Archived Historical Articles

A Short History of Modern Endurance Riding

from the February 1979 issue of Endurance News

by Marion Arnold


This year (1979) modern endurance riding celebrates the running of the 25th annual Western States 100 Miles in One Day Trail Ride. Our sport has come a long way since that cold, windy day in January 1955 when the Sacramento Sheriff’s Posse was taking a weekend trail ride up the American River from Auburn. The conversation that day was about how modern horses have gotten soft and are not as good as those used by the emigrant pioneers and Pony Express riders.


A mission of mercy

My grandfather, Wendell Robie, alone dissented. He felt today’s horses were every bit as good if not better than their ancestors who helped settle the West. He remembered an incident which occurred when he was managing a lumber company in Benson, Arizona. A small boy was sick in the mountains 43 miles away. He needed some medicine, but it could not be delivered over a blocked road.


The authorities when to Wendell and asked him to deliver the medicine to the boy on horseback. He quickly saddled a young mare he was breaking and rode off on the mission of mercy. When he reached the boy and the situation was in hand, he shod his mare — she had gotten a little foot-sore after racing 43 miles barefoot — and made the return trip in time to put in a few hours at his office that afternoon.


The mare was in good shape and could have easily made another 14 miles for a total of 100 miles in less than 24 hours.


The sheriff’s posse challenge

Wendell felt a test of endurance was in order to settle the sheriff’s posse debate. He called the U.S. Forest Service and found that the distance from Tahoe City to Auburn was 102 miles. The ride would follow the old Emigrant Trail across the Sierras which Wendell had helped pioneer Bob Watson mark in the 1930s. Some of those signs remain today.


The humane societies objected vigorously to the ride as cruel to animals. Many letters were written to the editors of all the local newspapers and threats were made to stop the ride by arresting the riders. Wendell called the School of Veterinary Medicine at U.C. Davis to arrange for veterinarians to check the horses at several points along the route.


The Sacramento SPCA sent a crew of officers to observe the ride for violations of cruelty to animal laws. They were surprised to see that no cruelty occurred and the one horse which got tired withdrew at the 66-mile point. The humane society officers present on the ride that year and in following years insured strict adherence to the highest standard of veterinary inspection and control.


At 5:20 a.m. on August 7, 1955, Wendell Robie, accompanied by Nevada horseman and rancher Nick Mansfield and three other riders, left the post office in Tahoe City and headed down the long trail to Auburn.


Wendell rode into Auburn on his grey Arabian stallion Bandos 22 hours and 25 minutes later, having conquered the mountains and proven beyond a doubt that at least some of our modern horses are as tough as those of the previous century.


Nick Mansfield, Billy Patrick and Pat Sewell also finished before the 24 hours were up, proving their outstanding horsemanship as well as the endurance of their fine horses.


The ride, reprised

The ride was to be a one-time-only affair, but so many people said they wanted to try it, too, now that they knew it was possible, it was decided to do it again the next summer during the full of the riding moon.


Some women (heaven forbid!) even wanted to try it. They were so persistent and made so much noise that they were allowed to enter, but they were told that if they got in any trouble they were on their own and had to get out of it by themselves.


Twelve women entered and 10 finished the next ride. The men did not finish nearly as well. A noted cardiologist said this was to be expected since women are known to have much greater endurance than men even though they are called “the weaker sex.”


Awards added

In 1959, Will Tevis and his brothers donated the Tevis Cup in memory of their grandfather, who was president of Wells Fargo. The winner of the Western States 100 Miles in One Day Trail Ride (WSTR) each year is the rider with the fastest time. He [or she] receives a gold medallion and name engraved on the handsome cup.


The Haggin Cup was donated later to honor the best conditioned horse (or mule, as the case might be). All who finish receive a sterling silver and gold 100 Miles One Day belt buckle.


When several riders had completed their 10th ride, a special 1000 Miles Ten Days buckle was awarded. Only 10 of these have been won to date [now 64, according to].


The popular AERC rider program which recognizes rider mileage is based on this same idea as is behind this prestigious 1000 mile award. The early Western States Trail Rides were held in conjunction with a three- to five-day pleasure ride. This idea works quite well today [1979] in the Midwest Region where both competitive and endurance rides are held on the same weekend — many riders compete in both, like double champion Louise Riedel; others ride one and crew on the other.


Endurance gets organized

In 1971 there were about 21 endurance rides in the Western United States. There were also some rides in the Midwest. It was very difficult to find out where the rides were, when they were held, and to whom you had to write for information. I remember hearing about a ride in Calico: “Where the heck is Calico?” “Well, you go to Bakersfield, hang a left, and then ask at some gas stations. It’s out there somewhere in the desert.”


Endurance riders had to be ready to pack up and leave at a moment’s notice when rumor of a new ride reached them — usually just a day or two before the ride. Sometimes the ride was over before word reached most of the riders.


One weekend during the winter between 1971 and 1972, a group of about 25 endurance riders from Northern California and western Nevada met to found the American Endurance Ride Conference. A ride list was prepared, inquiries were answered, an award system was set up and five rules were made to define an endurance ride:

  1. Horses under control of veterinarians.
  2. No minimum time limit.
  3. All who finish receive an award.
  4. An award for fastest time.
  5. An award for best condition.

From 695 rider-horse teams riding 24 rides in 1972, the conference has grown to 1735 rider-horse teams riding 190,455 miles on 139 rides in 1978. [In 2006, there were 825 rides totalling 806,280 miles.]


Looking back and ahead

As we look back, we can be proud of our accomplishments. But we must also look to the future of endurance riding.


Veterinarian inspection and control must be maintained at the very highest standard. No animal should be allowed to suffer just so a person can receive an award. When a horse suffers injury on an endurance ride because his rider is more interested in winning than in the welfare of his horse, we all share in the blame and the shame.


Trail awareness must be in all who ride. We must work together with other trail users to develop a national system of trails so that everyone who owns a horse has a trail to ride! It is never too late to do something, but the longer we wait, the harder it gets. We must make trails a part of the public record in every county of every state in this country.


AERC must assume a leadership role in education, trail legislation, and equine research. To do this it needs to improve member communication and maintain a broad base of support of all rides and all riders.


AERC can only coordinate activity. Without active members nothing can be done. You are the future of endurance riding. What you do over the next few years will spell the success or failure of our sport in the future.


What We Have Learned from Endurance Riding

from the Sept./Oct. 1973 issue of Endurance Digest

by Kerry Ridgway, DVM


Twenty years ago, on the firm belief that the horses of today are as good as the horses of 100 years ago, Mr. Wendell Robie of Auburn, California, sought and received assignment as a special courier for the United States Postal Service.


With the company of a few good people, they re-created an epoch of the Pony Express days by traveling 100 miles of rugged Sierra terrain in a 24-hour period utilizing but one horse per rider. With this first “Western States Trail Ride” and the strong legacy of our past, a new nationwide sport which would come to be known as “endurance riding” was born.


The sport has now come of age with recognition by groups such as the California State Horsemen’s Association. Endurance riding is also gaining recognition by many horse registries. We have come to see breeding farms advertise their stock as endurance-proven and young endurance prospects. The American Endurance Ride Conference is working toward a national standard for the sport.


As much as all concerned recognize the associated growing pains, one must still recognize the sophistication of the horses, riders, nutrition, conditioning and management of endurance riding — especially in the last five years.


We are a nation of competitive people and perhaps the one we like most to compete with is ourselves. Endurance riding has provided a sport where you don’t have to win the ride or even finish in the top 10 to know and recognize a sense of achievement and accomplishment that comes with completion of a ride.


One of the finest results obtained has been the bringing together of people of all age groups and walks of life with the horses of all variety of lineage, pedigree — or lack of pedigree — to a common enjoyment. In no sport has the generation gap been more beautifully bridged. Where else might you see a middle-aged man on, say, a five-thousand-dollar Arabian, a young boy on a 20-year-old Mustang, and an elderly woman on a grade horse traveling together, but most importantly enjoying each other’s company and the same piece of trail — certainly not a sight common to the tennis court, golf course, football or baseball field.


It is a pleasure to witness horses trained and conditioned to peak fitness by progressively more competent riders.


Endurance and trail events have awakened the veterinary profession to its limited knowledge of equine stress diseases. Research has been stimulated and supported by endurance and NATRC people for studies of such conditions as tying-up, azoturia, “thumps,” fatigue colics and electrolyte imbalance in stress.


Many veterinarians have become adept in managing veterinary aspects of endurance that carry over into daily practice, thus helping many horsemen outside of endurance riders, as well as becoming progressively more educated to shoeing, tack, nutrition and conditioning . . . steps so important in becoming a horseman instead of just a rider.


There are few places where you can have more opportunity to communicate with your mount and really study and learn what makes you both tick than spending the long hours of a hundred miles contemplating each other and the nature that abounds around you.


I would close with a tip of the horseman’s hat and a hearty whinny of approval from the four-footed member of the team to Wendell Robie for putting us onto this fine sport.


Looking Back, as a Rider and a Vet

from the April 2007 issue of Endurance News

by David Nicholson, DVM


I was asked to write an article about the history of our sport from a veterinarian’s perspective, but when I started writing, I came to realize that I was a rider rather than a vet in the beginning. To me it was a sport, and I tried hard not to get involved in the politics or vetting. So my early memories are from a rider’s perspective.


As I reminisce about the good old days when we used to party all night and ride all day, then party again the following night, I think we were a tougher group than today’s contestants. We used to go to rides in a pickup truck with the horse in the back, or pulling an old two-horse trailer. I remember seeing one of the wealthy “fat cats” at Tahoe City driving a new GMC pickup with a camper shell on the back and a new trailer painted to match. Boy, was that class, long before the days of $75,000 trailers and million-dollar horses!


I came to my first Tevis in an old Ford truck that was painted with a paintbrush. It had a mattress in the back and we tied the horses to the side and let them eat hay on top of our bedding. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been allergic to hay. We camped in a skunk cabbage patch behind the Chevron station in Tahoe City and told stories of the adventure to come. Pity the poor newcomers who had to endure sagas of snakes, steep canyons and moss-covered swinging bridges that swayed precariously over the rushing rivers below. I miss the tall tales and the campfires.


I was introduced to the sport of endurance riding in the 1962 Tevis Cup ride. Although I had spent a good part of my young life on horseback, including a number of long trail rides, the Tevis was my first organized competitive event. There were other rides and races in those days, sometimes for very long distances, and with no controls.


I remember one early event in Utah that ran from Heber to Duchesne along Highway 50. Although no one knows for sure how many horses were lost during those races, the carcasses along the side of the highway repulsed and angered the general public and horsemen in particular.


Fortunately for our sport, Wendell Robie, founder of the Western States Ride, had the vision to see that horses must be treated humanely and be under veterinary control during endurance events. Although he didn’t always agree with some of the individual decisions the veterinarians made, he recognized that the sport would have to be regulated in a humane manner if it were to continue.


My mount on my first Tevis was a 1200-pound buckskin mare almost 3 years old. In 1962, there was no age limit for entering. Obviously, she was short on conditioning, but she was long on true grit. The owner of the horse and I decided to enter this great adventure just a few weeks before the ride — something that no one in his right mind should ever attempt. At that time it was necessary to obtain a veterinary exam prior to entry. I still remember the look on Dr. Stewart’s face when I told him I wanted to ride this horse 100 miles in a day.


The thinking behind a pre-ride veterinary examination was to get riders mentally prepared for what they were about to undertake. Along with this pre-ride veterinary exam, there was a detailed questionnaire to be filled out by the rider. The questions were more to get the rider thinking about what was ahead than anything else. Most riders at that time had absolutely no idea of the challenges before them.


Many horses competing in the Tevis and other endurance events did so with little or no training. In 1962 (and even into the 1980s) the pulse criterion was most commonly based on a recovery to 72 within 45 minutes. There was an equal amount of importance placed on respiratory recovery and body temperature. Higher respiratory rates were deemed more significant than they are today and inversions (a respiratory rate higher than the pulse rate) were a cause of great concern.


Body temperature was considered important, but that has faded away in many areas both because of the time factor, and the danger of obtaining a rectal temperature in a fractious horse. Gut sounds were recognized as being important but the lack of them was an indication, in the minds of many, to hold off on feed until the digestive musculature had recovered sufficiently to operate properly.


We were fortunate in those days to have the services of veterinarians like Bruce Branscomb, Dick Barsaleau, Hank Cook and Bob Goulding, to name just a few. This was a time before computerized medicine, when veterinary schools taught their graduates that the practice of veterinary medicine was as much an art as a science.


Early veterinarians made their decisions on overall impressions, rather than relying on the “numbers game” that has become so popular. I cannot imagine any of these old-time vets ever letting a horse which looked stressed or overly fatigued continue because it passed all the criteria with acceptable number measures. I personally believe this is one place where we have regressed. We let the pressure for a fair and equitable judging system overwhelm the need for our good judgment.


By the time AERC was founded, many things had changed. There was a rapid growth in 50-mile rides. The pace on these shorter rides was such that horses were being pushed harder than on the 100s, calling for different thinking on the part of control veterinarians.


I remember around 1974 or ’75 there was considerable resistance to the lowering of pulse criteria to 68, and shortening the acceptable recovery times. Many riders insisted that such strict standards would eliminate most horses from the sport. Some still think the old recovery standards are fine, even though experience has shown us that stricter levels reduce illness and injury in our horses.


Perhaps the greatest innovation in veterinary procedures, however, was the institution of a gate into a hold at vet checks. Many different individuals must have come up with this good idea at the same time, as I personally know of at least three people who claim to have invented it. A major concern has always been to separate the unfit horses from a pack of better-conditioned horses. Horses that took 45 minutes to recover were sent back on the trail with horses that had recovered far more quickly. The gate into hold vet check has gone a long way towards eliminating this problem.


In the early days of my endurance career, the subject of drugs never came up. Most horses were fed a diet of hay and oats, although other grains were popular with some. Electrolyte supplementation consisted of placing a salt block in the feed tub, or perhaps spreading some granulated salt on the grain. Apparently others were more concerned than I, as the state of California began to regulate drug use in competitive events in addition to racing by the late sixties.


I believe it was the NATRC which showed most concern with drug use at that time. There was probably more potential for abuse in that variation of distance riding, where a great emphasis was placed on judging principles similar to our present best condition judging, and horse show standards of appearance and behavior.


I have always wondered why so many people espouse the principle that horses should compete on their natural ability, but are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on every kind of imaginable substance to make their horses run farther and harder. I know many will find it hard to believe, but horses were completing the Tevis and other strenuous events with nothing but hay and oats for years.


It is interesting that few if any people had ever seen ulcers and enteroliths until relatively recently. It seems to me that our new diets, supplements, and “legal drugs” may be allowing us to go further out on the limb, sometimes with unknown or unclear consequences. With horses, if a little is good, a lot is not necessarily better.


Some of our sport’s greatest disasters have come from good science used badly. A classic example is the carbo-loading fad when a number of people, who should have known better, extrapolated the information on carbo-loading for runners to endurance horses, which had unfortunate consequences for some of the best equine athletes in our sport.


Veterinarians will always be an important part of endurance riding, but the ultimate responsibility for our horses’ welfare must always rest with the rider. As our sport grew, many new riders became dependent on ride veterinarians to do their thinking for them. Fortunately for the horses, veterinarians objected, and we have returned to placing the responsibility for horses’ welfare squarely where it belongs: on the riders.


A rider spends the entire day with the horse, and a ride vet sees the horse for only a few moments at a vet check. Advances in diagnostics and treatments have certainly made veterinarians much more effective at safeguarding horses in modern endurance. Although the numbers of rides and riders have increased substantially from the early days, failures to prevent destruction of horses have declined. Improved veterinary control has definitely made a difference.


But in the end, better education and skill among riders in assessing the condition of their horses has become not only the best protection, but the major assistance received by ride veterinarians in evaluating the safety of each horse.


Why 5?

from the August 1975 issue of Saddle Action

by Sharon Saare


Note: Currently, AERC requires equines to be 6 years old (72 months) to compete in 100-mile rides, 5 years old (60 months) to compete in 50-mile rides and 4 years old (48 months old) to compete in limited distance rides.


“As a practicing veterinarian, I am asked every day to examine and judge the soundness of horses. It is apparent to me that those horses who receive too much work too young have the highest incidence of unsoundness. In 13 years of judging trail riding horses, I have time and again seen the damage resulting from too much work too soon . . . and at the same time, have observed horses who went into distance riding at maturity that were successfully campaigned for several years.”


— Bill Throgmorton, DVM,Endurance and Competitive Ride Judge
Member, Judges Committee, American Association of Equine Practitioners


“Why 5?” is asked by competitive and endurance trail ride enthusiasts every day. Why not ride 3- or 4-year-olds? Although the answer is evident, some riders would prefer to sidestep the facts and go along with economics and convenience.


Not only are feeding costs involved, but there are housing and other care costs. These costs will fluctuate from year to year and will differ in various areas, being much higher in some. But, regardless of the details, the principle is the same — it costs money to grow a horse to maturity and the expense involved prompts some people to want to use young horses before they are physically ready to compete.


Another factor is that many individuals today who are raising horses operate on a relatively small scale and become very personally involved with their stock. Because each horse is one of the family, they are anxious to see their produce do well; make a name for his line, and the sooner the better.


In addition, they have often heard that a horse must have exercise early in life to properly develop heart and lung capacity. This theory has much merit and is one of the reasons for the development of swimming pools for race horses. They can be worked in the pool without causing damage to the legs. It is the effect that torsion and concussion have upon the joint binding structures that is so damaging to immature individuals.


However, stockmen and horsemen of yesterday were well aware that 2- and 3-year-olds were not suitable for hard work. They sometimes broke their colts to ride at 2 and 3, but then turned them out to pasture until 5. Practical experience rather than modern science and veterinary medicine dictated that they allow their horses to reach maturity before asking them to do the kinds of jobs that require maturity. Actually, they felt a 5-year-old was young enough, considered 6 or 7 closer to prime, with 8 to 10 years of age a physical peak.


Although modern medicine proves how right the practices of yesterday’s horsemen were, modern practices of horse promotion seem to ignore the fact that lasting damage is done to horses working too hard while too young.


Many leg unsoundnesses are the result of strain and concussion on young immature tissues. As the body matures, the connecting and supporting tissues develop strength. Modern research has shown the horse does not reach 100% of his body development, frequently occurring as a result of strain to tendons, ligaments, and periosteum (bone covering) with bucked shins, bowed tendons, splints, epiphysitis, chipped knees, sesamoid fracture, ringbone, curb, bog and bone spavin, and thoroughpin.


Concussion also causes carpel and fetlock filling, navicular bursitis, stone bruises, road founder, and sidebones.


The list is by no means complete; however, without exception, the occurrence of these unsoundnesses could be lessened if horses were adequately aged before being worked.


Knowing that the trend of overusing young horses is increasing in other events — and aware of the consequences — experienced competitive and endurance ride managements throughout the United States have made an effort to protect horses in distance riding by not allowing them to compete until they are at least 5 years old. (Some competitive rides allow 4-year-olds on shortened courses involving less stress.)


Horses started even later in life, around 8 to 10, are not only able to continue in competition considerably longer, but also evidence much more endurance than 5- and 6-year-olds.


It takes a lot of work to train and season top competitive and endurance horses. When properly managed, they can be campaigned successfully for a long time. Since lameness can be responsible for the retirement of many distance horses, it makes good sense to avoid unnecessary causes including the major problem of starting them on the distance trail prematurely.


Bill Thornburgh: Endurance’s Family Man

from the April 2007 Endurance News

by Callie Thornburgh


Bill Thornburgh was a man who inspired and motivated people. If he was in your life, you felt there was nothing you couldn’t do. He gave you courage and confidence.


I entered the Tevis when I was 10 or 11 years old. I got a letter back that said in big letters: “Cannot accept.” I was too young and had to have a sponsor over 21 years old. When I showed my dad, he said, “You get a horse ready for me and I will sponsor you.”


He only had to say it once. I was on one horse and led another all winter and spring. When the time for Tevis came the two horses and I were ready. So Dad and I rode it. I was pulled three-quarters of the way through, but Dad made it. The next morning he could not walk, stand, move, or talk. Even his hair hurt. He had big purple bruises where the buttons on his Western shirt hit him all day.


When he trotted his horse out at the post-vet check, it hurt just to watch him, but he made his horse look great.


The next year he conditioned his own horse. We did the ride again and both made it in great shape. He was hooked on endurance riding, and it was a big part of his life from then on.


I hear so many stories where Dad helped someone start, finish or accomplish something and they took it from there and made their lives better. Every time someone came into Bill Thornburgh’s life they left better for it.


Endurance riding was something he truly loved. When we went to a ride we would not see him for hours — he had to go visit and talk to everyone. He loved the rides — the challenge, the strategy, the competition, and of course the horse he was riding.


But most of all, riding as a family was the most important thing. He always encouraged families to ride together.


He would sponsor any junior who did not have one. If juniors lost their sponsors he would pick them up. On some rides, he would have a line of kids with him at the finish line.


It was not only endurance rides, but in all parts of life he would help kids and bring families together. He would help kids who were having trouble at home by talking with them and even bringing them into our home.


During the winter, Dad was an avid skier. He took the bus driving test because our ski club didn’t have enough money to pay for a bus driver. Dad volunteered every year. He would help the kids who were afraid as they learned to ski. Some kids went because he was there and he made them feel safe. Mammoth Mountain in California has a kids’ slalom race held in Dad’s name every year, the Bill Thornburgh Cup.


He even hauled kids to the high school rodeos, and would pay for stalls and entry fees for those who couldn’t afford to go. He encouraged teenagers to enter, getting them to do things they did not think they could. Afterwards they were so proud and happy of what they had accomplished.


In endurance riding, there is no better person to have the family award named after than Bill Thornburgh. He was a true family man and my loving father.


AERC 1972-1982: A Perfect Ten

from the April 1982 Endurance News

by Julie Suhr


The American Endurance Ride Conference came of age as the annual convention in Nevada proved that it has been a decade of phenomenal growth and controversy which has resulted in a strong, democratic and viable national organization of endurance riding.


It was a convention of hot topics, debate, pros and cons and differing opinions, but mostly it was a convention of learning . . . learning that there are no absolutes in endurance riding, no rules that can’t be improved upon and, especially, no problem that can’t be solved for the betterment of the sport. Most of all it has been a decade of learning and the convention speakers who are considered authorities did not mind contradicting teach other, their own previous ideas, or their best friends.


Discussion was rampant from the board meeting Thursday evening until the end of the board meeting Sunday morning. In between, nearly 600 people heard some of the leaders of AERC, people such as Bill Bentham, Jim Remillard, Marion Arnold, and Joe Long — to name a few.


The Hot Topic debates proved there are two sides to everything in endurance riding as Phil Gardner, our first AERC president, Dr. Kerry Ridgway, Lew Hollander, Dr. Richard Barsaleau, Ruth Waltenspiel and Dr. Bob Hibner took opposing positions and after it was all said and done, we realized what works at one ride, under one set of circumstances, does not necessarily work at another; and that it is up to the individual rides to use the talent brought together by AERC to help make their decisions.


It was the year of the veterinarian at the AERC convention with Bob Young and Bob Shugart discussing the care of the horse on the trail and after the ride. And then the topping: Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith’s “Scientific Approach to Successful Endurance Riding.” Matthew loves his subject and it shows in every well thought out phrase. He makes us think; and there can’t be any better way to improve our sport than improving our approach to the horse.


Few people can hold a crowd the way Matthew does, but he had better stay sharp because Dr. Alice DeGroot, a veterinarian from Southern California, showed us there is more than the body of the horse . . . there is the mind of the horse. In often humorous fashion, she pointed out how nature tells the horse to behave and then how we come along and tell him something different . . . and therein, dear riders, is the crux of many of our problems. We can use the horse’s natural instincts to our advantage if we will only take the time to listen to what he is trying to tell us.


Marion Arnold, undoubtedly one of the greatest contributors, not only to AERC but to the total endurance ride picture, with the good sense to look to the future, presented the American Trails Foundation to the group. Started by some AERC members under the leadership of Dave Clagett, Marion pointed out that without trails there will be no riding. She introduced the foundation’s first effort: a brochure called First Aid for Trails which tells how, when and where to get help when a trail is threatened or you want to start a new trail.


Concurrently with the AERC convention, a veterinarian program headed by Mort Cohen, DVM, attracted a large group of professionals who covered a wide range of topics as part of their continuing education program. Doctors Gary Carlson and Robert Linford, of the University of California at Davis, lectured knowledgeably with the emphasis on endurance-related problems. Well-received, this program will probably become an annual convention event.


The first day of the convention closed with the presentation of West Region awards hosted by the West Region Ride Managers Association and the Quicksilver Club of San Jose. A noon luncheon the same day was capped with the award recognition of 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 mile horse awards — mileages which a decade earlier were considered in the same vein as the four-minute mile in the pre-1950s — impossible!


Lynda Walker handled an incredible raffle. The man off the street could have outfitted himself with horse, tack and feed and been ready to go to a ride the next day! And if his lucky number wasn’t called, he could have found whatever he needed at the greatly expanded trade show. John Creighton lured the exhibitors to the convention and the crowds make it worthwhile for them.


Chosen to guide AERC in 1982 was Hugh Bryson. Elected to the incoming board of directors, Hugh is a popular rider from the West Region who wanted the job. AERC is in good hands!


The cocktail party before the Saturday night banquet proved that there really are women in endurance riding . . . and they do own dresses, and they can look pretty sharp.


After dinner, top honors went to mother and son; Marney Nance, 1981 National Champion, who stood by her son Jonathan, 1981 Junior National Champion, to show us all that endurance riding is a family sport. The other award winners trooped to the front of the room . . . the grand finale that ushers out the old endurance year and ushers in the new year.


But this year it is special . . . the start of a new decade:

1972 – 10 rides

1982 – 300 rides (projected).


Who knows? But keep it strong, maintain its integrity, and most of all, work together by supporting the group that supports the sport . . . AERC.


Trails: Our Enduring Heritage

from the July/August 1980 issue of Endurance News

by Harold Cassen


Wilderness and trail preservation is vital to the well-being of humanity. If it is destroyed or closed — and man can no longer enjoy nature as our ancestors did — then we all will have lost something precious and irreplaceable.


There are few who do not feel better about themselves and their surroundings when in the wilderness. A day’s ride or hike from a trailhead brings a welcome change. Interests and activities that were of great importance a few hours earlier give way to stimulated sensations generated by new sights and smells. The excitement of a trail ride pushes aside events that yesterday seemed so vital and thoughts of business and home shrink to their true worth.


The satisfaction of accomplishment is given a broader dimension, perhaps a fuller meaning, for most of us consider this kind of undertaking a genuine test of our self-reliance. We are filled with new confidence, as concerns diminish, leaving us with he capacity to enjoy our newfound solitude and natural surroundings.


In our world of machines, noise and distractions, the mind becomes confused and our sense of values change. Sleeping beneath a pine, high on a mountainside, you get acquainted with that vast world of God’s creatures that are more and more being banished from our consciousness and forgotten. Peace and contentment come . . . and when we return to the slavery of our inhuman world, it will be with enlightened minds and revived souls.


As we ride our trails and visit our precious wilderness preserves, let us recall and practice the code of the wilderness: take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints or hoofprints.


Trails are part of our American heritage. Their development paralleled our own progress militarily, politically, economically, and socially. They were the gateways to frontiers — to the unknown, the new and better place. We are a nation of explorers and exploring is deep in our spirit and customs.


In America today there are thousands of miles of trails. They can be narrow, winding, and overgrown, disappearing into the underbrush, or a paved path where many can walk to view a scenic wonder. These trails follow old animal runways, ancient Indian paths, the routes of trapper-explorers and our struggling pioneers. They are utility and recreational; they provide both fire access for forest management and routes leading to fine fishing in some beautiful alpine lake.


A rapid change is taking place in our wilderness. Many designate wilderness areas are becoming heavily used and in some cases abused. People want to visit them and are doing so in increasing numbers.


A study by the University of California reports that our wilderness areas are vanishing at the rate of one million acres per year.


Trail riding an hiking has been for some time the leading form of outdoor recreation, but trails and wilderness areas have not been established as fast as the demand. Certain trailheads look like a freeway at rush hour, which is all the more reason to step up the building of a nationwide network of trails and access trails as diligently as we constructed a network of highways for transporting people and goods — to get the citizens of this country on their feet and to improve their health and outlook . . . as riding and hiking have been demonstrated to do.


Once on the trail, we are reminded that this form of recreation requires little or no petroleum energy and has the least impact on the environment. If we drive long distances to reach a trail, we use up energy . . . so why aren’t there more trails near home?


Programs of trail-building are being carried on in many urban population centers. Managed privately and publicly, these short trails provide access to historic sites and the natural beauty of our country. Some of them have been designated part of the National Trails System.


To persons interested in local trail development, there are good guiding principles in the National Trails Systems Act that established the Pacific Crest Trail as a national scenic trail in 1968 and provided for systems of national recreational trails.


The National Trail System is the federal government’s commitment to improve the quality of leisure and recreation in America. Presently there are 29 National Recreational Trails in the system. Also included in the trail system are the Appalachian and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trails, both of them over 2,000 miles long. The recreation trails are in or close to urban population centers. They range in length from just under a quarter-mile to 30 miles. On many of these trails, horses, hikers and bikers share the same trail. Two trails are used by snowmobiles in winter.


Also under study are several longer trails to be included in the system of scenic trails. The Continental Divide Trail would follow Rocky Mountain summits. The routes of Lewis and Clark, the cattle drives in Texas and the Mormon and settlers bound for Oregon are some of those to be considered. In the East the existing Long Trail and proposed North Country Trail will b e studied for possible designation as part of this scenic trail system.


However, a program of acquiring and preserving trails can exist only as long as public opinion and interest allows. Public opinion can change very rapidly away from preserving trails and wilderness areas toward support of pipelines and dams. In the name of some national emergency — such as energy — legislators can react swiftly, opposing new trails and new wilderness preserves. Some legislatures do this whether or not there is an emergency.


More people should understand the values of their public lands. A trail, for example, is a tour through some of the greatest miracles on the face of the earth. These are not always easy to see, but they must be recognized and understood, for understanding leads to appreciation, and appreciation leads to protection.


A Team Sport

from the May 1983 issue of Endurance News

by Joe Long


Endurance riding is a team sport.


Now, there is an obvious statement for you.


Everyone knows that it takes a determined rider and a willing, able horse to complete an endurance ride. Our point system is based on horse/rider teams, and most of our awards go to the team rather than the horse or rider alone.


What those unfortunate souls who have never ridden an endurance ride do not know — because they have never experienced it — is the close bond that builds between the horse and rider who have met the challenge of endurance together.


This “special relationship” that exists between the endurance horse and rider buds during the conditioning process, with many days and miles together getting in shape for the rides. It blooms on the 50-mile rides, and comes to full flower on the 100-mile rides. You just cannot go through that level of effort together, over that many miles and hours, without coming to trust and depend on each other.


Some people say that the horse doesn’t care if you finish or not; he’d rather just be out relaxing in his pasture anyway, but I don’t believe it. True, the horse doesn’t care much about a trophy — unless it’s something he can eat (how about including feed with the completion awards?) — but he knows what’s going on, and senses (and shares) his rider’s emotions.


The question of which team member (horse or rider) is more important to success has been argued around many a campfire, and will be argued around many more. We’ve all seen a good horse carry a green rider to success (even first-to-finish), and we’ve all seen a good horseman bring a soft horse through a ride sound. This is one of those questions that will never be settled, but it’s fun to talk about.


In the case of best condition, the award is a team award (the rider plays an important role in bringing the horse to the finish line in such time and shape as to win this award), but the annual championship is a horse championship. That is, the best condition champion is the horse with the most best condition awards, even if they are won with more than one rider (this policy is new in 1983). This properly recognizes that a horse that can win best condition under more than one rider has proven himself all the more.


Finally, “to finish is to win” is a team concept, too. It is more taxing on the rider to ride an eight-hour 50 than a four-hour 50, and more difficult to successfully complete with a green horse that needs eight hours than a fast veteran that can do it in four. Give the first-to-finish horses and riders their laurels, but never overlook the “second half”; they spent more time and effort together on the trail, and have often met a bigger personal challenge.

And as always, it is not about the destination, it is about the tremendous, life-affirming up-and-down journey that will get us there.

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