Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse: Wallace Hill Sundance

December 7 2021
by Merri Melde-Endurance.net

Wallace Hill Sundance, aka “Sunny D”
14-year-old half Arabian/half Saddlebred gelding
owned by Amy Wallace Whelan
ridden (mostly) by mom Amy and daughter Annie Whelan

“We got Wallace Hill Sundance, ‘Sunny D’, as a green 6-year-old from a friend in western Kentucky,” Annie Whelan says. “He is my mom’s horse and started competing in Endurance in November of 2013. I completed my first ride on him in 2016.” Wallace Hill is the Whelans’ farm in Louisa, Kentucky, that has been in Amy’s family for 150 years.

The gelding’s record currently stands at 2,015 miles, 41 completions in 46 starts, including 5 100-mile completions in 5 starts, and 3 Best Condition awards.

“I’m very proud of him, but if you have ever been around Sundance at a ride, you know he is a very strange and quirky horse. He is very spooky but also very competitive and feisty.

“He is the strangest horse I’ve ever been around, but I can’t imagine life without him. I think all the good endurance horses have a screw loose. He definitely has a screw loose (or maybe all of them).

“I’ve been lucky to have completed over 1,300 AERC miles with him and hope for many more miles in the years to come.”

Monday, September 13, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse (Mule): Applejack

by Merri Melde-Endurance.net

AppleJack, aka “AJ”
19-year-old John mule
sire: Mammoth Jack
dam: Appaloosa

105 Endurance miles
125 LD miles

Jennifer Leach, of Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, had wanted a mule for a long time, ever since seeing a fancy pair of tall mules in a cherry festival parade many years ago. She loved their stoic, regal bearing.

Due to many years of back surgeries from a fire department injury, she decided to get a mule in the hopes that it would be easier on her back. The 15-hand sorrel AppleJack entered her life on, coincidentally, and perhaps auspiciously, National Mule Day, October 26th, 2019, from Dreary, Idaho. When she test-rode him, she was amazed at how much smoother he was on her back than her friend's horses were. She was sold.

“AJ” was Jennifer’s first mule, and only the second one she’d ever ridden. She’d only owned one other equine, a Morgan, and that was over 20 years ago.

She bought AJ for trail riding, but she’d always had Endurance in the back of her mind. “When it became apparent that he was a lot faster than my friends' Quarter horses,” Jennifer says, “I started thinking more seriously about Endurance but I was starting from scratch.”

She started reading about Endurance, and the following spring, 2020, she was ready to start conditioning but she needed a mentor. Enter Skyla Stewart. “I found a great one, purely by happenstance on Treasure Valley Riding Buddies Facebook page. We met and test-rode together at Eagle foothills and then Sklya proceeded to take me under her wing.”

Jennifer and AJ entered their first 25-mile Endurance ride in October in the Owyhee Halloween ride in southern Idaho, where AJ raised a few eyebrows, and not just for his good looks.

“That morning was pretty crazy. He was so riled up, kicking, pawing and bucking, I could barely saddle him and needed help mounting him after falling while trying the first time!” Despite AJ’s antics at the start, they went on to finish well in 12th place.

“Both of us were pretty rusty and in need of some training - and bonding - so we took riding lessons over the winter with Skyla and her horse Jasper. I've learned a lot, but especially if I want AJ to become more at ease, that I need to be the kind of person I would want to be around, whenever I'm with AJ.”

The hard work is paying off; the partners have so far in 2021 completed all 7 of their rides: 4 LDs and 2 50’s. Their last feat was completing all 3 consecutive LD days at Old Selam Pioneer in south central Idaho, put on by the local Endurance riding club, SWITnDR (Southwest Idaho Trail and Distance Riders), with AJ winning the “Getaway Horse” prize.

“I love AppleJack's trot,” Jennifer says. “He has an all-day trot that is really easy on my back. He really seems to love Endurance but I also love that he will tell me when he's tired. The mule's sense of self-preservation is strong.

“His ears flop around when he's moving and happy (Happy Ears) and he often honks like a bullfrog while going downhill, which gets laughs from other riders if not some confusion from the other horses.”

Jennifer was surprised and thrilled with AJ’s Old Selam award. “Bless his big muley heart. I couldn't be prouder of the old guy.

“I love this new (to me and AJ) sport, the people in it and the friends I'm making!”

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse: Al-Marah Triple Speed

By Merri Melde-Endurance.net

Al-Marah Triple Speed, aka “Ace”
8-year-old Arabian gelding
Owned by Suzanne Hayes

By Al Marah Swift X Al-Marah Tripoli, by AM Ben Dream

500 AERC miles
50 LD miles
1st place 2021 Big Horn 100

Suzanne Hayes, of Arlee, Montana, used to ride Al-Marah horses in endurance. When Bazy Tankersley (who founded Al- Marah Arabians in 1941 focusing on Crabbet lines) died, Jerry Hamilton, Bazy’s long-time employee who continued to manage her Arizona ranch after her death, contacted Suzie. 

“They had 37 two-, three-, and four-year-olds in a pasture,” Suzie said, “and he wanted me to come down and pick one out. So I took Lynn [Lee, Suzie’s neighbor and long-time riding friend] with me, and the first one I picked out was Ace. Jerry said, ‘You can’t have him. I’m going to give him to my wife.’

Instead, Suzie picked out another one for herself and one for Lynn. The next day, Jerry’s wife asked Suzie which horse was her favorite. “I said, ‘It’s the one that Jerry was going to give to you,’ and she said ‘Oh, you can have him, there’s a lot of other horses for me!’” So Suzie ended up bringing 3 Al-Marah horses home, including Ace, who was 3 at the time.

Suzie’s husband Mark started the gelding; and Ace was 6 when he made his endurance debut, in a 25-miler at Wyoming’s Medicine Lodge ride. Two 50’s concluded his first season, and the next year he completed 4 50’s.

After 3 50’s this season, including the 50-mile Championship at Fort Howes in Montana where they finished 21st out of 59 starters, Suzie took her gelding on his first 100 in Wyoming at the Big Horn.

“I just felt like it was a good first 100, because you have to go slow. To me it’s a very metabolically kind course for a horse. Because of the footing - there’s a lot of rocks - you just can’t go very fast. And there’s tons and tons of grass for the horses to eat, so to me it’s a really good course for a first time.”

Ace aced the ride, taking first out of 9 starters. Their finish time was 18:40, “probably the slowest winning time every on that course!” But the gelding handled it beautifully, receiving the Best Condition award.

“He’s just such a really, really nice horse,” Suzie said. He does have a lofty trot that gets him down the trail. “He’s the sweetest, kindest horse you’ll ever be around.”

He could turn out to be one of the best one day, too. Suzie’s long-time endurance friend Barb McGann sums it up:

“I’ve never seen a Suzanne Hayes horse that I didn’t instantly love. She’s got a Helluva eye, and an unbeatable training protocol.”

Top photo Suzie and Ace at Antelope Island; bottom photo Suzie and Ace, Lynne Lee and Al-Marah Fastnfine at Antelope Island

Friday, June 18, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse: Sizedoesntmatter

by Merri Melde-Endurance.net

Sizedoesntmatter, aka “Dakar”
15-year-old Arabian gelding
owned by Gwen Hall

• 2605 AERC miles
• 3 Top Ten Tevis finishes (4th in 2014, 2nd in 2015, and 8th in 2019)
• 2017 AERC National Championship 100 in Colorado
• USA team starters for the 2018 World Equestrian Games Endurance Championship in Tryon North Carolina
• AERC Decade Team.
• 2021 AERC National Championship 100 in Montana

Some 11 years ago Gwen Hall was looking for a horse to buy for endurance, though she hadn’t sat on a horse in 20 years. “I was that typical middle-aged female-getting-back-into-horses kind of thing,” Gwen says. “I was a former ultra-marathoner, and I’ve been through 2 knee arthroscopies, and various other things, so I knew my time with that was probably done. And I’d heard about Tevis, because of the Western States Run, and thought that looked really cool.”

Joanne Pavlis helped Gwen get back into riding, and then took her to Arapahoe racetrack in Colorado to look at Arabians. Gwen walked into the stall of the gray 4-year-old Sizedoesntmatter, and that was pretty much that. “He was just so calm and we just clicked. So I brought him home, and we haven’t looked back.”

Gwen credits his trainer at the track, Jerry Partin, with Dakar’s easy transition from the track to the trails. “Jerry was just a fantastic horseman, and just did such great work mentally with him. The horse had a brain.”

Gwen spent much of that winter getting to know her new horse and working on their partnership. “We would go out on hacks with a halter and a lead rope.

“But then I discovered at his first endurance ride that I really had bought a racehorse. I thought I was going to die! If it hadn’t been for two now very good friends who parked one horse in front of me and one horse behind me, I think I would be dead.

“But once we kind of got that initial partnership, then I worked with a trainer, Taffy Plaisted, who is a phenomenal dressage trainer. She did a great job training horses. She doesn’t focus on the rider, but she teaches you how to teach your horse. And it made such a huge difference in his way of going, and all those pieces just came together for us.”

From Dakar’s first endurance ride at age 5 through his 11th season at age 15, Gwen and Dakar have reached the top rung of the sport. Their record includes 3 Top Ten Tevis finishes, 2 AERC 100-mile National Championship titles, and making the USA Team for the World Equestrian Games Endurance Championship in the fiasco that was Tryon, North Carolina.

When asked what makes Dakar so special, it’s hard for Gwen to put into words.
“It’s hard to verbalize, honestly,” she says. “We just click. We’re a good team. Any challenge I have put in front of this horse in the time I have owned him, he not only meets but he exceeds my expectations. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done with him. He tries. He wants to do well.

“He’s lucky in that he’s naturally gifted as an athlete. And he really has a very calm demeanor. He’s a thinker. But he has that spark within, I guess the heart. I’ve had the pleasure of riding a lot of horses over the last 10 years, but he’s just got that special something, that at least with me, it works.

“I thank Dick Reed, who sold him to me off the track, for working with me on his purchase.

“And if little things like that hadn’t happened, I never would have bought Dakar.

“I really don’t have the words to express what works, what I’d look for in another horse like him, because I don’t think I’m ever going to find that. To use a cliche, he is my unicorn. And I thank god every day that he’s part of my life. 


Saturday, May 8, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse: RGS Just Believe

RGS Just Believe is 1 of 5 USA team Endurance horses headed to San Rossore, Italy, for the May 22 Longines FEI Endurance World Championship. 

By Merri Melde-Endurance.net

RGS Just Believe, aka “Rose”
13-year-old Arabian mare
By Justify X Beaukay Bey, by NV Beau Bey
Owned by Jessica DiCamillo Torres

RGS Just Believe became part of Jessica Torres’ herd when she decided to help out a friend in Southern New Mexico that needed to re-home her.

“When I saw her for the first time I knew she’d be great in the sport of Endurance with those long legs and great attitude to impress,” Jessica says. “She’s always willing to give all she can and  present herself with the WOW factor.”

The mare was broke when Jessica got her near the end of 2015, and came with a dressage background, so Jessica took to retraining her and focusing on Endurance. 

One thing the DiCamillos do with all their Endurance horses is work cattle with them on their ranch. Rose wasn’t impressed with the cows at first, but she soon got over that. “She was like, ‘Oh, ok. You want me to race over here and get that thing? All right!”

Over 4 AERC seasons, Rose has completed 275 AERC miles and finished 10 of 13 rides. In her last 5 FEI CEI3* 100-mile rides in the USA (all in New Mexico) over the last 3 seasons, this pair completed 4, winning 3 of them and placing second in another. 

Their last race in New Mexico was one of Jessica’s highlights. “She impressed me so much.  She had lots of energy in the tank at the end of the 100 mile ride. The weather was great, it was a perfect and amazing - we had a blast that ride. We had amazing staff and crew and officials, and it just turned out to be a great day.” 

Jessica and Rose were USA team alternates for the World Endurance Championship in Italy May 22; but with the recent defection of Hanna Weightman and Poetrie (due to the bad luck and bad timing of slight lameness), Jessica and RGS Believe will join the 4 other USA teammates - including her mother Karen Binns DiCamillo - for the race. 

"I worked cattle and retrained Rose," Jessica says, "to build a world class horse. I’m so proud of the horse she has become.

“I was excited to go crew for my mom in Italy, but now I’m so stoked to be going as a teammate! To achieve this dream together (daughter and mother) is so extraordinary. We have been planing and replanning this moment for years and it’s finally here. 

“I’d like to give a huge thank you to my family and friends for their time, help and support. I couldn’t have made it here without you!”

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horses: Poete and Poetrie

Poete and Poetrie are 2 of 5 USA team Endurance horses owned by Holly Corcoran and headed to San Rossore, Italy, for the May 22 Longines FEI Endurance World Championship. Poete will be ridden by Holly; Poetrie will be ridden by Hanna Weightman.

By Merri Melde-Endurance.net

14-year-old Arabian gelding
By Bandjo de Falgas X Poetikka, by Statistic
Bred by Asgard Arabians

24 of 28 AERC starts, 1855 miles in 9 seasons
8 of 9 AERC 100s

10-year-old Arabian mare
By Syndicat X Poetikka, by Statistic
Bred by Asgard Arabians

22 of 25 AERC starts, 1200 miles in 4 seasons
4 of 5 AERC 100s

Both owned by Holly Corcoran

Holly tells the story of how she got Poete and Poetrie.

“Both Poete and Poetrie were bred by the Sayvetz family at Asgard Arabians in West Virginia. They are purebred Arabians and are both out of the Statistic daughter Poetikka. 

“I took on Poete at 4 years old as a training prospect in cooperation with Asgard but as I started work with him, I just fell in love with him as a horse, not to mention his amazing, awesome athletic ability. So instead of working with Asgard to sell him, I acquired him. 

“I always knew he had great potential and he is just so fun (and sometimes difficult) to ride and he has proven me right. 

“Knowing how much I loved Poete and admired his abilities, when his ¾ sister was available, I purchased Poetrie as a 4-year-old.  Initially she was really tough and quite reactive, but given time and training, she has turned out to be an awesome horse. 

“Poete and Poetrie are both athletic and capable. They can both be quite strong willed, and I find it best not to argue with them but to re-direct. 

“Poete loves loves loves to canter and to pass horses.  So at the beginning of the ride this is where it takes negotiation or finding our “bubble”. 

“Poetrie is very matter-of-fact, hard working and takes herself quite seriously (sometimes I have to laugh) but she takes AMAZING care of herself. Nothing gets in the way of her eating and drinking to the extent she will tell me if she wants to pull over and drink out of a puddle or stream or grab a bite of grass.

“I think the “coolest” ride for Poete, Poetrie and I was the January 2020 Broxton ride where I went into it planning to ride the 100 on Poete day one and Poetrie in the 75 day two. 

“First I had been working on my own fitness to get to where  I felt confident I could do it, then it took making sure I had  great crew for the horses, and I took very good care of myself (ie, electrolytes, hydration, eating, etc). 

“Poete and I won the 100 during a race off in the rain.  When we turned the bend in the trail and I asked him to GO I could barely see due to the rain. I was praying he didn’t spook at something as he blasted into the light.  He won and earned BC! 

“So I was able to get to bed at a decent time to get up  early to ride Poetrie in the 75. We started the ride with her half sister, Lorienn and Canadian young rider, Charlotte Tremblay, but Lorienn forged and bruised her heel at mile 60. 

“Poetrie and I continued on alone and won with over a 4 hour lead over the 2nd place horses! 

“Poetrie is incredibly smooth to ride and takes little out of me so I had to ride in the order I did since Poete can be very tough!

“I am so grateful to be representing the USA in Italy at the World Endurance Championships. This has been my goal since 2008 and I am so excited to have earned the criteria for selection. This year it was based upon points and finishing, so both horses had two first place finishes in 100-mile rides over the last selection period starting June 2019. 

“It is very challenging with all of the COVID and EHV-1 criteria for us and the horses, plus we are making our own arrangements, so it has definitely been an education! I just can’t wait to get there and get on the horse, then everything will flow from there!"

**Late Breaking News: Due to bad luck and bad timing, Poetrie developed a slight lameness, which will prevent her and Hanna from going to Italy.


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Meet My Endurance Horse - Treasured Moments

Treasured Moments is one of 5 USA team Endurance horses headed to San Rossore, Italy, for the May 22 Longines FEI Endurance World Championship

by Merri Melde-Endurance.net

Treasured Moments
11-year-old Arabian mare
DA Adios X Hidden Treasure, by RD Five Star
bred by CreRun Farm
owned by Heather & Jeremy Reynolds
ridden by Jeremy Reynolds 

1550 AERC miles
3 Tevis Cup starts/finishes
2017 Haggin Cup winner

Treasured Moments could have been a top racehorse but for the year she was born. “She was really fast on the track but was in the stable that had the top three mares that year and she was number 3,” says Heather Reynolds.

Jeremy had shod her on the track as a late 2-year-old and fell in love with her. Since the mare was #3, the Reynolds were able to buy her as a 3-year-old. Racing’s loss, Endurance’s gain.

The mare has finished 23 of her 26 AERC starts over 7 seasons, and completed 9 100-mile rides. That includes 3 Tevis Cup completions with 3 different passengers. Her first 100-mile ride was the 2017 Tevis Cup with Jeremy; she not only finished third but came away with the Haggin Cup.

“What’s special about Treasure,” Heather says, “is her laid back, willing but competitive nature. She is ridden in a simple rope halter. She did the 2017 Tevis in a rope halter with a single rein so that Jeremy could hop on and off easily to run. She is all business. She’s not neurotic, but she’s not patient.” This versatile mare has carried 11 different riders in competition.

Besides the pinnacle of her third place and Haggin Cup in Tevis, another highlight is that she has the fastest 3 qualifying times securing her slot on the USA team. Jeremy will be aboard for the 160-km race in San Rossore May 22; this is his third time on the USA team and the 9th time competing abroad.

“We are really excited to go to Italy,” Heather says. “Treasure is training really well, she’s super sound and has the right mind to handle the pressure, and she’s already competed abroad.”