Thursday, November 4, 2021

Last Ride of the 2021 Season: Owyhee Halloween

by Merri

Wrapping up with the last ride of the season in the Northwest region: the Owyhee Halloween ride in the desert of southwest Idaho.

Good people, good horses, great weather, great trails, a bunch of good costumes, and a fun time.

Junior costume winner Neve Pruzan on Kismet Bolero!

Willie was supposed to be an Appaloosa/Standardbred, but I didn't do a very good job on his spots!

Convict Connie from the Dept of Corrections

Captain Jack Sparrow (aboard Jack) and his (Debbie's) little sidekick (granddaughter)

Grownup Costume winner winner Steven Coziah on The Duchess of Beatty's Butte!

Now: Bring on winter!

Thursday, September 9, 2021

2021 Old Selam Pioneer: Put This Ride on Your Bucket List!

September 9 2021
by Merri

The Old Selam Endurance ride is named after a legendary horse named Old Selam who helped two prisoners escape from the Old Idaho State Penitentiary in 1901. The first man to try was Bob Meeks, of the Butch Cassidy gang. He unhitched Old Selam from the wagon and took off, headed north into the hills (the very hills the ride traverses), but he was caught the next day and returned to the prison with Old Selam.

5 days later another prisoner, Sam Bruner stole a saddle and bridle and Old Selam and escaped. Same was never caught, but Old Selam was found 6 months later far south near Swan Falls dam on the Snake River.

Nobody knows if Old Selam was drafted or if he was complicit in the escapes, but we’d all like to think he was gung ho for the adventures, and that we’re all chasing his spirited ghost out there on our Endurance ride trails. The Old Selam ride started in 1979 right out of the prison, (which opened in 1872 to “some of the West’s most desperate criminals,” and functioned until 1973), trying to retrace some of Old Selam’s escape trails, and eventually moved up to the current Ridecamp in New Centerville, which is surrounded by its own deep history of mining during the gold rush.

It’s a true village that puts on the Old Selam Pioneer ride in southwest Idaho over Labor Day. It’s SWITnDR’s (SouthWest Idaho Trail and Distance Riders) fundraiser ride. Club members put the ride on and run it. Our Ridecamp is on Cini Baumhoff’s family land in a sweet spot under the trees by Grimes Creek.

I like to call Old Selam the ‘best kept Endurance ride secret in the Northwest’… but we don’t want it to be a secret. Put this on your Bucket List. It’s a challenging ride with the ups and downs of the forested hills (riding day 1’s 50 aboard Owyhee Justice, Karen Bumgarner recorded over 5400 feet of elevation gain), and the footing is simply spectacular. I have not ridden another Endurance ride in the USA with such incredibly good footing over the entire ride.

Trails are so well marked, you’d have to be a total doofus to miss a turn (and 4 of us did, at a water trough, because we were totally distracted :) , total pilot error). Weather was almost perfect this year, below freezing in the mornings (!!!) and just reaching the 90s during the days, with just enough breeze to make it decent, and, beside a certain water trough each day on the loops, FROZEN OTTER POPS!!!!!!

About 35 riders started each day, and over all 3 days, of the 113 starters, there were only 3 pulls.

3 completed the 155 mile Pioneer: David Laws on Che Ole, Virginia Jenkins and RA China Doll, and Nicole Kinsey on Phyre Storm Z. 4 finished all 3 days of 25s: Vicki Nickels on TCA IMA Famous Star, Bethany Booher on Jean, Carrie Johnson on DWA Einstein, and Jennifer Leach on her lovely mule Applejack.

Vet’s Choice of Getaway horses, you know, the mount you’d like to have if you were escaping from prison and trying to put great distance between you and the authorities, were RA China Doll and Applejack.

This year’s Old Selam was proud to be the showcase for a couple of astonishing AERC records:

• Suzie Hayes of Montana reached 100 Best Conditions when her Al Marah Triple Speed won and BC’d on Day 1’s 50.

• And after finishing the Day 1 50 on OT Rasa RSI, Crockett Dumas from Utah reached 50,000 AERC miles.

Just a little more inspiration for those of us trotting along behind or beside them.

See more from this ride at:

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

2020 Owyhee Halloween - End to a Spooky Year

November 4 2020
by Merri

Well, all in all, the 2020 endurance ride season can pretty much be summed up as a Nut Job.

But the last ride of the season in the Pacific Northwest, the Owyhee Halloween ride in southwest Idaho, served up perfect weather, just the right amount of challenge in the trails, and enough fairies and princesses and giraffes to make any desert trick or treater, and basically any horse-riding-loving human, happy.

New basecamp was just down the highway near Regina Rose's old place, so we were able to re-visit some of our old trails along the Snake River around Wildhorse Butte. The golden late fall sun makes the water a deep blue you mostly only see in high alpine lakes. Because the summer has been so dry (it last rained somewhere around 1776 or thereabouts) the gophers have taken over some of the two-tracks and cow trails, burrowing under the fine moon dust so that footing would sometimes collapse under a thousand pound animal trotting along. But it's just like any other ride that has challenges… you just had to slow down and watch the footing in places.

14 riders started the 50 - nobody wanted the lead going out and nobody was in a hurry all day - and 11 finished (3 were rider option pulls). Marlene Moss aboard Topper came in first in 6:33, with second place Stace Moss - victoriously Un-bucked off his horse Hank - getting Best Condition. Marlene hit her goal this year of riding all their horses in a ride, and making it to all the rides in the NW region. Nance Worman who finished 3rd aboard Smokey got her Sandybar award - 10 ride completions aboard one horse in a season without a pull.

14 riders started the 25 with all finishing. Kristy Butler and Titan won in 3:27 and 8th place Linda Fickett and Tsultan got Best Condition. Junior Kinley Thunehorst finished third aboard Lady, that's 11 finishes this year for her (including several multi-day rides) in just her second year of riding. Go Juniors!

The Witch of the Wizard of Oz clan had the best Junior costume and the Princess Bride (Jill Hanould) had the best adult costume. Several grandma-grandchild combinations hit the trail together this year!

So ended the strange 2020 endurance ride season out Northwest. Maybe the full blue moon on Halloween was a good sign. 2021 can't possibly be as discombobulated, right?

 More from the ride at:


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:

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

2020 Antelope Island

Wednesday September 20 2020
by Merri Melde

It was a bummer when the Antelope Island endurance ride (on Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake, Utah) was cancelled in April due to COVID-19, but it was the State Park people who contacted ride manager Jeff Stuart in the fall and asked him if he wanted to put on the ride then. Jeff was able to scramble together a date and plan, and for the first time in memory (not counting the AERC National Championships in 2016) Antelope Island happened this last weekend in September. We all remembered “Aunt” Shirley Fox, who’s been an integral part of this ride since the beginning over 30 years ago. She passed away suddenly last fall, and she left a big hole behind her.

Driving in on Friday the whole area was blanketed in the wildfire smoke that’s been plaguing the West the last couple of months and hampering training and riding and living conditions for so many people. But by Friday evening the smoke had cleared from the island and surrounding mountain ranges, revealing the familiar scenic mountain and lake views that make this ride so spectacular.

But wait - what happened to the Great Salt Lake?! Due to thirsty humans, the water level has receded so far you can only see the blue water in the distance, even if you are standing on the (ex-)shoreline of Ridecamp on White Rock Bay. The thirsty humans aren’t drinking the salty water itself, but sucking almost dry the in-flowing rivers before they get there. The water is almost 11 feet lower than in it was 10 years ago and shrinking more than a foot a year. It’s noticeably lower than it was at the ride just a year and a half ago.

Because it wasn’t buffalo calving season, day 1 trails took riders on the southwest side of the island, where the ride rarely gets to go.

Days 1 and 2 had a rider limit due to state COVID restrictions on gatherings. Day 1 was right at the limit, but only about half the riders hit the trail on day 2, which always seems to happen on the multi-days, even in this weird ride season.

Here are some highlights of this year’s ride:

Sunsets were just amazing! You can pretty much count on one every night.

Young Rider Alex Shampoe from Colorado Springs, who has an envious habit of pick-up riding, pick-up rode the 50s, finishing 7th on Day 1 aboard BH Chief, and 4th aboard DWA Malik on Day 2.

Christoph Schork was a familiar face in the 50-mile ’winner’s circle’, finishing first on both days, aboard aboard GE Atticus Golden Sun and GE Haatra (and Best Condition). One of his awards was a dozen fresh chicken eggs from Tonya's chickens!

Gayle Pena and Bo achieved Decade Team after day 1’s 50 - at least one 50-mile ride over 10 years. Congrats!

Diane and John Stevens made the journey from Northern California. They both rode and finished both days of 50s. Titan, ridden by John, got his 3000 miles.

Nina Bomar and Juan traveled all the way from southern California to finally do an endurance ride this year. Nimo did his first 50-mile ride on Day 1, and Saudii did Day 2. Of course Juan made his famous tacos, and a couple other meals, one of which I was lucky enough to time just right!


“He’s fresh off the boat,” William Marshall said of Kvistor. It brought back memories of my 8-day ride in Iceland last fall aboard Icelandic horses for 300+ kilometers, one of THE. BEST. adventures of my life.

Kvistor was tired after his first 25-mile ride, and I’m sure William was like, OK, enough already, because I couldn’t keep my hands off his horse, but I had to photobomb him!

Kudos to Jeff and Tonya Call Me Annie Stroud Oakes and Gary Oakes and Terri Williams, and the crew/recruited Dave Goodwin, the vets, and all those enthusiastic vet students, and all the other volunteers, for pulling off another great edition of Antelope Island.

See more photos at:

Thursday, September 10, 2020

2020 Old Selam: Best Kept Secret In The Northwest!

by Merri
September 10 2020

The secret is out (or will be after this year’s edition): Old Selam is one of the best endurance rides in the whole Western end of the U.S.

With some AERC members off-shoot splintering into separate little groups - at least one of which is now imploding - I sure do appreciate our little local grassroots endurance riding group, SWITnDR, SouthWest Idaho Trail And Distance Riders. The club was incorporated in 1979. The "Old Selam Endurance Ride and Ride & Tie," managed by Byron Merideth, was one of the club’s first projects in 1979, with Ridecamp inside the old prison complex of the Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise, next to the barns.

So this year marked more than 40 renditions of Old Selam, in some form or another (one year we had an ‘Old Selam Redux’ near Weiser when we couldn’t use the usual forest trails around Idaho City). The ride is named after an old horse, Selam, who worked in the Idaho State Penitentiary. He was used twice by inmates to escape the prison. One of Butch Cassidy’s pals, Bob Meeks, ‘borrowed’ Selam to make his escape on December 24, 1901. He was caught the next day (Merry Christmas, Bob!) and both he and Selam returned to the prison. Five days later, prisoner Sam Bruner nabbed old Selam to make his escape, and the two were never seen again.

COVID chaos moved the Mary and Anna Memorial ride in Oregon to the weekend before, which probably hurt both of us, but Old Selam this year was a 3-day Pioneer ride, which gave you more bang for the driving buck, particularly for those riders from Nevada and California and Arizona, since rides have been few and far between in some states, due to COVID-19 and the restrictions placed on rides, and due to wildfires burning up western states. 

Old Selam is our club fundraiser ride, and so many people work so hard to come together to put this ride on. I won’t even attempt to name all the people who chipped in with the months of planning, weeks of camping out and marking trails, and all the volunteering with the many jobs during the ride to keep things running smoothly, and all the days (weeks?) afterwards that people will be unmarking trail. Special mention does go to Cini Baumhoff, whose family owns the land that we Ridecamp on beside Grimes Creek near the old town of New Centerville.

It was looking to be a very pleasant ride weekend… and then came the heat wave. Day 1 the temperature reached 102*. Days 2 and 3 were about as hot, though slight relief came in the form of, ironically, haze and smoke that drifted in, taking away the pretty views but veiling the power of the sun. There was approximately a 50* difference between the night lows and the day highs!

55 riders hit the trail on Day 1’s 25 and 50. 

Carrie Johnson and Payback Daysea Duke won the 25 miler in a time of 3:43, with 9th place Roz Cusack getting BC on Sally Tarbet’s Greta. 24 of the 27 starters finished.
 Winning and coming second in the 50 was the familiar Montana duo of Lynn Lee and (second) Suzie Hayes, aboard their youngsters in 6:42, with Suzie’s Al Marah Triple Speed getting Best Condition. If you’ll recall, Suzie was fresh off winning the Big Horn 100 aboard Sanstormm 5 weeks earlier… which gave all her broken bones time to knit more! Cadence Pearce, granddaughter of Lee Pearce and Naomi Preston, finished her first 50 mile ride aboard Belesema Esperanza (and got the Turtle award!). A couple of riders collapsed from heat exhaustion, but fortunately they were sufficiently revived by cold drinks, air conditioning at Cini’s parents’ house, and nurse Marilyn Hornbaker. 26 of 28 starters finished.

22 started Day 2’s 25 miler, with 20 finishing. Liesl Lemke won aboard Race T Wildfire in 3:39, and got Best Condition.

14 started the 55 miler, with 12 finishing. Suzy Hayes and Atlas won in 5:45. They were almost 1 hour and 45 minutes ahead of second place Jeff Stewart and DWA Malik. How do they move so fast? Well, take one look at the amazing Atlas, 16.2 snowflake-white Anglo Arabian, and after you fall in love with him and watch him move, you’ll totally see how. They also got Best Condition.

Day 3’s 25 had 28 starters with all finishing. Karen Steenhof and Riley smoked the course in 3:28, with second place Lynn Lee and Al Marah Fastnfire getting Best Condition.

Day 3’s 50 had 14 starters, with 13 finishing. Suzie Hayes and Sanstormm won in 5:05, and (surprise) got Best Condition. Cadence Pearce finished in 13th with Belesema Esperanza again, her second 50-miler, and proclaimed she loves endurance, even after she was ceremoniously dunked in the water trough afterwards.

Old Selam’s trails really are incomparable - for a mountain ride, they are remarkably un-rocky, and many of the old two-track logging roads are gentle climbs and descents. Water troughs were strategically placed everywhere, and the best water stop of the day was the one where a cooler awaited with ice water and otter pops - most welcomed on sweltering days. 

And the trails were marked so well, it was impossible to get lost (which one or two people still managed to do…). At least one rider saw a bear, and Liz and Linda shuttled many people a mile or so out of camp on Day 3 to gawk at a HUGE moose sitting in a meadow. Coyotes serenaded Ridecamp every night, and though I didn’t hear them this year, you might get lucky one year and hear a pack of wolves. And if you get really really lucky, next year you might catch a ghost-glimpse of old Selam, galloping through the forest with an escaped prisoner on his back.

Hillbillie Willie says hi to famous Dave Rabe and famous Cocamoe Joe and famous White Cloud

I pose with the Montanans, including 3 Big Horn winners (from right Atlas, Suzie Hayes, Sanstormm)

Old Selam trails are The Bomb - look at that footing!


Just a wee slice of the many many volunteers, post ride!

More photos at:

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

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

by Merri

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: