Monday, November 18, 2013
November 18 2013
Whatever you do, don't call her little.
This 13.2-hand originally-wild now-17-year-old mustang mare has already accomplished more than most horses have in their entire careers.
Janet Tipton, of Erda, Utah, didn't even pick out the 3-year-old at the Logan wild horse adoption in 1999. The mare who was destined to become Lady Jasmine picked her.
"I didn't want a mare - I'd never had a mare before," Janet said. Her husband Cliff had his eye on a different mustang, "but she kept watching at me as I walked around the building." That's how Lady Jasmine, who'd come off the Antelope Valley Herd Management Area near Ely, Nevada, came to be part of the Tipton family.
She'd been rounded up about 6 months earlier, and was unbroke. Janet and Cliff started working with her at home, and the first thing they noticed was not her size, but her big attitude: "She was kind of very dominant!" Janet said. "She ran over the top of me the first day I worked with her. Her attitude was like, 'I don't care how big you don't think I am!'"
Cliff started her under saddle, which went fairly well, at first. On the third ride, she bucked Cliff off. Twice.
"So, we went back to square one with her. We worked on some things, fixed some things that needed fixing." Cliff rode "Ladybug" for a year before Janet started riding her. Those two spent a lot of time and a couple of years trail riding, getting to know each other; and meanwhile, Janet had cast her eye on the sport of endurance riding.
"I did a ride on a friend's horse in 1999 and was hooked on the sport, but spent the next 5 years reading and studying everything I could get my hands on. And also to build my nerve up." Janet figured Ladybug would have the right attitude for endurance.
The pair finally debuted together on the endurance trails at the Strawberry Fields Pioneer ride in April of 2004. They completed the 30 mile ride on Day 1 and the 25 mile ride on Day 3: "We barely finished in time, but Ladybug had all A's" on her vet card." The rest, you can say, is endurance history.
In the October 2013 Moab Canyons endurance ride in Utah, Ladybug became the highest mileage Limited Distance AERC endurance horse ever, with 3985 miles.
And a few weeks later on November 9, in her last ride of the 2013 season, the Owyhee Chills No Frills, while finishing 4th on the 25-mile ride, Ladybug reached 4010 LD miles, and won her 20th Best Condition award. (Her first Best Condition award was in 2007 at the Owyhee Fandango.)
finishing the OCNF - Photo by Sandy Smallwood
Her record currently stands at 154 completions in 156 starts (the pulls were a rider option, and an overtime).
The pair has done 1 60-mile, and 4 50-mile endurance rides over the years. Since Janet is a heavyweight rider, and Ladybug is not "little," but 13.2 hands, Janet is careful to pick the longer distance rides out for her.
Ladybug has about an 8 miles-per-hour average trot. She'll willingly go alone or in company, in front of a group, or in the middle, or behind, though she doesn't love being last. "Everybody knows the last horse will get eaten!"
But Ladybug is not only adept at the sport of endurance. She's also competed and participated in Extreme Cowboy Challenges, dressage, drill teams, and parades; she's been a lesson horse, a pony horse for kids, and she's pulled carts, "though she doesn't like that much. Ladybug LOVES to chase cows too," Janet said. "I have done cattle sorting on her and she is awesome. Always seems to know the cow we are after."
The mustang breed has become the centerpiece of the Tiptons' lives. In 2003, the Tiptons formed the IWHBA (Intermountain Wild Horse & Burro Advisors), an adopter support and mentoring non profit for people with mustangs. Over the years the organization has gentled, trained and placed over 200 mustangs and burros.
It was all thanks to Ladybug. "Ladybug was our try first mustang and the start of so many wonderful adventures for us. Not just the distance riding trail but in the wonderful people we have met along the way and the amazing places we have visited. She has given and shown us so much that we find ourselves wanting to pass that along.
"The ultimate thrill for me is when someone comes up to me at a ride and says they adopted a mustang because of Ladybug. What an ultimate compliment and so very awesome."
Over her 10 seasons of endurance competition, Ladybug has done rides in Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and California. "She tends to do best at multi-days. She just gets stronger every day." Janet's goal over the coming years with her mustang is to make the Decade Team - riding your horse in an AERC-sanctioned 50 mile+ endurance ride for at least ten ride seasons.
This big-hearted mustang with the Big Attitude will surely accomplish just that.
Photos by Merri Melde
Monday, November 11, 2013
Monday November 11 2013
You wouldn't think that 8 months into the endurance season we'd be riding 3 green unbroke horses.
That's about what it was like on loop 1 of the last local ride of the endurance season, the Owyhee Chills No Frills ride put on by Regina Rose.
Steph rode her unbroke 2-year-old (OK, 22-year-old) 6400+ mile gelding Rhett, Amanda rode her unbroke 2-year-old (OK, 7-year-old) gelding Chant, and I rode John's beloved unbroke 2-year-old (OK, 9-year-old) mare Sunny on the 50-mile ride.
Rhett was being a total Dink for Steph, head up in the air, yanking her arms out of her sockets, and trying to sprint the entire course. Chant was being a total Dink for Amanda, although I couldn't see what exactly he was doing because Sunny was being a total Dink beneath me, cantaloping, trolloping, jigging, gaiting, be-bopping, jigalotting, jigaloping, and pogo sticking her way along.
At one point halfway through the loop (you know, when they should have been getting a little tired and settling down), the three of us got off and walked our horses a half-mile, ostensibly to 'stretch our legs' but really to give our horses a little mental time to unwind a bit, and let another group of riders move on out of our sight.
We bounced along very familiar trails along the Snake River, around Wild Horse Butte, and over the Oregon Trail, but a lot of it was a blur. Didn't seem to take much out of the horses though, as Sunny pulsed down at the vet check at 44, and Rhett pulsed down at 48. Rhett is never 48!
Instead of vetting, Robert was for the first time crewing for Amanda, and he sent her out on loop 2 on time. Steph and I were… delayed for reasons that have to do with Betty White.
It's a good thing the second 25-mile loop was a repeat of the first loop, because I didn't see much of the first loop, for trying to stay on my twerking horse.
Amanda and Chant ended up on their own ahead of us for 8 miles or so on loop 2, and Sunny and Rhett were Born Agains on loop 2: mature, seasoned endurance horses, trotting along purposefully on a loose rein. Sunny can be so dramatic at times, but here on loop 2, I was riding a totally different horse. In fact, someone should check her tattoo number, because maybe I was riding a different horse, I'm not sayin'.
They were both so relaxed and easy I got to witness some pretty spectacular scenery. Sure, we've all done the Snake River/Wild Horse Butte loop many times; but this time of year, the Snake is particularly deep blue, flanked with golden grass and the white-leaved Russian olive trees and spotlit by the autumn-angle of the sun in the sky.
It was around the picture-worthy Snake River Russian olive trees where we turn away from the Snake that Amanda and Chant caught up with some other riders, and we caught up with Amanda and Chant; and we three went back to riding our DINKS for a while. But once the other riders moved on out of sight, soon our Dinks settled down again, and we were back on our fabulous Loop 2 horses.
Regina had even found new trails for us (after 7 years or so of these Owyhee rides), over new pieces of Oregon trail complete with old original wagon ruts, and up a nice previously-undiscovered winding wash. We three picked up a nice gallop for a ways on a two-track dirt road, 3 perfectly behaved horses on loose reins, galloping through the golden Owyhee afternoon. Steph said, "I'm sure glad to be us right now!" The horses thought so too!
We were back in camp for the finish before we knew it, eating Regina's delicious homemade soup that perfectly hit the spot, and the horses diving into their alfalfa and grain.
It was a great season-ending ride (again!). 18 of 20 finished the 50 mile ride, with Beverly Gray and Jolly Sickle winning, and Karen Steenhof (2nd place) and HMR Redstone (Rusty) won BC. 9 of 10 finished the 25, with Cortney Honan and Splendid SR winning, and Janet Tipton and Lady Jasmine getting BC. Thanks Regina, and thanks Dr Matt Dredge for driving 3 1/2 hours to vet the ride!
Thursday, November 7, 2013
November 7 2013
Destined for the Arabian show ring in the early 1980's, but instead picked up for $100 by a horse trader because of an unpaid board bill at the now-defunct Baywood Arabians, the paper-less gray gelding nicknamed "Paco" first started his working life as a pack horse in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
A lucky twist of fate landed the gelding - renamed Taco - on the Fire Mt Arabian ranch of Jim and Jackie Bumgardner, in Ridgecrest, California, in 1990. Lucky, because he ended up where he was meant to be: on the endurance trails.
He shortly found a home with Bob and Julie Suhr, in Scotts Valley, California. "We put him in a corral overlooking Zayante Canyon, named after an Indian tribe that once inhabited it," Julie said. "Taco let out this gigantic bugle call to tell everyone he was here and he had a new name as of that moment."
For five seasons, Bob and Julie owned and rode their Superhorse, who went 5000 miles without a pull – that’s 89 straight rides, on distances of 50 to 100 miles, including 4 straight Tevis finishes, 42 Top Ten finishes, and 5 Best Condition awards. He gave the Suhrs' daughter Barbara White - she's the leading finisher of the Tevis Cup, with 32 buckles - her 20th Tevis completion in 1994.
It was the 1992 Tevis ride on Zayante that was one of the fondest memories of Barbara's life. She recalls: "Except for passing two other riders, I rode those miles from Francisco's to the finish line alone. It was so strange to be out there in the dark by myself, on a bright white horse who wanted to go with such eagerness. I remember frequently slowing him down and turning a flashlight on my heart monitor to make sure his pulse was still recovering, then letting him go again.
"It was a special night for me - warm, moonlit, and solitary, except for Zayante. And, except for the sound of the river and his footsteps, it was quiet and personal. It didn't seem that it could be the very same day that had started out in a mad rush of horses from the point of beginning, full of trail gridlock, jumpy animals, nervous people. Instead it was a very special evening, not an organized event, just me and a very special equine partner racing through the darkness to a finish line in Auburn.
"I get emotional simply reminiscing about that magical night."
In 1995 Bob and Julie decided to sell Zayante because he was rather spooky. They offered him back to Jackie Bumgardner, under the condition that she no longer call him Taco.
Jackie and Zayante continued on Julie’s original quest to reach 100 rides without a pull. Not only did they accomplish this; in Zayante’s 100th ride, the Gambler’s Special in April of 1996, Zay and Jackie finished in first place.
Jackie and Zayante hitting 10,000 miles in the Geo Bun Buster on March 16, 2002
Zayante went on to reach 13,200* miles, 5th on the all-time mileage list, over his 15-year career. His record stands at 241 completions in 252 starts, with 20 of 25 100-mile rides completed, and 5 Best Condition awards. He excelled in multi-day rides, and he gave 19 different lucky riders memorable rides over his career.
After he retired in 2005, he lived at Jackie Bumgardner's ranch until 2011, when his best buddy, Sierra Fadrazal +/ (8430 miles, Pardner's Award with Jackie in 1998) died. Then he went to live with Nick Warhol and Judy Long in the Bay Area of California, until November 5, 2013, when he passed on from a bout of colic.
He was probably born in 1979 or 1985, which would make him 34 or 28.
Zayante, you will be forever missed.
*Zayante's AERC records say 13,200; the list of high-mileage equines says 13,255.
Monday, October 28, 2013
October 28 2013
It must rank as one of the most spectacular rides on the planet: the 3-day Moab Canyons endurance ride.
If you haven't ridden Moab yet, you may have missed your chance. Ride manager Sherri Griffith is threatening to quit putting it on, though everybody who attended tried hard to change her mind.
I was a last minute substitute jockey: sadly, John could not go, so Steph stuffed me in the trailer, along with Batman and Jose and The Raven, and off we went in Betty, Betty White, the truck that flies without wings, mostly under the speed limit!
Moab is first noted as being 'settled' in the 1880's by ranchers and Mormons, though the Navajo and Ute Indians were the earliest residents.
Hollywood discovered the spectacular scenery in 1939. John Wayne filmed here, as did Thelma and Louise. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Geronimo, City Slickers II, Mission Impossible II, and 127 Hours, are among many of the other movies that were filmed here. The Lone Ranger, with Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp, was one of the latest.
In the 1950's, uranium mining was the main boon in the area, and it was in the 1970's that tourism began taking over the economy. Now you can hike, bike, raft, skydive, hot-air balloon ride, and horse ride.
Better yet: endurance ride. We arrived on Tuesday night, ahead of the Thursday-Friday-Saturday October 24-26 ride. Steph and I gawked and gaped on the drive into the 4500-foot Ridecamp, 12 miles or so northwest of Moab, off of highway 313, at an old cow camp just about smack in the middle between Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park. We were surrounded by pink sandstone hills, red sandstone mesas, and deep gray sandstone canyons, all of which we'd be riding through. Batman and Jose both gazed and goggled at the beautiful scenery.
It's total Outlaw country. The canyons and mesas and spires and eroded hills form slot canyons and box canyons, hidden oases and dry gulches. Barely visible trails over the polished slickrock lead up and out of canyons and twist down into the next ones.
Day 1: 55 miles. Loop 1 wound around the reddest, most formidable sandstone mesas and spires and cliffs formed some 275 million years ago, give or take a few bazillion. The piercing red hues in the October morning golden light were mind-blowing. We rode around the very base of one of these 7-mile-long imposing mesas and Termination Towers dwarfing us by some 900 feet, through red and pink sand, over gray sandstone slickrock.
The term 'Slickrock' derived from early settlers, whose horses' shoes slipped on the sloping surfaces. We could see white slip marks from shod horses who trod before us, but with our Easyboot glue-ons and gloves, Batman and Jose skipped over the sandpaper-like surfaces. We wound through canyons with weathered hills that Steph described as dumplings, and some as twisted taffy.
Loop 2: We dodged Hell Roaring Canyon, traversed Deadman Point, to roam the sandstone labyrinths above Spring Canyon: outlaw country.
Butch Cassidy. Kid Curry. Flat Nose George Curry. Bill McCarty. The Wild Bunch. The Blue Mountain Gang. Robbers Roost outlaws. They roamed this area, robbing, chasing, being chased, hiding. We could smell 'em. Jose could see their ghosts. Batman was looking for victims to rescue. We rode over more slickrock through torturous juniper-riddled canyons, with possible phantoms behind every boulder, around every hidden twist in the wet and dry creeks, up every little blind canyon. Did this one have a secret exit? Or not? You can't help but imagine you're one of those outlaws, slipping into a slot canyon to escape detection. Or maybe you're searching for an outlaw who could blend in so well with the landscape that your only hint would be the sound of galloping hooves over the rocks, though the direction would be suspect with the way the sound echoes through the rocks.
Day 2: 50 miles. Loop 1 took us the other side of the 7-mile butte, down Bartlett Wash,
adorned with brilliant golden-leaved cottonwoods, and into more surprise, twisting canyons.
We climbed up onto slickrock sandstone flats above one of the deep, dumpling-riddled canyons, following a faint trail worn over the decades by hoof prints and, in later days, by rather daring and crazy jeep drivers. We dismounted to lead our horses up a short but steep climb with a fantastic view of this other-world of the Utah canyonlands.
The mesa we'd topped went on and on for miles, the other end of which ended in a series of thousand-foot red cliffs known as The Needles where we looked down on the trail in the enormous valley (and riders, tiny dots!) where we'd thread on loop 2.
A vet check (with catered gourmet sandwiches!) beneath some of these Needle spires made it tempting just to stay here and rubberneck at the scenery for the rest of the day.
But the scenery of loop 2 beckoned: a loop through this valley below the red cliffs we'd gazed down from. Our sandstone trail took us along one of the ledges of these maroon mesas, close enough to touch the cliffs while looking off the shelf to the sand gullies below that were formed from the eons of weathered sandstone.
Circumnavigating Lost World Butte, we viewed the deep crimson butte and the layered valley from every angle and color, much of it through sand, much of that deep sand that the horses worked hard marching through, mile after mile after mile.
More outlaw country led us zigzagging back to camp, Batman and Jose knowing exactly which turns to take, despite not having been over the trails before.
We had to leave after day 2, therefore missing the last spectacular day of trails, but then, my over-stretched jaw muscles and popped eye sockets needed a rest from the overwhelming scenery. Moab is the most spectacular endurance ride I've ever done: challenging trails, splendid scenery, great horses, and marvelous company. Thank you Steph and Jose!!!!!
The weather was perfect: just above freezing in the mornings, and in the 60's during the day. It didn't rain or snow; it wasn't too cloudy or too windy. There were a few places in those air-less secret canyons where it got warm for already-hairy horses, but once you re-gained the flats, cool breezes helped cool us down.
Over a dozen juniors participated in the ride, as well as over a dozen first-time endurance riders. Attendance was nearly half of a regular good year.
It will be a sad day if this was the last Moab Canyons Endurance ride. If it was, pretend Sherri is one of your cantankerous congresswomen, and bombard her with pleading letters and emails and phone calls, and beg her to continue putting it on, and volunteer your time and energy to the cause. Bombard Sherri, or some other possible ride manager(s). You know who I'm talking about. : )
If it was not the last Moab ride, thank your lucky stars and consider this one of your Bucket List Rides that still exists, and condition your horses and your jaw muscles, and get yourself hence to Utah in October next year. You won't be sorry.
For more spectacular photos, and, eventually, videos from the spectacular ride, see
Photos of me by Steph!
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Canadians Barb and Grant going out on their last loop: Day 1
October 18 2013
Flash floods, government shutdown - the rides must go on. And they did!
Federal BLM land closures didn't occur, but the awesome power of an unprecedented amount of rainfall on September 12th, (one measurement recorded 1 7/8" in 45 minutes) which completely rearranged parts of the Owyhee desert, scuttled the new trail plans for the new 3-day Owyhee Harvest Moon pioneer endurance ride October 11-13. Ride managers Steph Teeter and Regina Rose had to rearrange plans to include usable trails in a limited area.
Cool weather kept horses with beginning winter coats cool - particularly in the chilly hurricane winds on day 3 - and turned canyon cottonwoods golden
and flat desert tumbleweeds maroon.
Days 1 and 3 trails looped through Sinker Canyon
and the Birds of Prey Badlands…
but each day the loops were done in opposite directions, which, in this desert country, makes for completely different scenery. The remains of the floods were in evidence in highway-like washes
and cracked earth.
Day 2 included a regular, but never tiresome, loop around Wild Horse Butte
and along the Snake River.
The turnout was low, making for a rather sad-looking ridecamp, but that didn't make a difference to those who showed up to ride.
Day 1 saw 21 riders start the 50 miler, with 19 finishing. Winner was Karen Steenhof and HMR Redstone, with 6th place Lee Pearce and Fire Mt Malabar winning the Best Condition award.
Five riders started and finished the 25 miler, with Carolyn Roberts and Mac winning first place and Best Condition.
Day 2 had 14 riders start and 11 finish the 55 miler. Canadian invader Ariel MacLeod finished first on Driftwoods Tobora, with 3rd place Lee Pearce and Fire Mt Malabar again receiving Best Condition - their 35th career BC together.
Nine started and 8 finished the 25 miler, with Hayley White and Midnight winning, and 2nd place MJ Jackson and Kruze winning BC.
Day 3 had 13 starters and 12 finishers, with Ariel's mom Tara MacLeod winning first place and Best Condition on Zorro's Seabiscuit.
Seven started and finished the 25 miler, with Sheri Cook and Black Jack winning first place and Best Condition.
Four horses and riders completed all 3 days of the pioneer ride, with Lee Pearce and Fire Mt Malabar placing first overall. It was their first 3-day ride together, with Malabar crossing his 4300 AERC milepost.
For more photos and complete results see:
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Thursday September 26 2013
Photos and story by Merri Melde
An exceptional spread of endurance talent graced the 2013 Vettec AERC National Championships at City of Rocks, Almo, Idaho, on September 20-22. The old guard and the new guard left their marks, as Christoph Schork and GE Stars Aflame won the 50 and Kevin Myers and Farrabba won the 100, both in racing finishes, and every junior rider that entered both distances completed their rides.
A humbling collection of endurance royalty showed up to compete. It wasn't princes and prime ministers and the flat-track racers who win 50 mile rides in 3 hours, or 100 mile rides in 5 1/2 hours, but the experienced, long-time, high-mileage riders who are extraordinary horsemen able to skillfully manage their mounts to last over the years and miles of endurance trails.
Veterans included 2 Hall of Famers - Joyce Sousa and Robert Ribley, and 5 Haggin Cup (Best Condition in the Tevis) winners - Rusty Toth and Farrabba (2012), Sue Hedgecock and Julioslastchance (2013), and Melissa Ribley (2009). Joyce Sousa teared up at the company she kept. "I am so blessed to be here. Not only are these exceptional athletes, but exceptional people!"
In addition, a number of long-time, high-mileage riders saddled up their horses for the rides: Robert (32,700+ miles) and Melissa Ribley (19,000+ miles), Dennis and Sue Summers (17,700+ miles each), Joyce Sousa (22,200+ miles - riding 20-year old LV Integrity: 8300+ miles, and 34 100-mile completions), Steve Rojek (23,500+ miles), Christoph Schork (25,000+ miles), Bev Gray (18,000+ miles), Suzanne Ford Huff (15,800+ miles), and ride manager Steph Teeter (14,400+ miles), who managed to squeeze in the 50 mile ride on her 22-year-old, 6000+ mile gelding Jaziret Bey Musc to sponsor Canadian junior Katya Levermann.
The location for the 2013 Championships was City of Rocks National Reserve outside of Almo, Idaho. The park is distinctive for its spectacular combination of scenic, historic, and geological aspects, and the championship rides represented a unique cooperation between the National Park service, State Parks, Forest Service, and BLM, as well as the local farmers and ranchers, who likely had never seen such an event in their small town (Almo, population around 140). It was the second time the championships were held in Idaho (the 2007 Championships were held in Oreana in the southwest of Idaho, and were also put on by Steph Teeter).
The trails would be tough. The 50 mile ride had approximately 6500 total feet of elevation gain/loss, and the 100-mile ride had 11,000 total feet of elevation gain/loss, with the low point for both rides at 5318 feet, and the high point in the Albion mountains of 8513 feet. Heavy rain the week before the ride eliminated dust on the trails, and cooler weather moved in for the ride, which would be perfect for the horses.
The 50-mile Championship on Friday, September 20 saw 58 starters. Christoph Schork of Moab, Utah, the winningest rider in US endurance history (as of September 2010, he had 200 wins, with a 92% completion rate and over 80 Best Condition awards) was one of the favorites, riding GE Stars Aflame. The pair won the 2011 AERC National 100-mile Championship in New Mexico. Pacific Northwest endurance veteran Dennis Summers riding 7-year-old Hey Soulsister, and Utah's Sue Hedgecock and this year's Haggin Cup winner LZP Julioslastchance, were top contenders, as well as Colorado's Kevin Myers (9000+ miles) and Auli Farwa.
Flying first into vet check 1 after the first 17-mile loop were Christoph Schork, and David Enns of the northwest region. The pair was 21 minutes ahead of the next group of 8 riders, which included Sue Hedgecock, Dennis Summers and Kevin Myers. "The start was crazy," Myers said - five miles of pretty straight unpaved road, where fresh horses could see their competition all the way into Utah. Steph Teeter, on her older horse who at times thinks he's still a 5-year-old, said, "I had the reins double wrapped around my hands!"
Loop 2 was a 23 mile loop up the mountain and back down. Many of the front runners were off on foot running the downhills - "full speed, flat out!" Myers said. The front runners stayed closely bunched, while the rest of the field stretched way out coming into vet check 2, over 3 1/2 hours of spread from first to last.
Myers, Summers, and Gwen Hall were first into the second vet check, with Bill Fullmer 2 minutes behind them, and Tom Johnson and Schork 5 minutes behind them.
10 miles left to the finish it was anybody's guess as to who would win the sprint in - and indeed it was a race. In the view from the finish line, two riders popped into view in a gallop for a mile down a rough 2-track road, with a sharp right-hand turn onto the main road and the last 50 yards to the finish line: Dennis Summers on Hey Soulsister, and Christoph Schork on GE Stars Aflame. Neither horses slowed down for the turn. Schork had a short lead turning the corner but he went a bit wide, while Summers cut the corner and sliced into Schork's lead. The two gray mares matched strides exactly, running flat out, thundering to the finish line, with Christoph and GE Stars Aflame coming in a length ahead of Summers and Hey Soulsister, in a finish time of 4:44.31. It was over 40 minutes faster than the almost identical course was run a month earlier.
Wasn't it scary, racing in that fast, at the end of the tough 50 miles? "Aw, no, it was fun!" Summers said. "I was just worried about how I was going to make that turn!" Hey Soulsister now has a record of 13 starts and 13 completions. The Summers got her as a 3-year-old from Richard Kiekow in Montana, on a ranch where his Arabian racehorses run around like mustangs for their formative years. Darlene Anderson broke and started her, and the Summers picked and spaced the mare's races carefully - as they do with all their horses. "Everything I throw at her, she's like - 'I don't care, give me more,'" Summers said.
Schork isn't intimidated by leading a sprint to the finish either. "When I'm in front, I don't even think about it. It's when I'm behind racing in, that I think about it, because A, your horse may not pay total attention to what he's doing, and B, if the horse in front of you stumbles, there's going to be all kinds of chaos!"
GE Stars Aflame is an 11-year-old mare by Flaming Tigre out of Samoa Star by Sam Star, who now has a record of 49 completions in 52 starts, with 12 Best Condition awards, and a Tevis Cup finish (with Rose Ross aboard), and the 2011 100-mile AERC Championship under her girth.
Less than a minute later was another sprint for the finish, with Kevin Myers and Auli Farwa edging Gwen Hall for 3rd place by a length.
Myers' 13-year-old "Far" is an endurance miracle on 4 legs. Suffering a severe fetlock injury in his paddock at age 6 before he ever did an endurance ride, he completely recovered to earn 3220 miles and complete 52 of 52 rides, including 11 100-milers and 4 Tevis Cups (including a 3rd and 5th place). "It was frantic!" Myers said. "The whole ride! I was pulling on the reins, had my feet out in front of me - and nothing!" Far would have nothing to do with rating on this championship day. "Fantastic ride," Myers commented afterwards. "Beautiful, challenging trail."
Tom Johnson and AM Lady Liberty Wins, who finished in 6th place 14 minutes behind the winner, received the Best Condition award. Sue Hedgecock's LZP Julioslastchance, who finished in 8th place 25 minutes behind the winner, received High Vet Score.
Saturday was a break between the 50 and 100-mile rides. Christoph Schork hosted a hoof clinic sponsored by Easycare, and riders and crews spent the day getting ready for the 100 mile ride, which would start at 6:30 AM.
Forty-five riders crossed the starting line for the 100. Favorites to win would be Christoph Schork riding Starlit Way, Bev Gray riding Jolly Sickle (2012 National Best Condition horse), Sue and Dennis Summers, riding 18-year-old Mags Motivator and AH Bantiki, Kevin Myers riding Farrabba (the 2012 Haggin Cup winner), Rusty Toth riding FV Aulmystery, and Clydea Hastie riding Ashquar's Dream.
The first 48 miles of trail were identical to Friday's 50-mile course, which meant the first 5 miles were down that straight road to Utah. But in the dark under a bright moon, the 100-milers took off a bit more calmly, without the craziness of the 50-mile start.
The front runners distinguished themselves early and stayed in front in approximately the same positions all the way to the 3rd vet check at 60 miles. Schork and Gray held onto a several-minutes lead, followed by a close group of the Summers, Toth, Myers, and Suzanne Ford Huff. Huff took a tumble when her horse tripped before the vet check, but Sue helped her back on and Suzanne stayed with the front pack.
By the 4th vet check back at base camp, with 16 miles to go in the ride, Huff had taken the lead by a few minutes, as she headed out into the falling darkness. Hot on her tail were the Summers and Myers. Gray had backed off with Jolly Sickle. Schork and Toth's horses couldn't keep up the pace, and they stayed longer than their 50 minute hold in camp so their horses could rest and eat longer.
At the finish line, out of the darkness at 8:37 PM came the bobbing of glowsticks on breast collars and a thundering of hooves, with Kevin Myers and Farrabba edging out Suzanne Ford Huff by a length in the final sprint, for a ride time of 10:57. Two minutes later, Sue and Dennis Summers crossed the finish line. It was 55 minutes before the next finishers came in: Laura Yost in 5th on OT El Din RSI, Bev Gray on Jolly Sickle in 6th, Christoph Schork on Starlit Way in 7th, and Rusty Toth on FV Aulmystery in 8th. Rounding out the top ten were Terry and Nathan Bradley - Nathan being first Junior.
Myers, with over 9000 AERC miles, is on the line between newcomer and old timer, having started in the sport in 1995 with a couple of rides, and diving in the deep end in 2002.
12-year-old Farrabba, by Rabba Baron out of VF Farrubi by Ibn Farlane, now has a record of 2665 miles, with 49 finishes in 52 starts, including 5 100-milers, 3 of them Tevis finishes and a Haggin Cup. You'd never know it to watch him - they don't call him 'Stoner' for nothing."He's so chill," Myers said. "He never gets ruffled. At the beginning of the ride, he's so calm, it's like you don't think he's going to make 100 miles. He doesn't care if 20 horses pass him; he just keeps moving down the trail. But he gets stronger as the day goes on. He's just incredible, a very special horse." Indeed, at the end of the 100 miles, the horse didn't look any different, stressed physically or mentally, than he did the day before the ride.
Next morning it was Sue Summers' Mags Motivator who won High Vet Score and Best Condition.
34 horse/rider pairs completed the 100-mile ride. Steve Rojek, riding Chi Hi, was one of those, for his 145th 100-mile completion. It was Chi Hi's 14th 100-mile completion. Rojek's riding partner Kyle Gibbon took a tumble on course when his horse LJ Beaujolais stepped in a gopher hole. The billets on one side of his saddle broke, and they jerry-rigged a solution with another rider's zip ties. They also went on to finish the ride, making 6535 career endurance miles and 32 100-mile completions for Gibbon, and 17 100-mile completions for the horse.
Rojek and Gibbon came all the way across the country for this championship ride (from Vermont), as did Tom and Gina Hagis, from Virginia. Riders and ride managers, the Hagises arrived at City of Rocks early and chipped in to help set up ridecamp and mark trail before the rides; and Gina finished 10th on Lumina in the 50, and Tom finished the 100 in 21st place on Ali Mostafa.
A number of Canadians traveled to the Championships. Elroy Karius finished 11th in the 50 on Diamond Reo, but was pulled at the finish of the 100 on Apache Eclypse. "It was still one of my best rides ever on him," Karius philosophically said of the 18-year-old. "It was a fantastic trail. Beautiful course!"
Canadian junior rider Anya Levermann finished turtle on the 100, riding the mustang Bishop, with her sponsor Cynthia Peticolas on BBA Farheed, at 5:41 AM, after 20 hours of riding. It was Anya's 2nd 100-mile completion in as many starts.
In fact the record of the juniors - AERC's 'new guard' - at the 2013 National Championships was outstanding: a 100% completion rate. Three juniors started and finished the 100; 5 juniors started and completed the 50. One of those was Sarah Holloway, who rode her first 50-mile endurance ride this year, finished 6 rides to qualify for this National championship, and finished the 50 miler, riding all of them with her aunt Connie Holloway.
The overall finish rates for National Championship rides were remarkable. The 50 miler had a 84% completion rate; the 100 a 75% completion rate, and it wasn't because the trails were easy. The cooler weather probably helped most of the horses (though there were a few tie-ups on the 100, where it was cold and gusty windy early in the day), and simply the riders' excellent management of their horses.
A took a village to set up the ride - a village from far away. Ride managers Steph Teeter and Regina Rose accomplished an amazing feat of putting on a successful National Championship ride 4 hours from home. "No matter how many people work their butts off and no matter how many days early we arrive, and all of that, it still seems like we're frantically rushing around up until the last minute," Teeter said before the 50 miler. "Scurrying around after dark loading stuff for the out vet checks, finishing up ride entries, etc…" but it is obviously a labor of love for them. Both Teeter and Rose were already discussing trails for their next 3-day home ride 3 weeks later, before the National Championship wrapped up!
Volunteers were indispensable on every aspect of the ride - setting up, running the ride, and taking everything down. Several local northwest riders came and stayed the entire weekend. Roger and Sue Taylor came from New Mexico specifically to help with the ride. The veterinarians - head vet Mike Foss, Art King, Robert Washington and Matt Dredge were excellent and efficient, particularly during the chaos of the first vet checks in each ride.
A complete wrap-up of the ride - photos, stories, results, can be seen at