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June 16, 2018 (Trout Lake, WA) – As a writer you try to capture the essence of a person and their story and paint a picture with words. But sometimes, it is their words that are more powerful than yours and when that happens you allow them to speak for themselves.

Trout Lake is circled on the endurance calendar for many in our community. For two incredible women, it was particularly special this year. I hope you enjoy their stories as much as I did.

Sandra Cheek and her 100 mile ride on Wilson

Darlene Merlich and her 25 mile ride on a mule named Ramone



(May 19, 2018, Coulee City, WA) –  Chuck Cowan knows what it is like to stare death in the face. He also knows what it’s like to trample death with his horse and laugh about it.

Chuck Cowan on Blazer. Photo by Ermintrude Cow Photography.

Just one year ago Chuck required an emergency evacuation from Grizzly Ride camp with life threatening internal bleeding. It was discovered that he had an aneurysm in a major artery that had ruptured into his stomach. He died. Twice.

In the months following Chuck lost over 25% of his body weight and had a true battle for his life. During that time, Chuck credits fellow endurance rider and nurse, Tani Bates, with helping him.

“She came and encouraged me every day and really helped me pull through.”

The endurance community didn’t expect to see Chuck again. From riding five-day fifties to not being able to walk from his easy chair to the bathroom, Chuck persevered.

“My goal on January 1 this year was to at least get on a horse,” said Chuck.

He made it out to the barn and could barely make it into the saddle. Four months later he made it to Prineville but had to pull after 25 miles because he was so weak.

This past Saturday, however, he did more than “at least get on a horse” and finished the 50 mile at Coyote Ridge with his Mustang/Quarter Horse, Blazer.

“Blazer is a multi-day specialist and Tevis Finisher. I love riding my veterans,” said Chuck, “They take care of me and get the job done.” Get the job done is a bit understated. The 21 year old veteran carried Chuck to a 14th place finish in the 50 with a time of 8:42.

Blazer has been with Chuck nearly his whole life, coming to his ranch as a two-year old. Chuck started and trained him himself and took him to his first endurance ride at age six.

“He’ll have a home with me forever,” said Chuck. As do all his horses that he’s raised on his ranch.

Chuck and Blazer coming into vet check.

Chuck also had plenty of praise to heap upon the Ride Manager, Tiffany Buob, and overall EDRA ride experience.

“Tiffany provided an exceptionally well managed event…I was particularly impressed with the friendly, welcoming outreach to all the new folks and the education clinic Friday afternoon on the use and application of standing wraps to help preserve healthy legs for our horses post ride.”

“The trails were well marked through beautiful lake, canyon and farm country. Initially, I was concerned about the significant use of farm roads but it was a non-issue and actually provided ample opportunities for cantering. All in all, excellent experience.”

Chuck discovered the sport of endurance in an unconventional manner. While perusing the pages of a horse magazine on one of his many business flights, a friendly flight attendant handed him an endurance magazine and said, “here, read this.”

With his interest piqued, Chuck showed up at Klickitat with a horse and no idea what to do.

“Everyone was busy and I didn’t want to bother anyone,” Chuck recalls. “But when I came into camp, Marilyn rushed out and was so relieved to see me. I guess I was only supposed to take six hours but I was out there for seven or so just walking and trotting along by myself. Everyone had been worried sick about me. She sat me down and explained a few things I needed to know.”

But, as was the way of the time, that’s how you learned about endurance. You just went out there and did it.

Chuck credits the spirit of endurance with saving his life.

“Endurance, that’s our sport, but it’s also a mindset and a way of life. And once you blend that all together, you don’t quit. You just keep fighting.”

When you get weak or tired, you hang tough. And when you are at your lowest. You have friends pushing you to the finish.


Full results can be found here.

1st 2nd 3rd
25 Mile

(47 entries)

Rose Corey & RC Vinn Diesel (2:40) Anita Tyrell & Whip (2:48) Jennifer Odle & Sea Squirt (3:01) *Best In Class
50 Mile

(28 entries)


Dennis Summers & TK Tiki (5:08)

*Best In Class

Tom Dean & Benzo (6:00) Sacha Edgell & M&M Gabriella (Gabby) (6:08)
75 Mile

(3 entries)

Carol Giles & SAR Dragon Rider (10:36) Ron Sproat & SAR FS Valiant Heart (11:28) Celena Pentrack & OMR Prophet (11:28)

(3 teams)

Jennifer Hover & Fox/Ben Volk & Marquitible Asset CCA (5:56) Sandy Cheek & Bold Design/Susan Summers & Pavberg (6:01) Guy Cheek & JV Trinidad/Kendal Ingraham & WMA Steadfast (6:01)

EDRA Miles To Be Used Towards Tevis Qualification

Chuck Stalley, Ride Director of the Tevis Cup, has indicated that any riders wishing to have their EDRA distance miles (within Tevis qualification guidelines) be used towards qualifying for the Tevis need to send their ride results/records to Chuck Stalley at Additionally, Ride Managers may also make the request to Chuck in advance of their event so that riders can plan their rides accordingly.

EDRA Rider Sandy Cheek and Smoke power up Cougar Rock

Riders can learn more about the Tevis Cup requirements here. For EDRA Ride Calendar and to plan your ride season, click here.

About Tevis Cup (excerpt from

The Western States Trail Ride, popularly called the Tevis Cup Ride, is the oldest modern day endurance ride, having been held annually since 1955. As such, it has been the inspiration and model for the most challenging endurance rides worldwide.

The ride was first organized by Wendell Robie, an Auburn businessman and devoted rider of the Sierra high country. Many people in the 50s doubted that any modern-day horse could cover the rugged trail from Lake Tahoe to Auburn in a single day. Wendell and a few of his friends proved them wrong in August of 1955. He continued to hold the ride annually thereafter and organized the Western States Trail Foundation to preserve the 100 mile trail and the Ride.

Each rider who completes the 100 mile course from Tahoe to Auburn within the 24 hour limit and whose mount is judged “fit to continue” is awarded the coveted silver Completion Award Buckle.

The Tevis Cup trophy is awarded to the person who completes the 100-Mile One-Day course in the shortest amount of time and whose horse is in sound condition and “fit to continue.” The Tevis Cup was named for Lloyd Tevis (1824 – 1899) by his grandson Will Tevis, a prominent San Francisco businessman and early benefactor of the Ride, and was first awarded in 1959 to Nick Mansfield, riding Buffalo Bill, an eleven year old TB Cross gelding.

The other major trophy, the Haggin Cup, is awarded to the rider whose horse is in the “most superior physical condition” of the first ten horses to cross the finish line. The Haggin Cup, named for James Ben Ali Haggin (1821 – 1914), was first awarded in 1964 to Paige Harper, riding his six year old Arabian gelding, Keno.

“The James Ben Ali Haggin Cup shall be awarded by the Cup Committee to the horse among the first ten to finish judged to be in the most superior physical condition by the Veterinary Committee. The rider must have exhibited a level of horsemanship and sportsmanship equal to the prestige of the award as judged by the Cup Committee during the competition to be eligible to present for the Haggin Cup”.

The Josephine Stedem Scripps Foundation Cup was established in 1994 to recognize each of the finishing Junior Riders for their special achievement. The first Junior finisher was David Jay, Jr., who completed the 3rd annual Ride in 1957.

Something New At Grizzly Mountain

Ride Photos from Trail Song Photography can be found here.

(April 21, 2018, Madras, OR) – The American Saddlebred brigade descended upon Madras, Oregon Saturday, April 21, 2018 for Grizzly Mountain Endurance ride. It would have been hard not to notice some of these flashy, high-headed horses as some, like Velveteer, brought that same presence he had in the show ring to the trail.

American Saddlebred Velveteer and Shelah Wetter expanding his resume.

“I rode the black horse Velveteer in his very first 50! He was spectacular, pulsed in immediately, ate, drank and was much more mannerly than last ride for the pulsers and vets,” Shelah said. Last ride was Crazy Daze just two weeks prior. Velveteer was her mom, Pam Heiman’s, show horse and was just started on trails in October.

Pam Heiman’s breeding program has been producing American Saddlebreds for the past 30 years that have been carefully chosen for athleticism, versatility and beauty. All of those qualities can be seen in the dozen or so Saddlebreds who are now in endurance homes making their way to rides all over the Northwest. Shelah trains Saddlebreds professionally in Deer Park, Washington and is no stranger to the show ring or the trails.

Dixie and Natalie Law. Photo by Trail Song Photography.

Some others in the endurance community were also trying something new at Grizzly, with mixed results.

Erika Floyd and her “little red Ferrari” Tessa did the 25 – only the second distance ride together.

“Work got in the way last year. We conditioned all year and then she sat in the pasture for the winter.” Erika said. “I am incorporating more rest and more slow work than I did last year. A lot more dressage exercises rather than just focusing on the endurance aspect. I trailer once a week and do a long ride.”

Erika attributes bad race brain in her ride last year at Coyote Ridge to this new approach.

“It was an experiment to see what of those slow, calm lessons translated to ride day. We tested it the day before and she walked on a loose rein.”

However, that didn’t carry over to race morning with the little red Ferrari revved up and hot to go. Her antics caused Erika to sprain her ankle in the first mile and then dismount in subsequent miles and run along her until she settled.

“I was frustrated and mad at her so I decided to put my energy into running instead,” said Erika. “She was a powerhouse headed down the trail 10 – 11 mph on the second loop.”

Erika Floyd and her red Ferrari Tessa. Photo by Trail Song Photography.

But Erika loves her redheaded, opinionated mare and plans to do more 25s to practice leaving camp and condition the brain.

Ann Szolas and her Paint gelding Tezeros Stormy aka Indy learned a lesson in overthinking that resulting in a disappointing pull in the 50 – their first pull since the team started endurance six years ago.

Trying to accommodate some lingering scabs from a bout of cellulitis he had earlier this year, Ann made the decisions to try Grizzly with glue-ons – which Indy had never worn before. The change in footwear and lack of protective pads led to Ann opting to pull when he came in slightly off at the vet check.

“I changed it, and you never change anything for a ride!” She said. “The scab ended up being such a non-issue and I was kicking myself for doing the number one no-no.”

“I love him too much to risk anything. He is sound in the pasture, happy and healthy so that is all that matters to me!” said Ann. She adds that the ride was awesomely run and she sounds nearly as happy as Indy in his pasture.

“Next ride, I’m going to do everything exactly as I have been.”

Top Three Results 1st 2nd 3rd
25 Mile Sarah Hockett & Detailed Legacy (3:09)

*Best in Class

Darcy Bean & HB Aur Squirt (3:10) Jenna Towner & Riches to Burn (3:46)
50 Mile Dennis Summers & AH Bantiki (6:06)

*Best in Class

Lynn Atcheson & Banner (6:06) Beth Claussen & Beau de Valeroso (6:08)
75 Mile Kathleen Pilo & Doublemint Rio Gambler (10:26) Jamie Hughes & De Khapprio KF (12:12)

*Best in Class

 For a view of the ride compliments of Alexis Berryman’s helment cam click here:

Rainy Days at April Daze

Ride Photos can be found here.

(April 7, 2018 Spokane, WA) – The rain was coming down in sheets. In that special way that rain falls in spring – torrential, driving.

And that was how it was on Saturday morning as a hardy group of distance riders set out on the well-marked course for the start of the Equine Distance Riding Association (EDRA) season.

“We were soaked down to the knickers,” Robin Burns declared after the ride. “I’ve never seen so many happy riders and volunteers, though.”

And among the group of happy riders was one small girl. Nine-year-old Miss Georgia on her trusty horse Gracie. It would be her first 25 mile ride and Erin Putnam had stepped up to sponsor the youngster.

Georgia and her American Blazer, Gracie. Photo by Brian Dirks.

“The trails at Riverside State Park are special to me. After over a year of disappointments and frustrations with horses that weren’t the right fit for endurance, Oreo and I completed our first 25 mile ride at April Daze in 2015. At Crazy Days in September of 2016, Terry James and Bucky escorted us through our first 50. At the April 7, 2018, Crazy Daze, Oreo and I had the privilege of escorting nine-year-old Georgia Glidden and her horse Gracie through their first 25. When Georgia’s mentor, Jennifer Kaplan, mentioned at the EDRA Convention that a 9YO girl had joined without her parents, I was intrigued. When Jennifer later posted that she was looking for someone to sponsor the girl at April Daze, I thought, “Why not?” I and Margie Woodford and Shannon Peckham were already planning to do a turtle pace 25, so let’s check this out,” wrote Erin.

“Georgia and I went out for a test ride on Friday afternoon, and we learned that we had the potential to be a great team. Then it was the l-o-n-g wait until 8am start time! Georgia has the blessing of a very supportive family, so she and Gracie had more crew than most of the rest of us put together! Despite the cold rain, we hadn’t even made it back to camp before Georgia was asking me if she could ride with me again. Georgia and Gracie finished with flying colors.”

According to Georgia’s mentor, Jennifer Kaplan, “Georgia is hooked and I just spoke with her dad, Brian and sounds like he has the bug too. He’s aiming for Selkirk.”

It’s worth noting that Georgia’s mount, Gracie, is an American Blazer. A breed of horse whose breed association mandates a gentle disposition. To learn more, visit the breed association here.

The trails were well marked despite attempted trail sabotage on Friday and the rains on Saturday. Riders were able to follow the route with the GAIA app but most found they didn’t need it with ample amounts of chalk and ribbon showing the way.

One person grateful for the well-marked trails was Lynn Atcheson who took first in the fifty mile and Best In Class.

A wet Lynn and Banner head out for another loop relaxed in a halter. Photo by Heidi Taggart Larson.

In her own words, “I’m notorious for always getting lost,” Lynn laughed. So with the first few loops she tracked behind Sue and Dennis Summer before swinging to the front with her horse knowing the way.

She finished in a time of 5:05 on a fit and happy Banner. Banner is a gelding of unknown age and origin, although best guess puts him about 16 and perhaps an Arab cross. This was his first victory in a 50 miler although he gave indication of his talent two years ago when he took first in the 30 mile Prineville Ride. He’s consistently Top Ten but it wasn’t until Lynn’s friend Jamie Hughes encouraged her to step up to a fifty that the pair really started to shine.

“I had to be talked into doing one,” said Lynn. “It was hard, I did a lot of walking and crying before I finished.”

A relaxed Banner at Vet Check. Photo by Heidi Taggart Larson.

But finish they did, and after a mild winter in the Gorge area of Washington and solid conditioning on the hills surrounding the Columbia River they were ready for April Daze. Lynn attributed the 3,500’+ elevation changes in her conditioning rides as a big part of Banner’s fitness.

“50’s are getting easier, but they are still hard,” said Lynn. “We’ll do another 50 at Grizzly, but I’m only going if I get some real rain gear!”


Want to join Lynn at Grizzly? Be sure to check out the ride page here. Grizzly Mountain is Saturday, April 21, 2018.


Top Three Results 1st 2nd 3rd
25 Mile Julie James &

AH Bantiki

(2:49, Half Arab)

Terry James &

RFR Polaris

(2:50, Arab)

Shelley Kerr &

CW Cruizer Gold

(2:53, Grade)

50 Mile Lynn Atcheson & Banner

(5:05, Arab Pinto)

Dennis Summers &

DR Finnigan

(5:23, Arab)

Sue Summers &

WMA Pastella

(5:23, Arab)

TYM Relay  Myra Darty/Dublin Ban & Nicole Leonard/Ugly Betty Kathleen Ferguson/Deal’s Crown Royal & Guy Cheek/JV Trinidad  Kim Black/Karim & Sandy Cheek/Bold Design
Ride & Tie 25 Mile Ben Volk/Taryn Rathbone &

Lauverus Moon


Tara Rothwell/Margarita Philips &

Morguitible Asset CCA (Arab Cross)

Ride & Tie 16 Mile Richard Alderson/Matthew Clark & Destiny

(Turbo Friesian)

Grizzly Mountain Ride Offers Ten to Eighty Miles Of Fun

The Grizzly Mountain Ride on April 21, 2018 has been a fixture on the Northwest riding calendar since 1999. Darlene and Max Merlich are the second set of ride managers to coordinate this staple event. The event offers rides from a ten mile trail ride up to an 80 mile Test Your Mettle Relay.

The ride is located in Central Oregon, a few miles outside of Madras. The footing is mostly two track dirt roads, single track trail and a small amount of gravel roads. We checked in with Ride Manager, Darlene Merlich, to get the lay of the land.

What makes this ride special?

The Grizzly Mountain Ride is special because it’s an early spring ride. There is plentiful grass, some natural water, and amazing mountain views! Another bonus to this ride is the catered dinner on Friday night by Landmark Catering! Lots of communing goes on around the fire pit.

Why should a new rider try Grizzly as their first ride or an experienced rider add it to their list?

A new rider should try Grizzly as their first ride because the managers take the time to make sure the trail is well marked (ribbons, lime, signs and gps tracks made available), there is plentiful water available on the trail. We feed our riders Friday and sometimes Saturday evening, and there is a very friendly to new people/riders atmosphere at this ride!

The Grizzly Mountain Ride is a great ride for those that have ridden many rides before because it takes place in the spring when horses are still fuzzy and maybe not quite in “race” shape. The easily navigated terrain at this ride makes it a great “conditioning” ride. The weather is generally ride friendly and most folks can finish even the 75 miler in the daylight hours.

What surprises might riders encounter given the location?

There is a possibility that the range cows will be turned out before the ride takes place. If this happens, there are lots of gates to go through. We do our best to find people to “man” the gates, but if we’re short of volunteers, riders will need to open and close gates. There are also highway crossings since the bulk of the ride takes place on the west side of Hwy 26 and ridecamp is on the east side of Hwy 26. Because this is a desert ride, there are plenty of views of the Cascade Mountain range.

The Loops?

This year we are having a 26 mile ride as our shorter distance. This will be a single loop with an out vet check somewhere around 14 miles. The outcheck will be a 45 minute hold for the short distance riders. You’ll be on what we call the Rimrock Loop. The 50 milers will be doing the same Rimrock Loop, then the newly named Scales Loop, and finishing off on the Tribby Loop.
We’ve added in the Warner Loop for the 75 milers, and the Test Your Mettle Relay riders will be riding the Warner Loop, then the Scales Loop, and they’ll finish off on the Tribby Loop.

The map files will be made available as soon as we’ve accurately verified the miles. We are asking riders to download the Gaia GPS app on their smartphones. GPX files will also be made available for riders using Garmin type GPS’s.

What distances are offered and how much is it?

Ride Distance Cost* Start Time
10 mile Trail Ride $25 TBD
30 miles $90 TBD
50 miles $100 TBD
75 miles $115 TBD
Test Your Mettle Relay 80 mi $180 TBD

*Juniors are $25, PNER members take $10 off. 50% Ride Manager Discount to all PNER Ride Managers.

Want to jump in and join Darlene and the crew at Grizzly Mountain? You can download the ride flyer HERE (Grizzly Mtn Flier 2018-1), visit the website, or contact Darlene Merlich at or call 503-784-5337.



In keeping with the Start Ready, Finish Proud motto, Grizzly Mountain will also be hosting a mini-clinic on the Friday of ride weekend.

Rider Option Pull Codes presented by Lois Fox.

Tentative time: 4 pm, Friday, April 20, 2018

How well do you know what’s normal for your horse?  In this clinic we will talk about how and when we make decisions during an endurance ride.  What can you learn from a pull?  We will clarify what the pull codes mean and how they should be applied.  It’s a rare horse with more than a few completions in his career to have no pulls.  It’s a myth that any horse can do endurance with the correct preparation.  EDRA has the motto :START READY, FINISH PROUD”, which is what this mini clinic is all about!


April Daze Kicks Off EDRA Ride Season

April Daze on April 7 marks the start of the Equine Distance Riding Association (EDRA) ride season. The event, which features rides from about 12 miles up to 75, is located at Riverside State Park just outside of Spokane, Washington.

The ride’s location at Riverside Park along the Spokane River means easy to moderate terrain that is welcoming for the new rider, and easy on horses just coming out of winter that may not be fully legged up. The footing is good with dirt trails and some rocky sections.

Siri Olson and EZ To B Perfect (2017 Appaloosa National Endurance Ride Champion) at a previous ride at Riverside State Park. Photo credit Cassidy Rae Photography.

The ride is managed by a woman no stranger to the endurance community. Gail Williams manages a number of rides in the Northwest and held April Daze for the first time in 2015. The ride was held again in 2016 before having a conflict with Army scheduling in 2017 that caused its cancellation.

We sat down briefly with Gail to learn more about what this ride has to offer, what makes it special and what riders can expect.

What makes this ride special?
Because of the moderate terrain and well defined trails, April Daze is a great early season ride. The ride camp is wonderfully flat and has lots of room and easy access for big rigs.

Why should a new rider try April Daze as their first ride or an experienced rider add it to their list?
We have a great crew of vets and helpers, who are willing to take time to show both new and experienced riders the great trails, point out places to experience scenic views, and have a good experience.

The trails will be very well marked, using both ribbons and signs and riders will be able to call ride camp if necessary. We will have abundant water along the trails, probably every 5 – 7 miles.

What surprises might riders encounter given the location?
Because the park is in an urban area, riders may encounter people on bikes or hiking or walking along the trails. People walking may have dogs with them although they are supposed to be leashed.

The Loops?

There will be at least two loops, one mostly north of ride camp, and the other(s) more south of camp. The loops should be available for gps download a week or two before the ride. All vet checks are in camp with loops going out from a central point, from 10 – 25 miles.

What distances are offered and how much is it?

Ride Distance Cost* Start Time
Trail Ride $30 9 am and after
25 miles $90 8 am
50 miles $100 6 am
75 miles $115 (5 entries required by 3/25) 5:30 am
Ride and Tie 12 miles $25 8:30 am
Ride and Tie 25 miles $75 8:30 am
Test Your Mettle Relay 50 mi $160 6:30 am

*Juniors take $25 off, PNER members take $5 off.

Want to jump in and join Gail and the crew at April Daze? You can download the ride flyer APRIL DAZE 2018 Flyer or contact Gail Williams at or call 509-952-1256.

Pre-registration not required but strongly encouraged and appreciated.

EDRA Adding Mini-Clinics to Ride Calendar

(February 8, 2018) – The Equine Distance Riding Association is preparing to add mini-clinics to each distance ride in 2018. The concept, tested in 2017, is aimed at expanding riders’ skills in a variety of areas.

The initial mini-clinics in 2017 were informal gatherings the day prior to the main ride but were so well received that they will be expanded to all EDRA rides in 2018. The new mini-clinics will be held the Friday afternoon prior to the distance ride on Saturday.

“The mini-clinics are intended to give EDRA riders proven tools for their toolbox to up their game in a variety of ways,” said Dennis Summers. “There are old dogs ‘hey, I resemble that remark’ that have proven methods to share with interested riders.”

The topics to be covered include; presenting a horse for the vet and trot outs, training for a relaxed start, how to present for best condition (BC), tailing a horse, and more. The clinics will be free to attend and may be audited by volunteers and non-riding attendees.

“Every rider shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel, unless they want to that is,” Summers said. “Giddyup!” Summers will be helping head the new educational component and builds off his educational “nuggets” shared via the EDRA website.

EDRA members will also have an opportunity to offer their input on what topics they’d like to see covered during the Annual General Meeting on March 17.

The mini-clinics build on EDRA’s mission to have a robust mentoring program that supports the development of horses and riders in a fun and friendly environment. More information will be available on the EDRA website and Facebook page as it is finalized.