Great Falls Tribune Article / Book Review

Great Falls, Montana

Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback

By Carole Ann Clark

Book Cover

“In the midst of space–age, high-speed technologies, a band of humans has slowed down the earth and sky sweeping past them by seeing the world from the back of a horse.  They are called Long Riders”—quoted from the Long Riders Guild.

If you picked up a copy of the October/November 2018 issue of Montana Senior News, you are already familiar with Bernice Ende and her famous straw hat. The cover of her book gives a back view of Bernice, her hat, her two horses and her dog, Claire.  The back view is fitting, since this famed member of the Long Riders Guild seems always to be heading away, down the road, on to the next adventure, leaving behind new-found friends.

For some of us, a “long ride” is from Great Falls to Hamilton, a few hours in an air-conditioned (or heated) vehicle with padded seats.  For a Long Rider, it might mean several thousand miles sitting on the back of a more-or-less willing horse, on a not-so-cushioned saddle, at the mercy of the hot sun, cold rain, gusty winds, even snow.  Evenings are not spent relaxing in front of the TV, sipping a favorite beverage.  Well, a beverage may be at hand, but sipped while unpacking, grooming and feeding the horse or horses, setting up a shelter, and finally feeding oneself.  Is there a piece of jerky in the bottom of the pack, perhaps some fruit?  Long Riders pack light. (A note on Bernice’s saddle—she uses only Tucker saddles, particularly their Endurance Trail saddle.  Apparently, there are eight different types of saddles for different purposes, not including the cavalry McClellen style, and it is vital to use the right one!)  The right horse is paramount, too, and she eventually discovered that Norwegian Fjords were ideal for long riding, packing, and carrying Claire Dog when she grew tired.

This fascinating volume includes the description of seven “long rides”.  The first, Montana (her home is in Northwest Montana, when she is there) to New Mexico, was a mere 2,000 miles.  The seventh covered 8,000 miles coast to coast and back again (including a few detours into Canada), and lasted from April 2014-June 2016. Ms Ende was the first—the FIRST PERSON to do this.  Part of her interest in making this particular trip was to visit the sites connected to the early women’s suffrage movement.  Her desire to do this was because of her family connections to suffrage and the history of women’s rights.  Bernice was also curious to find out how “Easterners” might differ from “Westerners”.

What she discovered were “Trail Angels” all along the road and in the small towns which welcomed her and her menagerie, giving food, water, shelter and medical help as needed. Oddly, she does not consider herself an adventurer—“I just really like living without walls”.  Ride on, Bernice—“Happy Trails to you” and the friends you make along the way.

Saddle up with these great reads:

Prairie Tales: Adventures of Growing Up on a Frontier by Orland E. Esval                                              

Horse Packing in Pictures by Francis W. Davis

Tough Trip Through Paradise, 1878-9 by Andrew Garicia

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer

Adventure Tales of Montana’s Last Frontier by Gary Wilson