Saturday, October 17, 2020

2020 Autumn Sun 5-day Pioneer

by Merri
October 16 2020

As if starting off as a first-time ride manager 3 years ago with a 3-day Autumn Sun Pioneer ride near Gooding, Idaho, wasn't a big enough event, Jessica Huber took on the challenge of a 5-day ride during this year's COVID-challenged season, Thursday-Monday, October 8-12.

Each year, the same private landowners have generously allowed Jessica to use a sweet fenced pasture as Ridecamp at the base of the Bennett Hills, surrounded by BLM trails. Every year Jessica is adding some new trails, and every year, the BLM gets a little more permissive in what she can mark. And even if she is only allowed to mark the two-track roads, riders can follow the cow trails, and we all know cows don't like rocky trails, and they make their own smooth paths right beside the roads.

Riders came from as far away as southern California to escape wildfire smoke and to get their mileage in, since endurance rides in that state have been pretty much non-existent this year due to fires and smoke and COVID restrictions. The Autumn Sun ride was able to proceed with the COVID protocols that have been established for the AERC endurance rides this year, which includes wearing masks in the vet check areas to keep the vets and volunteers safe, since they are the ones who encounter every rider at some point or another. (Only One Guy had trouble with this concept; please, don't be That Guy and put our rides in jeopardy, because there are plenty of other places you don't have to wear a mask.)

Aside from the normal swings in Idaho weather (wearing shorts one day, wearing 5 layers of insulation the next day), an added bonus this year was an autumn hurricane Saturday night, starting in the late afternoon with a breeze, then sprinkles and breeze, then (after the last riders got in) rain, then heavy rain, then sprinkles, then THE HURRICANE.

Warmest place to eat spaghetti was in my car!

My tent has weathered strong wind before, but nothing like this. And though I expected at any minute for it to be ripped up in the air and spun across Ridecamp with me still inside it, it survived without so much as a tear. Thank you REI!

While bracing myself in my tent for disaster (imagining tarps flying, pens flattening, horses running around in a panic, and trailers tumbling), I think only one horse got loose, and he came over to visit his friends near us, and he was quickly and easily rounded up and led back home. The storm did take some of the horses out of the ride Sunday morning, as many stood hunched over with their blanketed butts braced to the wind, and a few were a bit stiff in the morning.

Other notable excitement was the spotting of a cougar in the canyon on the morning loop of day 5, by Tom Currier and his wife Traci. Alas, I was shooting pictures in the canyon in the afternoon, so I missed it. Which - I don't know, depending on how you look at it - might be a good thing.

Day 1 finish, Ellen Hensley, Christoph, and Suzy Hayes tying for first

The biggest news of the ride was that Christoph Schork, from Moab, Utah, won all 5 days of 50s (aboard 3 different horses , GE Pistol Annie - 1 win, VA Blizzard of Oz - 2 wins, GE Haat Rod - 2 wins ), vaulting him to over 400 AERC wins, a mind-boggling record. He also won Best Condition 4 of the days (Suzie Hayes' Sanstormm got BC on day 1), giving him another AERC-record 200 Best Conditions over his endurance career. More on Christoph in the next article.

Other big news of note:
Four riders and horses completed all 5 days of LDs:
- Steve Downs and Kenlyn Hot Shot, and Carol Bischoff riding Kenlynn Struts, both from California (both Kenlyn Arabians bred by Linda Fisher)
- Marlene and Stace Moss, aboard Mikel and Cerro Blanco (and Stace did not get bucked off once!)

And, this year for the first time, we had not one, but two winners of the Junior Iron-Horse award, which this year included three days of a combination of the City of Rocks Pioneer in June, Top O' The World Pioneer in July, Old Selam Pioneer in September, and Autumn Sun: Kinley Thunehorst, riding Lady (sponsored by Rebecca Jones), and Joslynn Terry, riding SAR Tiki Eclipse (sponsored by Marlene and Stacie Moss… or was it Joslynn sponsoring them). Go Iron Horse Juniors, the wave of our AERC endurance future!

Photos and more from the ride at: