I ride to encourage female leadership, sad day today.
After leaving Glacier National Park, I headed for Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. But along the way, I stopped to visit with Lady Long Rider Bernice Ende at her place in the backwoods of northern Montana near the Canadian border. She lives off of a dirt road, about 12 miles from the nearest highway and this photo shows the only way to find her place. My GPS was of no help at all–and she told me so.
Following Bernice’s directions, I drove up a 1/4-mile long driveway that amounted to little more than two tire tracks, until I came to her place–a cozy log cabin, located off the grid with no electricity and little else in terms of modern utilities. She invited me to stay overnight and I accepted.
Just wanted to let you know that the blood test came back positive on Essie for EPM. Below is a description of the parasite and its symptoms. I waited to long, I thought it was something else. It only compounds the feeling of loss and sadness.
“if only, if only, I’d….”
EPM is caused by the parasite Sarcocystis neurona. The life cycle of S. neurona is well described. In order to complete its life cycle this parasite needs two hosts, a definitive and an intermediate. In the laboratory, raccoons, cats, armadillos, skunks, and sea otters have been shown to be intermediate hosts. The opossum is the definitive host of the disease, passing the parasite through feces. Horses contract EPM from contaminated feed or water. However, horses cannot pass the disease among themselves, that is, one horse cannot contract the disease from another infected horse. The horse is a dead-end, or aberrant, host of the parasite.
The most common symptoms of EPM are ataxia, general weakness with muscle spasticity. However this is not specific to EPM and is common to many other neurological disorders. Clinical signs among horses with EPM include a wide array of symptoms that may result from primary or secondary problems. Some of the signs are difficult to distinguish from other problems, such as lameness, which can be attributed to many different causes. Apparent lameness, particularly atypical lameness or slight gait asymmetry of the rear limbs are commonly caused by EPM. Focal muscle atrophy, or even generalized muscle atrophy or loss of condition may result. Secondary signs also occur with neurologic disease. Airway abnormalities, such as laryngeal hemiplegia, snoring, or airway noise of undetermined origin may result from damage to the nerves which control the throat, although this is quite uncommon.
In experimentally infected horses, very early signs included loss of appetite, decreased tongue tone, facial paresis, altered mental status, generalized weakness, and lameness.
It is thought that Sarcocystis neurona does not need to enter the CNS to cause disease, in some cases S. neurona has been found in the CNS but usually not. In cases where S. neurona is found in the CNS, white blood cells probably play a role in the parasite’s penetration of the blood brain barrier.
Treatment and prevention
EPM is treatable, but irreversible damage to the nervous system is possible. It is important to identify the disease as early as possible and begin treatment with antiprotozoal drugs. There are currently three FDA approved treatments available in the US: ReBalance (sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine), Marquis (ponazuril), and Protazil (diclazuril). These drugs minimize the infection but do not kill the parasite. The use of anti-inflammatory agents such as Banamine, corticosteroids, or phenylbutazone are often used to help reduce inflammation and limit further damage to the CNS. Antioxidants, such as vitamin E may help promote the restoration of nervous tissue. Response to treatment is often variable, and treatment may be expensive. Recently, antiprotozoal treatments that kill the parasite and clear the infection have shown promise. The inflammatory component is thought responsible for the symptoms of EPM; anti inflammatory drugs that target the IL-6 pathway have been particularly effective at reversing symptoms.
Essie Pearl – 2001 to 2016
This American Life, a radio podcast many of you may be familiar with presented a story about a Japanese phone booth last night, the folding door kind with a non working rotary phone …….. on a beach. Where one can call their beloved and much missed deceased family members and friends taken by the 2005 tsunami. I listened as Japanese widows and widowers came and went, how moving. They’d found a way to stay connected, a place to talk and shed tears. Such a good idea, call them up and talk. If I could do that and could call Essie I would tell her… “I am so sorry I could not save you. I am so sorry. It will take a long time before I stop calling your name to come.”
I miss her terribly.
She was a fat, dumpy looking Norwegian Fjord with a “don’t bother me” look in her eyes standing alone in her pasture when we first met. I didn’t pay much attention to her really. But then I looked again and again and….
I bought Essie from Mark and Theodora Rice in the winter of 2007/08. Theodora, now Theodora Brennan many years a dear friend assisted at Essie’s birth, imprinted her and loved her as much as I did, well almost. She spent her first 6 years at the Rice home which has now become Theodora’s Garden (see sponsorship page). She had a beautiful home but little exercise. Her brother and mother had already been sold. Essie remained unsold because of her pushy attitude. She really did have a no nonsense, “leave me alone” look when I cast eyes on her the first time. I’d decided my Claire Dog who had walked 7000 miles (enough already) needed a horse of her own. Requirements for such a horse?….SAFE. A wide flat back – not to tall, SAFE. Six years old, perfect age. Not much training but willing, SAFE.
“Essie Pearl you beautiful girl,” that’s what I called her, “Essie Pearl you beautiful girl.”
Traveling with her always felt like traveling with something ancient. She was different, her look, her gaze, her attitude like a wise old impatient woman. The cave drawings in France? That is Essie Pearl! Twenty-one thousand miles later, my first pack horse, my first Norwegian Fjord became irreplaceable, at least I can not imagine ever having another horse as good as her. Her combination of temperament and physical attributes specific to long riding makes me think so. It also takes a lot of time and years. Damn she was good. Whether pack or lead horse she had it down. She knew what to do. She preferred being in front next to me. Her favorite traveling position had Claire leading the troupe, me at her left side walking with her (not to fast, slightly behind her ears) and Spirit, packing, at her right rear. There came over her a look of pure contentment, like everything is just as it should be for Essie. Ears forward, alert, interested. We were doing it right.
Her picket and rope skills – astonishing. Her traffic skills – second to none. Nine years we traveled together. She was easy to pad and pack and treated her most precious cargo, Claire dog, with great care. She was an “easy keeper.” But my oh my she could be cantankerous. Down right vicious when it came to food. She had her own way of doing things and just as soon it be kept that way.
She swam in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, three of the great lakes, crossed Death Valley (Mojave Desert) the Sonora Desert and the Little Red Desert of Wyoming. She made two Canadian trips, traveled from Texas to Calgary. She crossed the United States twice the Rocky Mountains nine times the Cascades four.
I like to think it beat a long, slow, uninteresting life as a pasture potato.
Essie Pearl you beautiful girl! To me you shall remain the greatest long riding horse that ever lived!
And Thank you, to all you who have sent condolences, cards and reassurance. Thank you
The price of living is that we lose those we love.
I am so deeply sad to tell all of you who follow my rides and share my stories that I buried Essie Pearl on Sunday September 17, 2016. Dr. Nancy Haugan DVM assisted with putting her down quietly and dear friend Theodora Brennan was there to keep me from falling apart. She was buried in her pasture at my Montana cabin in Trego.
Test results have ruled out West Nile. A neurological disorder, virus, stroke, a kick? Dr.Haugan will run more tests but most likely this tragic loss will remain a mystery. She went so fast that I find myself completely at a loss with few words to offer you at this time.
She traveled with me more than 21,000 miles, second to none in her abilities she’ll remain in my heart…the greatest Long Riding Horse that ever lived.
This is how I feel sometimes when I come in, just plain hard to readjust to stationary life, life without that constant change and surprise. But I am settling in. My Mountain Cabin is a respite a place to rest and find peace in stillness.
I had a wonderful time at the Fjord Horse Show in Sandpoint, Idaho last week. Not only was it a good turn out for my slide-show presentation but many folks I had met from previous rides attended. Always gets me screaming with delight. I did not ride over as I had planned. Essie Pearl had health issues (she is fine now) but I could not take her so I drove over. The show was well attended, a very friendly down to earth group of Fjord enthusiasts. I could not help but admire the show Fjords, so different from my girls who are roughed and tough looking.
Below is the Thank – You letter I have sent out to my sponsors.
- Outfitters Supply Tucker Saddles
- Sunbody Hats
- Skito Saddle Pads
- Source- MircoNutrients
- Cashel Company
- Montana Mountain Horses
- Mt. Vista Veterinary Clinic
- Ariat International
- The Blacksmith Shop
- Climb-On-Skin Care Products
- Soroptimist Foundation
- The Blacksmith Shop
- Benchmark Maps
- Tangeleo’s Cinches
Dear Sponsors, July 24th, 2016
I have completed my 8000 mile 2 ½ year international ride. I set out on this adventure in the spring of 2014 and completed the ride June 17th 2016! I write with saddle bags full of gratitude and appreciation for both the support and encouragement you have shown me on this epic journey. I must say it was by far the most successful ride I have thus far ridden. No injuries, no accidents, and the horses returned liked shinning stars. I returned filled with a sense of accomplishment, seasoned as never before. According to the International Long Riders Guild a round trip coast to coast continuous ride had never been done before. Add to that story- I rode solo, with no support vehicle what so ever, no cell phone or GPS, a 62year old woman. The east coast surprised me with their bountiful enthusiasm. I gave 32 talks thru out the New York winter. (2014/2015.) I had hoped to ride more of Canada but circumstances prevented it. But I swam the horses in 3 of the great lakes, raced on the sands of the Atlantic Ocean and touched salt water in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the Washington coast. We crossed for the 8th time both the Rocky and Cascade Mountains and made more friends than anyone deserves. The year I embarked on my ride – 2014, marked the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in Montana. In collaboration with the Montana Historical society I paid homage to three of the most prominent historical suffragettes in New York State. A highlight of my ride. I continue to remind people of the freedom we enjoy in this country and the goodness I find in its people. I also sincerely hope my rides inspire and encourage female leadership. Now at the end of 12 years and 28,000 equestrian miles I do not feel “finished.” Already my head fills with plans for the 2017 ride, another east coast ride. A short 1500 mile journey from Southern Virginia north to Massachusetts or ? with talks scheduled through
out my route. I will most definitely ride a few more years. I know I have that much left in me. The rides are arduous, and never easy and of course there are many times when I ask myself, “how much longer can I do this?” Even more the reason I appreciate as I do your continued support and knowing I have someone backing me, that you are there if I need a saddle-pack replaced or a veterinary question, horseshoes or more supplements. You are there and I count on you. Besides providing me with your products and services your businesses also add credibility to my rides which leads to more speaking engagements, ie my bread and butter. I take having your support seriously. I want YOU also to shine. I want you also to benefit from sponsoring me on these lengthy equestrian journeys I make. Believe me when I say I appreciate your support each and every day I am out there making my way across the country. With sincere appreciation for all that you have done for me, I send a hearty thank you!
Your lady long rider,
Bernice Ende P.O. Box 284 Trego, Montana 59934
I begin teaching ballet classes next week at the Creative Arts Center in Eureka. I am looking forward to working with the young dancers. Last year I taught a few classes. It had been 15 years since I had set foot in a dance studio. I wondered if I would remember how! But after nearly 30 years of teaching it all came flooding back so easily.
I am busy making wood and getting in hay for the horses. Russ Barnett owner of Outfitters Supply (and long time sponsor) has been up to the cabin a few times. His business is located 50 miles south of here in Columbia Falls. He’s helped with wood and hay. Winter is not far off. The horses are thickening this is their kind of weather, northern bred girls that they are.
I have had guests from back east last month. Jane King from Sutton, New Hampshire stayed a week as did friends from Minnesota. John Adamski a professional photographer from New York, (he did a beautiful story and lay out for The Finger Lake Magazine) a friend from Vermont and another from Boulder, Montana are coming in this month. I must admit I love the company, it reminds me that I truly did do the ride as these are people I met in 2014 and 2015.
All for now,