29 horse riders gather for endurance event; Horse enthusiasts from 6 states come to Barry County
For the 22nd year, local horse and riding enthusiasts have completed the Jo Tate Memorial Endurance Ride at the Flag Springs Conservation Area, west of Washburn.
A total of 29 riders participated on the first day and 18 on the second, doing the 25 and 50-mile treks.
The ride is the only endurance ride in Missouri held on Conservation Department-owned land. Jodi Hess-Schlup, ride manager for the every year of the event, plotted three separate 50-mile loops to provide significant variety for the participants. This year, riders came from the Four-State area, as well as Texas and Mississippi.
Under the rules of the American Endurance Ride Conference, riders have 12 hours to complete a 50-mile ride, and 24 hours for a 100-mile ride. Limited distance participants are allowed six hours for 25 miles.
"The modern endurance ride is unique in the horse sport world as being one of the only group/individual sports that entire families can participate in by riding together as a group during the ride, yet compete as individuals," Hess-Schlup said. "There is no rider minimum or maximum age limitation, and the AERC awards program also offers special awards to families who have compiled the most miles in riding together."
Horses undergo a pre-ride check by veterinarians for soundness. Veterinarians Dr. Leon Self of Oklahoma and Dr. Jeanie Hauser of Kansas provided their services for the ride.
"An endurance horse takes many years to condition to his peak performance," Hess-Schlup said. "Every ride you do is conditioning for the next ride, with the goal being that you will be taking that horse out again in two to four weeks to another ride. These horses are very well taken care of."
The ride begins as a group starting when the trail is "opened" at a specific time to all riders in each mileage division. The riders are then free to go at their own pace throughout the ride, as long as they do not exceed the time limit for their ride distance, or the cut-off times for the vet checks. Riders may run, walk, or jog alongside their horses at any time throughout the ride. Endurance is a strategic test of horsemanship.
"The beautiful Flag Springs Conservation Area, located about three miles west of Washburn, has close to 4,000 acres, almost all of which is in Barry County," Hess-Schlup said. "This ride is a favorite among these riders, known for its logging roads, some gravel roads and many technical trails up and down our Ozark terrain with plenty of ponds and creek water. It is one of the toughest trails in the country.
"One of our local riders Joni Small, doing her first limited distance ride of 25 miles with her sponsor, Fred Spencer, was the only junior rider for the weekend. Several riders rode both days on the same horse. Micki Costello from the St. Louis area on her 17-year-old mare, Khadija Biint Mocha, rode 50 miles each day, Catherine Jensen from Hallsville rode a 50 and the next day a 25 mile ride. Kathy Crothers from Arkansas rode her horse PA Targa 25 miles each day."
For the first time, the Jo Tate Memorial was chosen for random drug testing, as part of standards under the U.S. Equestrian Federation. Hess-Schlup said none of the riders voiced concern, since the event operates drug-free.
The Jo Tate Memorial Endurance Ride is one of only 10 American Endurance Ride Conference-sanctioned rides, out of around 290 rides total, that have been in the same place for more than 20 years. Hess-Schlup noted the facility's multi-use trails provide a valuable resource for hiking, camping and rides. She noted the national not-for-profit organization has named Missouri "the Best Trails State" in the nation.
"I'd like to think that Flag Springs trails had something to do with that," she said.
Information on future rides is available at AERC.org or through the Ozark Country Endurance Riders at OCER.us