By Sandy Cheek
2022. We collectively emerged from the pandemic, eager to regain our “normal” (whatever that means) lives and take on new challenges.
EDRA club members – wow – a pat on the back to each and every one of you. The EDRA tagline is “Start Ready, Finish Proud” and you took that to heart. From achieving EDRA in Motion goals, to stepping up to longer distances, to sponsoring youth riders for the first time, breaking in (sometimes literally) new baby horses – each of you has something to be proud of. Here’s what some of you did:
Shelah Wetter showed us all how to mentor youth riders into a sport that is NOT EASY. If you’ve ever chatted with Shelah about how she brings these kids along, you know that “no whining no coddling” is at the top of her list. And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of riding with one of “her” kids, you’ll know they are tough, gritty and knowledgeable about their equine partners – and they care for them every step of the way. Shelah mentored the three youth pictured below through their first 50’s at the EDRA Sand Canyon ride.
And I love this picture at the finish of the ride. It shows the essence of being a great mentor – being there at the right time to center and calm equines and their human partners.
Katie Daley, EDRA Board member and another of Shelah’s youth riders, did her first 50 in 2022 on Socks, as did Jayla Wilson on her horse, Captain Gavel.
And another first: this was my first year mentoring a youth rider, Laura Rheingans. Laura is a super capable, mature young rider who is so much fun to ride with. If you haven’t taken advantage of the EDRA mentor program, do it! You can mentor or be mentored – or both. Either way it’s a win-win in my experience.
Emilee Randal is another enthusiastic and up and coming EDRA youth rider, being capably mentored by Jennifer Kaplan. And she has grit! Why do I say that? In her own words: “I completed my first 50 in my first season after breaking my ankle in May!” Her enthusiasm is contagious, and it will be fun to watch Emilee as she matures and gains experience in this sport.
It’s been a great year for me, because I’ve been able to ride with a bunch of these capable youth riders. One of my favorite memories is riding with Nicole Mayfield on her plucky 17-year old Morgan, Blackjack. Nicole did her first 75 at the NOT EASY EDRA Trout Lake 100. She never complained, not once. And when it started to rain, pour, DUMP down rain, her smile never faded, and she was more than willing to kick it up a notch the last ten miles into camp. As the only youth in the 75 by default BJ got the Best in Class award, but honestly, he looked amazing.
Joslynn Terry, another EDRA youth member, hit her stride this year as well. She catch-rode two different horses on her first ever 100-mile rides. Here’s one of her mounts, Sonic. Looks like a great partnership.
You would be forgiven for thinking that all the rest of us were sitting around eating bon-bons whilst the EDRA youth were chewing up the trail. But you’d be wrong! EDRA adult members were achieving their goals as well. Here’s just a sample of what they accomplished in 2022:
Olivia Moore completed their first distance ride on Discreet Demons and came 16 out of 32 riders. She’s hooked!
Teresa Dixon says she’s “new to endurance.” She chose to challenge herself by riding two different horses and completed 3 30 mile EDRA races in this, her first season. Teresa chose Mt. Spokane, Sand Canyon and Ride the Loup to achieve her goals. She’s sought advice and counsel from some of the best: Shelah Wetter, Jen Jacobson and Julia Stroup. In addition to her rides, Teresa has jumped into the EDRA in Motion Challenge. This fun challenge is another benefit of membership; it’s a great way to keep yourself accountable for your own fitness by reporting monthly how many miles you’ve ridden, biked, walked or run. There are awards for weight divisions, as well as participation awards for all who achieve a minimum distance of 100 miles. Another reason to join EDRA!
Andrea Hurn took on the challenge of a new horse, Gem. Andrea says, “She’s been pretty easy and hard at the same time. She’s gonna be a Rockstar when she figures everything out. I was never a mare person and now I own two that claimed me upon first sight.” I just LOVE that.
Kathy Thompson just acquired this lovely mare featured below, but Kathy has been a solid competitor for quite a few years so Dash will be brought along with care and attention to detail. Isn’t she pretty? When you see Kathy ask her how she got her name!
Bonnie Girod also took on the challenge of introducing a new horse to the sport. Like Kathy she has done her homework with her awesome mare Luna so she’s starting Legend right. He did his first 50 at the EDRA Don’t Fence Me In ride, and the veiw from his back looks just awesome. Says Bonnie: “Riding Legend stretches me but I know down deep he is a good guy and just needs more wet saddle blankets.”
Bonnie is never one to turn down a challenge. So of course she also bred her lovely mare Luna and produced this cute baby boy. She also managed her first ride, the fabulous EDRA Big Sky ride in beautiful Montana. If you missed it in 2022, make a FIRST for yourself and put it on the calendar for 2023. Julie James, Marty Graham and others made their first Montana ride here and they’ll be back for sure in 2023!
Big Sky was a big ride for Dr. Valerie Pflughoeft. She brought her new young horse, Russ Russ. Breaking a finger at the beginning of the ride? Not a big deal. Every picture of them on the trail they’re grinning and ears forward. Valerie has also taken up mounted archery, cuz that’s what you do with a broken finger. EDRA folks are TOUGH!
Amy Enquist had a great start into the sport of distance riding. She sponsored a youth rider, dragged a couple of her friends along to a ride to introduce them to the sport, and finished in the top 10 in every ride she’s done (except for some bad luck on their first 50). A rider with this kind of enthusiasm is what EDRA is all about – bringing people together who love their equine partners and the challenge of preparing them for a ride, whilst helping and encouraging others to try the sport and be successful. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Kelsey Corey is another EDRA member who’s been churning up the trail. She won the 25 mile distance at the EDRA Trout Lake 100 on Vinnie, her mom’s big beautiful Arab. She took her mom’s young grey horse to his first ride, where she also sported a broken finger (is this some rite of passage I’m not aware of?) She also did her first multiday on her very own Crash, who is really coming into his own. Kelsey does her homework, taking dressage lessons and working steadily with these horses to give them confidence and courage. She also does amazing body clip jobs on horses, by the way…check out Go Pony Body Clipping! Kelsey’s goal for 2023 is seeking the Sandybaar award, which focuses on successful completions of consecutive races at any distance. Check it out on the PNER website!
L to R: Kelsey on Vinnie, Cruze and Crash
Alex Gesheva hails from the Far North – well, ok, she lives in British Columbia, Canada. Luckily for EDRA, Alex and her fine steed attend a number of EDRA rides, as they are quite close to her. It’s been fun watching Alex, who’s been a member since EDRA’s first year, coming to rides with her lovely family. Of late, she’s got a gorgeous new horse that seems to have amazing potential to take on anything Alex asks him for. That said, like so many of our EDRA members, she rode a few hard miles with O’Neill and had a few serious chats with him about appropriate behavior on the trail along the way. But it’s paying off, and she’s got so many gorgeous pictures of him I can hardly choose just one. Alex has benefitted from our mentor program and has been a valuable asset and voice of reason at several EDRA Board meetings. Another engaged member who’s Starting Ready to Finish Proud.
EDRA members ride so many different breeds! There is a mentor group specifically for non-Arabs – because their challenges are different and members can learn from one another (Reach out to Susan Summers for information the mentor group!) There are American Saddlebreds, Akhal Tekes, Friesians, Andalusians, Hackneys, Mustangs, and Quarterhorses…the reason they are successful is because their human partners know their horses and adjust their training and expectations accordingly. Amy Carrier is an outstanding example of taking a promising young horse and bringing her along carefully, but taking off the bubble wrap when necessary. Amy has carefully been building her Freight Train Friesian/Andalusian mare Flicka towards doing her first 50. Little did she know that to accomplish that awesome goal would require some – ok, A LOT – of white-knuckle driving in whiteout/blizzard conditions to reach Arizona, the land of sunshine. And when she got there….well, it rained. Day of the ride with her first 50, it started raining about 11 am and didn’t finish up until 12 hours later. But Amy and Flicka were undeterred. They finished handily and looked great the next day. This is “Start Ready, Finish Proud” looks like!
Amy Carrier was instrumental in helping another EDRA member achieve one of his “firsts” in 2022. Guy Cheek had “six wives” to help him finish Tevis on Steele. Kelsey Corey, Kathleen Dunham, Nicole Mayfield and Cortney Honan and I (Sandy Cheek) had the incredible adventure of crewing for Guy and Steele. The teamwork was amazing and Guy and Steele are so very grateful.
Julie Barnfather achieved a goal that so many of us have…she did a 100 with her amazing boy Marqo (Marquitible Asset). She’s a super seasoned rider, but has been masterfully transitioning him from world-class Ride and Tie horse to a distance horse. She succeeded at the Scottsdale 100, and won.
Jillane Boros had a good season as well. She had two horses, and as often the case, one was found to be better suited to another sport, and the other became…her Heart Horse. Jillane is a valued member of the EDRA Board. She has great ideas and is thoughtful and inquisitive in her thinking. She had a number of firsts this season: she travelled with Alex Berryman to Tevis and helped run the tack/gear store, and stayed through to film the finish of all of the Pacific Northwest riders as they did their victory laps. But highest on her list of accomplishments was riding her Heart Horse Vinnie in the dark. The Gifford-Pinchot forest can be scary at night, but she discovered that amazing connection that comes from trusting our equine partners to take care of us when we can’t see a thing. It’s pretty special. Here she is during the daylight. Can you tell she’s having fun?
Deliene Walker Sellers is easily recognizable in ride camp. She always has a big smile on her face, because she is in her happy place with her big strong Quarterhorse gelding, Rebel. As mentioned earlier, all breeds are welcome in the sport of distance riding. The goal at EDRA is to provide opportunities and support for folks to learn their equine’s strengths and challenges and tailor their training accordingly. Deliene has done just that. Rebel is, well, HUGE. And gorgeous. But HUGE can be a challenge on hot and/or hilly rides. Deliene has done her homework, training on hills and in heat conditions. She’s also done multiday pack trips with groups that hone a good mental attitude to persevere for both rider and equine. Deliene is a MAGNET for drawing new people into the sport. Her enthusiastic and inclusive attitude makes everyone feel welcome. She volunteers to sponsor youth riders and happily puts aside her own goals to ride with a first-time participant. But in 2022, Deliene rode solo for 30 miles at the EDRA Sand Canyon ride. If you get a chance to ride with Deliene, jump at it!
Rhonda Guillford lives a life I’d like if there were a parallel universe. She’s an incredibly creative artist, and has sold her wares at Pike Place Market in Seattle for many years. She’s a dog lover, has been a horse owner, and loves hiking and running and adventures with her friends. And she lives on an island! She’s also the EDRA drug testing czar, ensuring that our drug testing kit is stocked and ready for each ride and that Stewards are prepared to assist when required. So I was delighted when she sent in this picture of her “first” of 2022 – riding another EDRA member’s seasoned endurance horse, Aliento, on the trail. She also participates in the EDRA in Motion Challenge, tracking her considerable hiking and running miles on a monthly basis. Rhonda, I hope you and Aliento get to ride together again in 2023.
Sometimes our horse-related firsts aren’t at an endorsed ride. They may not even be on a horse. If you’ve been boarding your horse for twenty-five years, it is a PRETTY BIG DEAL when you are able to have your own piece of heaven and see your horses out on your own pasture. Nancy Zukewich lives in Ontario, Canada. She’s been an EDRA member since the inception of the organization. She’s a serious competitor in endurance events on the East coast, both in Canada and the US. She is also a wonderful person! So when she wrote, “Horses moved home for the first time. Been boarding for 25 years!” I must admit I got a little choked up. I remember that feeling when they are at HOME. It’s huge. Congratulations Nancy, and I look forward to seeing you in 2023!
Kendal Ingraham has been a member of EDRA since its beginnings. She’s a good friend of Kathleen Ferguson, who was the EDRA President during our first couple of years. Kathleen was one of the folks who brought Kendal to the sport of distance riding, even though Kendal has never actually had her own horse to ride. She’s been a capable catch rider of some fun horses over the years. Kendal is always up for an adventure. She says, “If anyone has a horse they need ridden, get in touch!” She’s getting closer to owning her very own horse though…as a first for 2022, she bought a horse trailer!
Dr. Marlene Poe’s schedule was so busy this year she wasn’t able to vet any EDRA rides, and she was missed. As was her daughter Katie, who was racking up miles in the previous season. But both Katie and her mom have new horses. And better yet, Dr. Poe will be vetting both EDRA Sand Canyon and Don’t Fence Me In. Looking forward to seeing their smiling faces!
Susan Lewis lives in Bellevue, Michigan but she’s formerly from the Pacific Northwest. Her family maintains strong ties with the EDRA community and I love keeping up on her adventures with her horses, husband, and two little girls. Susan is another strong participant in the EDRA in Motion Challenge, beating out most folks in her weight division because she seems to spend a LOT of time chasing two energetic little girls! Susan states that in 2022 she took riding lessons for the first time, and also enjoyed watching her girls gain confidence on their ponies.
A few former members have shared their successes as well. I’m hoping that they’ll be motivated to join EDRA again but in the meantime, it’s great to share in their successes and challenges. Sara Campbell took on the challenge of gentling a young horse off the Colville reservation. Dr. Cassee Steed Terry continues to vet rides, but in 2022 she RODE in her first 50.
I know there are many other firsts out there. I heard an EDRA member won the Big Horn 100, reputedly a very tough ride. I heard another member rode a unicorn in full rainbow colors, and galloped beside a freight train and served as the EDRA Secretary. Another bought her dream farm and planted lavender fields and stepped up to be the EDRA Treasurer. I also heard rumor that another EDRA member rode a mechanical bull in Vegas after a long night of crewing for another EDRA member’s 100 mile race. You know who you are. Pat yourselves on the back, and know that you’re pretty special.
A huge thank-you to our unsung heroes – the volunteers who help us keep this little club going. The pulse-takers, day ride managers, burger flippers, trailer transporters, non-riding spouses and children who support and cheer us on….the list goes on. Do your bit and thank everyone. Be kind. Let 2023 be the year you reach UP for your dreams, and reach OUT to help others. Both feel SO GOOD.
And finally, the photographers who come out and spend HOURS waiting for us to put our best hooves forward deserve to be thanked many times over. Their photos help us remember what fun we had.
David Honan (Photos featuring Shelah Wetter, Jayla, Sandy and crew, EmileeRandal, Nicole Mayfield, Teresa Dixon, Alex Gesheva, Deliene Walker Sellers)
Jala Neufeld (photo featuring Andrea Hurn)
Merrie Melde (photo featuring Jillane Boros)
Ian Rabideau (photo featuring Kelsey Corey and Cruze)
Steve Bradley (photo featuring Kelsey and Crash)
SharDay Hilliard (photo featuring Valerie Pflughoeft)
Daniel Rial (photo featuring Olivia Moore)
All others taken by assorted crew, family and friends.
See you on the trail!