head. That’s the start of the inkling of the idea in his head. Eventually (could be 10 minutes, could be 10 days, with the thicker headed horses or the ones who haven't discovered those different muscles yet), he gets it, he knows what he’s supposed to do. And depending on the horse, it can take a lot of riding the horse (as in, not being passive), a lot, and a lot of leg, a lot, (which I don't always have) to teach a horse to be able to default to this way of moving. It’s a workout for horse and rider. Once he starts getting it with Connie, that’s about when I can get on and start asking for it.

This and top pic, at the beginning of the lesson with Connie

So we started today, in the arena. Connie got on Willie for the first time (“Wow!”), and after about 10 minutes, she had Willie starting to figure it out. Leg leg leg means go forward, but back off the bit and drop your head for release of pressure.

Another 10 minutes and he was already starting to carry his head lower more of the time, working up a mighty sweat.

If a horse hasn’t learned to round up, they use different muscles when they do. It will take some time to build those muscles up where it will be easy for him to carry himself that way. It will build up some of my arena muscles too, which aren’t very good (and with progress, maybe I won’t dislike it so much. Or not…).

He’s starting to get it!

After Connie worked with Willie a while, (“This is totally do-able with him, you'll be able to do it.”) I rode him and got some occasional good balanced movement, then Sarah rode him too (for the first time, she loved him - he’s unlike any other horse she’s been on - “he’s funny!”). Already, Willie sounded a bit lighter on his feet than the clop clop clop clop.

Yeah Willie!

Willie was a flatlander horse with a flatlander butt when Steph got him in February of 2016 as a 4-year-old. After he was broke to ride and had a year of trail riding, I started conditioning him for endurance: sand and hills, hills, and hills, to build up those butt muscles so he could motor up the hills. He grew those butt muscles, and completed 5 50-mile rides last year; and now he’s going to work on the balancing/rounding muscles.

It’s a start!

I’m getting it, I’m starting to get Willie to get it with me

Willie’s cracking Sarah up with his camel-like pace-a-lope here, which sometimes emerges from within

Monday, April 9, 2018

2018 Owyhee Tough Sucker - And The Band Played On

by Merri Melde
April 9 2018

Seriously - does nobody read the weather reports? Who would even want to come for an endurance ride with a deluge and a hurricane in the forecast? The weathermasters have been pretty inaccurate with the precipitation this winter, but they've been spot on with the wind, and we were in for a big blow on Saturday, if not at least some of the 100% chance of rain they predicted Friday night and Saturday morning.

But 42 riders still showed up for the first Owyhee ride of the season. Some were here because they haven't been able to ride much elsewhere (I've been riding most of the winter, but not everybody else has), or they have just been itching to get going, and weather simply didn't factor into it. But mostly we're all here to ride because we're all, in some form or another, Tough Suckers.

The live band booked for entertainment arrived with instruments in one hand and horses in the other. Endurance rides are really the excuse that gets the bluegrass Pickett Crick Ramblers together. Friday night audience included 2 members who stayed till the very last song, and even clapped after a couple numbers!

It wasn't till morning that I finally decided on a plan for myself: get Hillbillie Willie a good training ride in the 25, and finish before the hurricane hit. (And we timed it just about right; when we rode down that last draw for home we were in strong a wind tunnel, and when I was bandaging Willie's legs up in camp afterwards, the gale force gusts hit.)

You know how it goes with the rain: if you're already out riding when it starts raining, it's not so bad, but it's a shade short of miserable if you have to saddle a wet horse up in the rain. But the overnight and morning rain never materialized, so that was an added bonus to the day. Dark skies glowered over the 14 riders who started the 50. The forecasts were right about the wind though; it started picking up around 10 AM (and there were even some spots of thick fog that we rode through), and the wind was strong and hurling some mean gusts by the time the 50's started arriving at the finish in the early afternoon.

The race for first place in the 50 was a tight one, but Dean Hoalst and Pay Attention were familiar faces who got the win in 5:20, and Best Condition. The actual first place finisher was eliminated when the horse didn't pulse down. Kristen Maholland and Two Carat Diamond ended up with second place in 5:44.

Connie Holloway on DWA Saruq and (first Junior) Sarah Holloway aboard Noble Desperado finished 3rd and 4th in 6:35. 11 completed the 50 mile ride, with the turtles, Roz Cusack on DA Nejwah and Heidi Skerratt on Gold N Beaudayshus squeezing every bit of enjoyment out of the hurricane ride, finishing in 10:05 while the Pickett Crick Ramblers were in the middle of their Saturday evening concert.

28 riders started the 25 mile ride with 27 finishing. Long-legged Hillbillie Willie won the 25 in 2:59, with Karen Steenhof and WMA Proclaim finishing 2nd in 3:05 and getting Best Condition. Linda Kluge and Ted, and Abrie Church (one of our fiddle players) on Ultra Sonnic finished right with Karen in 3rd and 4th. There was only 1 pull in the 25.

The riders out on trail survived the winds and hurtling tumbleweeds just fine (really, the wind was worse on Sunday), and the band played on in the evenings, and we've decided that in 3 years of jamming together, we've gotten good enough that we sometimes sound pretty darn good! Anybody need to book a bluegrass band? Our next gig is City of Rocks on June 7-8-9.

See photos and more of the ride at: