The Great Santa Fe Trail Ride ~ 2008
Great Santa Fe Trail Ride ~ 2007
Riders trot out the first leg of the 515-mile Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race on Labor Day morning in Pecos, N.M.
Sept 17, 2007
End of the Trail
Chelsey Palmer, left, and Carolyn Smith ride into the Independence Square Saturday evening to commemorate the mail messengers of the Pony Express. Chris McNeill, Beth Jones, Josh Jones and Britney Palmer also rode for the post office Saturday
Six horses and their cowboy-clad riders arrived on the Independence Square Saturday afternoon, commemorating rides by messengers who worked for the Pony Express.
The symbolic messengers greeted applauding spectators on the east side of the courthouse, and Mayor Don Reimal proclaimed the ride a historic representation of the days when the Pony Express delivered mail.
One rider even carried a leather satchel, like the ones carriers used to deliver mail, which she presented to acting Independence Postmaster Bruce Logan. The mail pouch represented one brought up the Santa Fe Trail from New Mexico.
The historic ride was held at the culmination of an 800-mile horse race that ended in Gardner, Kan. The winner was Scott Griffin of Seattle, who was competing in his first horse endurance competition.
The race’s founder and coordinator, Rob Phillips, of Lawrence, Kan., originally wanted the race to end in Independence, following the trail of the covered wagons that once traveled there. But that route had too many roads, highways and other barriers.
From the Square, the horses and riders went to the Bingham-Waggoner Estate to be part of the annual Pig Pickin’ Chicken Lickin’ roast.
Emery Staton, who met up with the riders and horses on the Square, said she liked the historic aspect of the event.
“I thought it was pretty cool because it was a re-enactment,” said the elementary-aged student who considers herself a horse lover.
Rita Porter, vice chair of the city’s Tourism Advisory Board, said such re-enactments are important. “The historical things make up our culture, and when our culture’s strong, so is our community.”
Another spectator, Nina Anders, of Independence, said she was glad to see young faces in the crowd as well as on horseback. “It’s nice to see young people who want to be a part of something historical,” she said.
Mark Inglett, manager of the Truman post office, agreed that history is important. “It’s nice to rediscover our roots sometimes.”
Sept 16, 2007
The Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race Ends
Griffin gives a kiss to his horse, MN Khourusen
after winning the Santa Fe Race.
Griffin, who was competing in his first horse endurance race, and his horse MN Khourusen finished without injuries.
Scott Griffin of Seattle won the race, competing in his first horse endurance competition. His reward was a belt buckle presented Saturday night by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. There was no prize money, just bragging rights.
The Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race began Sept. 3 in Santa Fe, N.M., with about 60 riders and 160 horses and finished Saturday in Gardner.
About half the riders reached the final day. Some dropped out because of dehydration.
The race (participants preferred to call it a ride) covered 515 miles. Only two riders completed the route without changing horses. Many wore spurs attached to tennis shoes. Instead of cowboy hats, they wore helmets.
Riders spent nine to 12 hours in the saddle each day for three days, rested and traveled a day, then repeated another three days at a different location along the old Santa Fe Trail.
Jeanie Hauser, a veterinarian from Leavenworth County, said all the horses received regular inspections by veterinarians each day. About five or six horses a day were eliminated for minor ailments.
“They have fared very well, and that’s because people have been taking very good care of their horses,” she said.
Phillips, the race organizer, said some riders often walked miles to rest their horses. Water troughs were spaced every five miles.
Although injuries are rare in endurance horse racing, there is an element of danger.
Rick Lee, a rider from Adams, Neb., said wearing the right clothes was important, especially for riders spending hours in the saddle. A rider wearing just a pair of jeans would finish the day with badly battered legs.
Rick Medlin, a team rider from Paola, Kan., said Saturday that he could have gone three or four more days and wasn’t saddlesore.
“The most enjoyable thing is seeing the country and riding horses,” he said. “It’s the adventure of a lifetime.”
Sept. 14, 2007
On The Way To The Finish Line
Jim Hole was among the riders in the Great Santa Fe Horse Race finishing the 515-mile endurance ride this weekend in a town where pioneers had to decide which route to take on their westward journey.
The race called for riders to go 50 miles a day for 10 days, sometimes through blistering heat and daylong downpours as they covered the sweeping landscapes of open prairies and rolling plains.
Hole, of Sacramento, Calif., was one of two riders Friday who had made the entire trip on one horse, even though the rules allow for multiple horses.
Since the start, Hole’s constant companion has been Little Big Man, an 8-year-old bay Arabian gelding he calls his “friend and partner.”
For Hole, the race was a link to the past, as he slept under the stars with his horse and saw much the same landscape the settlers saw.
“Sometimes you have to experience what they went through to appreciate what you’ve got today,” Hole said.
“You feel the wind on your shoulders, the smells, hear the birds. It takes you back to another day.”
That’s something Rob Phillips, founder and coordinator of the race, had in mind when he came up with the idea a year and half ago.
“We wanted them to get the feel for the terrain, and I think they are getting a good feel for that, but you can never replicate how it was in the 1800s,” said Phillips, of Lawrence
Susan Thompson, of Sweetwater, Tenn., took a scheduled break while her horse, a 7-year-old brown Arabian gelding named Thee Macade was being checked by veterinarians — one of four vet checks each horse undergoes each day.
Thompson said the biggest challenge at the start was the New Mexico heat. But she said the day-to-day challenge is taking care of the horses.
“They can’t tell you when they don’t feel good, or are hungry or thirsty,” she said.
The arrival of the riders coincides with 150th anniversary celebration of Gardner, which owes its start to the Santa Fe and Oregon trails.
Sept 14, 2007
Nearing the Finish Line
Riders in the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race are due in Gardner, Kansas this weekend to finish their trek.
Riders in the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race are finishing their 515-mile trek this weekend in a town where pioneers had to decide which route to take on their westward journey.
The arrival of the riders coincides with 150th anniversary celebration of Gardner, which owes its start to the Santa Fe and Oregon trails.
Race officials say the journey from Santa Fe, New Mexico, started September 3rd with 60 riders, but that number has dropped to 45 or 50.
The endurance race has traveled backward along the wide, meandering trail that opened in 1821 as a trade route between Santa Fe and its starting point in Independence, Missouri. But the 35 miles between Gardner and Independence is a metropolitan area and too congested for the ride.
Today the riders started at Melvin Lake in Osage County to race on a horse path around the lake. They planned the same routine tomorrow at Hillsdale Lake south of Gardner to wrap up the race.
“The original settlers were blacksmiths and suppliers for people on the trail. This was the last stop before deciding whether to use the Santa Fe, Oregon or California trails,” said Chamber of Commerce President Peter Solie.
The three trails were one coming out of Independence through Gardner. Then, west of town, the Santa Fe went southwest, mainly as a two-way trade route, while the Oregon settlers’ route split to the northwest. The California Trail then parted from the Oregon in southern Idaho.
The overall winner is the person with the shortest time.
But the true winners are the ones that arrive at the finish line with safe horses and safe riders.
As race organizer, Rob Phillips says, with that accomplishment … everyone has bragging rights for the rest of their lives.
Sept 14, 2007,
Scenes Along The Trail
Jason Stasiuk of Humble, Tx., pours water on his horse during a break in The Great Sante Fe Trail Race Thursday across the Flint Hills near Council Grove.
Thirty miles into his 51-mile race through the Flint Hills on Thursday, rider Jason Stasiuk dismounted and pulled the saddle off his horse.
He walked alongside the animal as they arrived at a required rest stop.
At a water trough, as Razzmataz drank, Stasiuk dipped his cowboy hat in the cold water and began pouring it not over himself but over the 18-year-old Arabian horse.
“He takes real good care of me,” said Stasiuk, from Humble, Texas. “And I need to take care of him.”
The 60 riders are racing the 515 miles over 13 days — for the experience and for bragging rights — in the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race.
Veterinarians travel with the race, and twice a day the horses must pass inspection. If there is a question that a horse is suffering, it’s pulled from the race.
“We’re doing this not for the ribbon, not for the money, but to promote our breed of horses,” said Mac McSwain of Winona, Texas, who raises Spanish mustangs.
“The horse means more to me than a race.”
Riders leisurely made their way east toward the rising sun. Some of the more ambitious went ahead at a slight trot, careful not to push their horses too hard, too early.
Endurance racing is all about going the distance in all kinds of conditions. In this race, which began Sept. 3 in Santa Fe and will end Saturday with an awards ceremony in Gardner, horses and riders have gone over sand and mountains.
They’ve persevered through rain and wind, on highways and chipped rock.
The 10 legs of the race average about 50 miles a day — nine to 12 hours a day. Most of the time they travel back roads and lonely highways.
Joe Reilly, Humble, Texas
The riders come from Washington state, Maryland, California, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, Kansas and Texas.
They’ve brought Arabians, mustangs, quarter horses, Tennessee walkers and Morgans.
McSwain, who is in his 60s, wanted one last great adventure. He and his wife brought six Spanish mustangs, intending to ride as a team.
On Monday a crowd in Dodge City, Kan., frightened the horse he was on. It reared, and McSwain fell off, breaking his collarbone and shoulder.
“He’s a country horse,” McSwain said Wednesday, arm in a sling. “He’s not used to people yee-hawing. He’s not a bad horse. He just had a bad rider.”
April Cyrek of Humboldt County, Calif., was concerned about her 5-year-old Arabian stallion and 9-year-old Arabian mare. The mare is blind in one eye, and the rain and wind on Wednesday blew into the horse’s good eye.
Still, she was glad she was on the endurance ride.
“You can see the country on the back of a horse,” she said.
Jay Allen, Fresno, California
The Great Santa Fe Trail Race has been an experience filled with memories … another chapter in American History.
Sept 14, 2007
Stories Along The Trail ~ Stepping Back In History
Minnesotan Craig Opel looks like your modern-day cowboy. He’s dressed in boots, blue jeans and a short-sleeve flannel shirt and a wide-brim cowboy hat — perfect for the fickle Kansas weather over the past two days — and is even traveling with a pack of horses.
So it’s surprising and a bit unexpected when instead of mounting his horse and continuing his journey on the Santa Fe Trail, he simply turns the ignition key in his PT Cruiser and puts the car into drive.
Opel is one of the nearly 100 teams of people involved in the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race Endurance Ride – – an 800-mile journey from New Mexico to Missouri.
While most involved are riding teams competing against time and each other, Opel is here for a different reason. Major Gouverneur and Anna Maria Morris — Opel’s great-great-great-uncle and aunt — traveled the exact same trail by wagon train from May to July in 1850.
In March, Opel said he stumbled upon the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race online and began to research it.
It was around that same time he discovered his great-great-great-aunt’s published diary in the pages of the book Cover Wagon Women, Vol. II: Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails.
“When I found out it was her diary about the exact same journey I was looking at, I just thought, ‘oh my gosh! This is fantastic,’” Opel said.
Opel’s reenactment of the Santa Fe Trail ride began Sept. 2 with the rest of the participants. Since he wasn’t involved in a riding team — Opel said he hasn’t ridden horses since his hunting days, which were many years ago — he signed up to work with the vets who check the horses three to four times a day to insure proper health during the riders’ 50-mile spurts by horseback.
In his time off from helping the veterinarians with paperwork, Opel uses a laminated neon green travel log of the 1850 journey to visit the same locations his relatives wrote about 157 years ago.
“When you can stand some place, in the exact spot in some cases — and I mean exact — where she stood 157 years ago, that’s pretty amazing,” he said.
“I’m also keeping a diary every day, because maybe 150 years from now, they’ll wonder about their great-great-uncle who traveled along with the new Santa Fe group,” Opel said.
Sept. 14, 2007
Looking For The Answers
Officials to Investigate Horse Deaths at Endurance Ride
The American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) will investigate the deaths of the two horses that were hit by a car after crossing the finish line on day seven of the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Ride, said AERC President Mike Maul.
The investigation will be conducted independently of the insurance investigation into the incident.
Rider Teresa Wilcox suffered bruises and scrapes. Rider Sandy Olson suffered a dislocated hip and broken thumb. Both riders were released from the hospital and returned to the ride site.
“This is a terrible thing that has happened,” said Maul. “My heart goes out to the riders who were injured. I am so glad to hear that they are back at the ride site.”
“An incident such as this during the ride or at the finish has never happened before in the 35-year history of AERC,” said Maul. “
All incidents, whether large or small, are investigated by the AERC with the purpose of making the sport safer for both riders and the horses participating in the event.”
According to Maul, the AERC sanctions almost 800 rides in the United States each year, with more than 23,000 total entries.
“AERC sanctioning provides a uniform standard for those rides, which are put on by members of the AERC as ride managers,” said Maul. “The ride itself is supervised by the ride manager and is not under the supervision of the AERC.”
The Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race is an 800-mile endurance ride completed over a 13-day period. The ride started in Santa Fe, N.M., on Sept. 3 and will end in Missouri on Sept. 15.
One of the main objectives of the race is to educate the public not only on the national historic Santa Fe Trail, but also to introduce the sport of endurance riding to thousands, said Maul.
It’s extremely rare for horses to perish during endurance rides, said Mike Maul, president of the American Endurance Ride Conference, a national governing body for long-distance riding that sanctioned the Santa Fe Trail race.
“It’s very tragic and it’s very sad that it (Tuesday’s incident) happened,” Maul said.
Maul said it appeared as though riders Tuesday had adequate room to stop their horses between crossing the finish line and reaching the paved road.
Dennis Latta, director of the New Mexico Sports Authority, said that agency- which is listed as a “partner” of the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race on the event’s Web site, along with the New Mexico Tourism Department-would also evaluate the incident.
Indications are, however, that it “wasn’t a matter of poor planning on the organizers’ part,” Latta said.
“There were no real problems in New Mexico, and I don’t think there would (have been) in Kansas if they (Wilcox and Olsen) had stopped at the finish line,” he said.
McPherson County Sheriff’s Department officials consider the incident an accident and have not pressed charges, Johnston said, adding that the driver of the car was on a “straight through” section of road and unable to avoid the animals.
Riders were told before the day’s stage began that the road was just a half-mile away from the finish line, Johnston added.
Sept. 13, 2007
Two horses killed, 3 injured in collision
Organizers of an 800-mile horse race that finishes in Gardner this weekend are investigating an accident Tuesday that killed two horses and injured two riders.
The collision came on the ninth day of the 13-day race that began in Santa Fe, N.M., and snakes through parts of the Midwest before ending Saturday.
The two riders, a woman from southwest Missouri and one from Oklahoma, were airlifted to a Wichita hospital, where they were recovering Wednesday. The driver of the car was also injured.
“It’s made everybody sad for what’s happened,” said Rob Phillips, organizer of The Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race.
On Tuesday, the two leaders of the day were finishing the race just before 2 p.m. when they collided with a car traveling down a blacktop road south of Canton, Kan.
Jim Johnston, McPherson County undersheriff, said the two riders had sprinted past the finish line about a half-mile back and kept riding.
“I don’t know exactly what happened, if they got caught up in the excitement and just kept going or what happened,” Johnston said Wednesday. “But when they got to the road, there just happened to be a car there at that exact time.”
Undersherrif Jim Johnston clarified the details of the accident saying, “the car hit one horse the other horse hit the side of the car.”
“It was like hitting a dad gum brick wall,” Wilcox said of her horse slamming into the Buick.
Phillips said the finish line was clearly marked about a half-mile back from where the crash occurred. Someone was there clocking times.
“We take it as a very serious incident,” Phillips said.
Both horses, Mr Valentine and Foxfire, were killed instantly.
They were buried at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge.
Sept 11, 2007
*Tragedy Strikes -Two Riders Airlifted*
An accident at 1:58 p.m. Tuesday marred the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race traveling through McPherson County. The accident at 27th Avenue and Cimarron Road seven miles south of Canton.
A vehicle struck two horses and two women riders were airlifted to Wichita after sustaining apparent disabling injuries, according to the McPherson County sheriff’s department.
The driver of the vehicle was transported to McPherson Memorial Hospital, according to officials.
Eyewitnesses reported the women riders apparently went past the finish line and into the path of a vehicle moving northbound to Canton.
The McPherson County sheriff’s department, Canton fire and EMS personnel and Moundridge EMS were dispatched to the accident.
The riders followed a route from Dakota Road to Fifth Avenue, to Cimarron Road across McPherson County Tuesday.
Sept 8, 2007
Riders Reach The Halfway Point
A farrier works on a horse Saturday at the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo grounds. Participants in the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race Endurance Ride stopped in Dodge City for a weekend stay.
For Joe Reilly, one of the most enjoyable moments of the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race Endurance Ride came when he rode out of Santa Fe, N.M., the first day and saw the spectacular scenery around him.
Joyce Adams also raved about the scenery in Santa Fe. But for her, the most memorable part of that day was just finishing the race.
“I took a flatlander horse from western Kansas, and I took it up to the mountains and we completed it right in the middle of the pack,” she said in an interview Saturday.
“I wanted to say, ‘Look at us! Look what we did!'”.
Reilly is an experienced endurance rider, while Adams is a novice.
Both of them are competing in the first-ever Santa Fe Trail Horse Race, which began Sept. 3 in Santa Fe and will end 13 days later in Independence, Mo.
The race route mirrors the old Santa Fe Trail, with overnight stops in several communities along the way.
The riders took a weekend break at Roundup Arena in Dodge City, then saddled up early Sunday morning and hit the trail again.
News Link: Dodge Globe
Sept. 7, 2007
Special US Postmark Available
The Overbrook, Kansas Post Office will offer a special postmark to celebrate the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race Endurance Ride from Santa Fe, N.M., to Independence, Mo., Sept. 3-15. The special postmark will be applied to any item with first-class postage affixed and will be available from 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 7.
Update: Sept 6, 2007
According to a phone message I had late Sept 6 with Rob Phillips, who is one of the race organizers, the race positions were at that moment:
First: Scott Griffin
Second: Theresa Wilcox
Third: Dawson Higgins
Sept 6, 2007
Kathy Myers and her Arabian horse Blue, the only Santa Fe area duo participating in the 515-mile Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race, ended their bid to finish the event today.
The team made it through back-to-back 50 mile rides on Monday and Tuesday with flying colors. But Wednesday, near Clayton, N.M., Blue stepped through a metal panel on a small bridge at mile 39 and cut one of his rear legs, according to Pete Myers, the rider’s husband.
Although the gelding was fine, Kathy Myers felt it was better to take Blue home and let him rest.
The only other New Mexicans — Shawn Davis and Dawson Higgins, both from Tucumcari — are still in the event, which drew 60 riders from all over the U.S.
Update: Sept 5, 2007
Team Liberty of Tucumcari is in the No. 3 spot after two days in the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Endurance Race, said Shawn Davis, Liberty Team captain from Tucumcari.
“We’re in third. We’re doing okay. We’re right up there where we need to be,” said Davis in a telephone interview from Springer, the layover for the second day of the ride.
“They’re doing good,” said Rob Phillips, one of the race organizers in charge of accommodations.
Dawson Higgins, also of Tucumcari, rode the first day and completed 50 miles from Santa Fe to Las Vegas in the 850 mile endurance race. Davis took the second leg, another 50 miles.
“We’re really surprised,” said Davis.
Riders and horses are doing well, said Davis.
The horses, all five of which are from Quay County, “are performing better than we expected,” Davis said.
Higgins and Davis will ride a fresh horse for the first five days, and then begin again on the most rested horse.
During the race, veterinarians on the trail check each horse to be sure that its in race condition.
Today, Higgins will ride again starting out at 7 a.m. from Springer, Davis said.
Their destination today will be Clayton.
Davis heard about the race at least 14 months ago and was inspired by the challenge.
“It’s a challenge because of the length of the race and it’s never been done before,” said Davis, when he began drumming up support for team members and for the trail ride.
One of the main objectives of the race is to educate the public not only about the national historic Santa Fe Trail, but also to introduce the sport of endurance riding to thousands, according to its organizers.
It’s also a test of horse and rider, who will gain a greater appreciation of the trail that brought many homesteaders and adventurers westward.
Davis said before he left, that often because of the terrain or to meet daily goals, the rider will have to dismount and run along with his horse during the race.
The name Team Liberty has roots in the past.
“I picked the name Liberty to stay with the Santa Fe Trail era,” Davis said. “Tucumcari used to be a community north of here called Liberty.”
Liberty was founded in the late 1800s, north of Pajarito Creek, for the soldiers of Fort Bascom. Five men from Liberty founded Tucumcari in the early 1900s when the Rock Island and Pacific Railroad decided to build a line to connect with the El Paso and North-eastern Railroad at Santa Rosa.
Race organizers said early on that they wanted to make the ride as much fun and as competitive for as many riders as they possibly could, so that it will be an event that can be repeated annually.
Entrants were able to enter as a team or as an individual. It’s also why the event has a targeted 50- to 55-mile goal race day, so that more people would enter. There are also many prize categories, including a $2,500 saddle.
Over the past year, Davis has been soliciting support from sponsors, both for the entrance fee and for their travel budget, that includes five horses. In all he estimated the costs could reach $20,000.
On Friday night, there was a sponsors’ dinner to say thank you and to support Team Liberty on its entry in the inaugural race.
Win or place, when Davis started out he said he just wanted to complete the 515-mile endurance race.
Team Number: 2
Dawson Higgins, Shawn Davis
Quarter Horses, grade horses
(All from Tucumcari where noted)
George Price of Capitan
Pete Walden Silver City
George Owen of Clovis
Sept. 3: Start from Santa Fe Start to Las Vegas, 50 miles
Sept. 4: To Springer, 50 miles
Sept 5: To Clayton 55 miles
Sept. 6: No Ride
Sept. 7: To Elkhart, Kan. 50 miles
Sept. 8: No ride
Sept. 9: To Larned, Kan., 50 miles
Sept. 10: To Lyons, Kan., 55 miles
Sept. 11: To Council Grove, Kan., 50 miles
Sept. 12: No ride
Sept. 13 : To Burlingame, Kan., 50 miles
Sept. 14: To Gardner, Kan.
Sept 15: To Independence, Mo., 55 miles
Total miles: 515
New Mexico News Release