Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback
By Carole Ann Clark
“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
NORTH SUTTON – Bernice Ende has ridden more thousands of miles on her horses than probably any woman alive. The “lady longrider” is one of a small but worldwide group of riding enthusiasts who make treks of over 1,000 miles. Ende, a veteran rider, has been doing this since 2005 and has covered more than 30,000 miles in the United States and Canada.
“It was never a dream of mine, something I wanted to do,” said Ende, who is coming to North Sutton on the third-to-last stop of her book tour. “Alone Across America on Horseback; Lady Longrider” chronicles Ende’s adventures tent camping and riding through the open spaces of the continent. Her free talk takes place May 17, 6:30 p.m. at the Pillsbury Barn on Musterfield Farm in North Sutton.
“I changed my life,” she said. “People will say to me, ‘I’ve always wanted to do that,’ but I didn’t just take off time. This is my life.”
In a typical day she and her two horses can travel from 20 to 50 miles, depending on weather, food and circumstances. She travels light, often foraging for wild vegetables or enjoying the hospitality of newfound friends.
“I don’t have a lot of money,” she said. “Usually I can find everything I need in a thrift store. For flysheets for my horses, I can pick up a bedsheet for $1.50. If it tears, who cares. Throw it away and get another one.
“I try to walk 10 miles a day,” she said. “Get off their backs, for heaven’s sake.”
Ende taught dance for 23 years and at the age of 50 she started longriding. “I fell in love with who I’d become, I felt I’d stepped into my skin,” she said. “By the second ride I didn’t have any money. I turned everything over to friends and family.”
She found herself checking out the senior centers in the small towns she rode through, as the smell of lunch wafted into the air. “I’d ride into these senior centers and say, I can play piano or give a talk, and they’d give me lunch or somebody would hand me $5. I did that for a long time.”
Then, Tucker Saddle sponsored her, then a few more companies, and now Ende has lots of sponsors, and this book, and even a documentary coming out about her.
She rides two Norwegian Fjords, sturdy draft ponies with distinctive black-and-white manes and tails and light golden hair. Her first longriding horses were an Appendix Quarterhorse, a sorrel Tennessee Walking Horse, a gray Thoroughbred — “all completely unsuited for longriding in my opinion,” she said. The Fjords, on the other hand, “Have thick coarse hair, thick skin, a short flat back, a steadfast mind. They’re easy keepers, they’re devoted. No buck.”
To endure the long hours on the trail and travel in all different weathers, the horses must be healthy and tough and take changes with equanimity.
Montana Spirit and Little Liska Pearl, the horses, carry the tent and food as well as Ende. If they throw a shoe, she fixes it on the trail herself. They’re wise and well-trained, so the three of them can work together in an emergency situation. They came on the first part of the book tour with her, but with a total of 70 stops she decided to leave them in Michigan while she came East.
“I decided it was too much,” she said. “The horses have to have the best. I have the best gear; you will never see anything like it anywhere. That 8,000-mile ride in 2016, I did not have one sore on my horses. Every two hours I pull the saddles and brush the horses out. Everything that touches them is wool and it’s kept meticulously clean.
“I want my horses forever,” she said. “It’s not about the ride; it’s about this relationship I have with the horses and being outside with them.”
“The three biggest questions people ask me are, ‘Aren’t you afraid?’, ‘How old are you?’ and ‘Do you carry a gun?’” she said. “Fear is a self-perpetuated state of mind, when you’re thinking about what could happen to you. If a grizzly bear comes into my camp, I’m not in fear, I’m just reacting. People are afraid of so many things. So many times when you think of why you can’t do things it starts with ‘I’m afraid …’ Just listen to yourself! Move forward with attentiveness, caution and skill.”
For the last 13 years Ende has lived outdoors. She stays in her tent and only rarely accepts an offer of hospitality to sleep inside. “It’s not easy, there’s nothing fun about it, but I am so filled with gratitude and appreciation that I can do this, that I have my health, that I live in a country I can do it in.
From the Susan B. Anthony organization: “Bernice Ende, Lady Long Rider speaking at our member only event at the Anthony Museum…. Bernice inspires us with her vision and her perseverance (riding on horseback over 30,000 miles cross country in the past 15 years) , and we wish her many happy trails until she is back at the Anthony Museum!”
During this visit in 2019, Bernice re-visited Officer Gary Cicoria who, with other officers, led her into Rochester in 2014. Lucky day, Bernice was honored to observe training exercises by the Livingston County Mounted Police.
Author and long-distance horse rider Bernice Ende stands with her stalwart companions from earlier rides: Honor and Claire Dog.
I truly look forward to meeting Bernice at some point in the near future, I hope it is sooner rather than later!
You have had many adventures since you started long riding. Why did you choose to join Sisters on the Fly? “I’ve always been a solo traveler, one reason being that I ride 10-30 miles a day, and don’t know exactly where I will camp each night, which is often on open public land. Another reason, is that I’d really never heard much of SOTF until Sarah Wilson was telling me about you. Again, I thought I wasn’t a “fit.” Then this year on my book tour, driving my pickup and trailer, camping in the trailer itself, and needing to find those kinds of compatible camping places each night, I felt like maybe I had more in common. But now I am very excited about all the possibilities, meeting Sisters at my talks, but also that Sisters are inviting me to join “events” when my travels meet up with them. One of the reasons I ride is to encourage women leadership. I love independent women!”
What one piece of advice can you offer to another member that is hesitant about “getting out there” alone for the first time? Fear, the single most definitive reason why most do not “get out there” is a heady thing. And truly it is all in ones head. To proceed with out fear is freedom. Replacing fear with caution, attentiveness and skill is my personal way. The very act of BEING PREPARED will usually in and of itself set one in motion, make the wheels turn. But to be clearly attached to the vision you have set for ones self is also very important be very clear about what and where and why you are going. THEN, prepare. Embrace uncertainty, surprise, mystery.”
I love to ride, my horse Andy is almost 20 so we don’t go very far or very long. At this time in my life I don’t believe I will get another horse. For those that don’t ride or have never ridden but would like to….what would you say to encourage them to do so? Actually I do not encourage women who have never ridden or who have not ridden for many years to go off on rides and or to purchase a horse. It’s far to dangerous. As we age we lose our response skills, agility nor we do not bounce as we once did.
I do however, encourage older women whose riding skills have faded or have never existed to take riding lessons in a safe environment, on safe horses, with an instructor in an arena with sand!
Genesee Country Express – Dansville, New York, Article by Jasmine Willis
By Jasmine Willis
DANSVILLE — Imagine embarking on a personal quest across the nation on horseback, and being able to see the human spirit in a very unique way.
Bernice Ende, of Montana, did just that when she began her 15 year journey in 2005 as Lady Long Rider. Ende has traveled all across America and parts of Canada in a 30,000 mile adventure on horseback. This is a historic accomplishment no other has done in recent times. Last year she did hundreds of miles in France as well. However, in all of her travels she feels the northeast is her favorite.
“I had ridden the southwest quite a bit, I had crossed the plains, and been through the rocky mountains. At that time I had crossed the rocky mountains about eight times,” Ende said. “I had ridden through the Sahara desert and little red desert a few times. I had never been out northeast, and I kept wondering what those people were like. I had never had enough money to haul over there. I never had a truck or trailer until this book tour.”
Ende said she had no money on this trip after the first year, and had to rely completely on the kindness of others. It wasn’t until 2014 that her ride took her to this part of the country. It was here that she met fellow travelers like John Adamski.
“I originally thought I was going to ride across Canada, that was my original destination as I came to New York,” she said. “I was told I was the first person to ever attempt riding coast to coast round trip. There had been a lot of one rides from east to west or west to east, but no round trips before.”
The Dansville Public Library hosted “Lady Long Rider” author Ende on Monday night as she spoke of her journey across the nation, the inspiration she found, and why she continues to ride.
Ende grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm riding horses, and helping her father any chance she could get with the chores on the farm.
“I wanted to share what I have learned on this course of long riding, which I never expected I would ever do. I am a Minnesota Dairy Farm girl, and I came from a very poor dirt farm. My father could scarcely read or write My mother had an education. She graduated from the University of Minnesota. My mother knew very well to do people who brought culture and music into our world of a very poor dirt farm,” she said. “I only mention that because my mother gave me the love of the horizon. She brought books into the house, and we all had musical instruments to play. My father gave me can do-ness. I was never held and told I was loved, it wasn’t part of the agenda. He was a German-Catholic. I shadowed my father all over the farm. My father never told me to leave.”
Ende dedicates all of her rides to her mother, and she learned how to be strong from her father.
“My mother brought the whole bright world into our poor home. She is my guardian angel on all of my rides. Whenever I am in danger she is with me,” she said. “I never rode for any causes or had any agenda with what I was doing. I just rode for the love of it. In 2020 I will be riding for the 100th Anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. If it wasn’t for what those women did I wouldn’t of been able to do this.”
Ende has lived the last 30 years of her life in a small cabin in the middle of Montana. At the age of 50 she began her quest to her sisters house in Albuquerque in hopes she would go on this ride with her. When that didn’t happen she kept going alone. Along the way she has saved the lives of horses like Honor who were left in such inhumane conditions to die. She found healing in her journey, and took along her sweet dog Claire, who she saved in the freezing snow of Montana.
Ende would find herself in need of food, water, supplies, and human connection. She would have to be brave and ask strangers for help. That was one of the hardest parts of the whole journey. Once she figured that there was more goodness in the world, and that people were mostly kind at heart the journey was less frightening.
“I have felt such a profound change over the last few years. I found I was riding like I did when I was a little girl. I felt free again,” she said. “I found lessons in stepping down. I found a major lesson in asking for help. The hardest part was I thought people were going to laugh at me. People were very kind, and I found they would share their stories with me.”
Ende found that so many people wanted that same kind of connection, but they would dream and hope of doing something like that. Once Ende realized she was taking thousands of people with her through spirit on this journey she realized she was not alone, but she had found an entire community of people within this nation.
“The most profound and iconic image to present to the world is riding into town on my horse. We live in a horse culture. This is what we all grew up with. People are so moved by what I am doing, and they want to share their stories with me. I have thousands of people riding in this saddle with me, and I need to respect that,” she said. “I learned a great deal about unity. I didn’t understand how much I needed people until I took this ride. I am more dependent on people than any of you. I listen to the sounds of the town, and how we all share our stories on this river of humanity. I am united with the world.”
Ende has seen America the way it is meant to be seen, and has found that there is goodness in all kinds of people.
“We are all on a long ride called life, and this life long process of becoming,” she said. “We all live with uncertainty. Everyday I had to find food, water and shelter. I had to find peace with the unknown. I had to discover home, and carry that with me everyday.”
Janna Pekaar, Ende’s assistant and friend, said she has supported her friend for many years, and is always amazed by her stories. Pekaar is from Seattle,Washington.
“I would throw the kids in the car and we would go find her in whatever state she was in at the time,” she said. “We would find her in Wyoming, Kansas, or Oregon. It was easy to spot her as the solo rider in the distance. She has watched my kids grow up, and they all love her.”
Ende has touched so many lives over many years, and this all started before she was Lady Long Rider. She moved to Seattle, Washington and lived with the Pekaar Family in 1992. She would move to Montana, and be a Ballerina teacher.
“Bernice always follows her heart, and is a very interesting person to talk to,” Pekaar said. “She has gone the backroads of America, and has seen it in a way none of the rest of us have. She has met a lot of interesting people.”
Harvey and Sue Lacy and Chelsea Bouffard of Canaseraga met Ende in 2014 when she was stopping to check out the depot museum on their property. They are all mentioned in her Lady Long Rider book as an inspiration and friend.
“When I had a chance to read her book it came to me at a really good time in my life,” Bouffard said. “I am still working hard on the dairy farm.”
Harvey Lacy said he has never forgotten the day Ende came to their farm, and they are still inspired by what she does.
“I have photos of her going down the road on her horses. She has touched my life in a way no one else ever has,” he said. “She really is amazing.”
Livingston County News, April 29, 2019 With horses in tow, ‘Lady Long Rider’ returning to area on book tour
PUBLISHED: MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2019 AT 7:46 AM
Bernice Ende, the Lady Long Rider who stopped five years ago in Dansville and Caledonia, is making a return to the area.
Ende will again be accompanied by her two Norwegian Fjord horses, Montana Spirit and Liska Pearl, but she’s traveling by truck and trailer as part of a book tour for her memoir “Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback” (FarCountry Press).
“It is a long ride in the sense that it is just plain long,” Ende said in an email to The Livingston County News. “I do find myself talking as I do when traveling with the horses, like ‘stay focused; you’ll be OK; and just get through the day.’ Things like that. I still sleep with the horses. I still hear them at night. I still cook outside and have the sense of travel with my horses.
“It does surprise me when I can do 200 miles in a day instead of 20 miles” as she did on horseback, she said.
Ende, 65, has made one concession for this trip: she’s bringing a flip phone on her tour as it makes it easier to coordinate appearances on the 60-stop tour.
The tour visits Dansville Public Library, 200 Main St., Dansville, at 6 p.m. April 29 and the Caledonia Fairgrounds, 319 Leicester St., Caledonia, on May 4 as part of a larger event, “Celebrate Spring Fair,” that includes the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol. In Caledonia, Ende is scheduled to make presentations at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Event runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Ende will feature select readings from her memoir at both appearances in addition to a slideshow that highlights photographs and stories from journeys over 14 years and 30,000 miles. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
She shares stories of the friendly people she met along the way, encounters with rough weather – snowstorms, droughts and tornadoes; wildlife – grizzly bears, mountain lions and rattlesnakes, among others; mosquitoes, tricky route finding and worn out horseshoes. She also shares her own inner struggles and triumphs that tested the limits of physical and mental stamina, coping with the solitude and the reward of living life her own way.
Ende’s latest journey, which began in October, has her on the road for eight months as she crosses 18 states, retracing some of her most celebrated long rides. The tour will conclude with a long ride in the northeastern United States.
“I knew I had to do it. I knew I had to go back out and sell these books, share these stories with all these people who had helped me in so many ways,” Ende said. “It’s been like a reunion tour. I have reconnected with many people that helped me on my early rides.”
To prepare, she completed a small tour of speaking engagements in her home state of Montana.
“After all these years of long riding, thousands of spirits have climbed into my saddle bags and ridden vicariously with me,” Ende said.
Back in 2014, Ende’s 8,000-mile cross-country ride brought her in late August to Livingston County, where she rode northward from Ossian to Avon – a ride that took her five days. She had a brief rest in Dansville and arrived in Caledonia with her pack horses, Essie Pearl and Montana Spirit, loaded with enough gear for daily life on the trail. All three stayed in a barn at the Caledonia Fairgrounds.
At each stop, Ende and her horses spent time with visitors and in Caledonia was even a guest at a village board meeting. She told The LCN at the time she had experienced a great deal of hospitality from local residents and called it “the best ride I’ve ever been on.”
That ride, which went from Montana to Maine, then to Puget Sound and back to her home in Montana, celebrated women’s suffrage as 2014 was the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in Montana. While in Western New York she visited Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Mount Hope Cemetery and the suffragette’s home in Rochester, then rode east to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls – which took her another 12 days – to “pay homage to the women who brought us liberty.”
Ende, a former ballet teacher, took her first long ride at age 50, going on an 1,800-mile trek from her home in Trego, Montana, to the home of her older sister outside Edgewood, New Mexico. She described that journey as “nightmarish” – traveling with only one horse, a Tennessee Walking Horse Called Pride, and her dog. She had no tent and slept on sheepskins she used beneath her saddle, covering with blankets and a tarp.
Still she became hooked.
“Time and again, people have opened their homes, shared meals with me, washed my clothes, repaired tack, shod a horse and encouraged or supported me in one way or another. I am truly indebted to hundreds of people,” she writes in “Lady Long rider.”
The Long Riders’ Guild has recognized Ende as an outstanding ambassador for long-distance exploration on horseback.
A “long ride” is considered a journey of more than 1,000 miles. No other living woman has done as many journeys or ridden as many miles as Ende, who hopes her rides inspire women who want to pursue an unconventional path in life and encourages them to reach beyond their fears.
“It’s an iconic legendary image. It symbolizes self-reliance, independence, escape – freedom,” she told The LCN in 2014.
“This book tour,” she said in her email, “is a fantastic way to get back out on the road and share my stories that, like my long rides, are dedicated to encouraging female leadership and to discover, learn and grow.”
NOTE: The video in the above article is from 2014. It was republished in the above article published April 29, 2019 in the Livingston County News. Below, is what the Livingston County News reported in 2014.
Livingston County News, Caledonia, New York
September 4, 2014
TheLCNvideo Published on Sep 4, 2014 Bernice Ende of Montana was in Livingston County for the past week as part of an 8,000-mile, 2-1/2-year journey across the United States on horseback. She was about one-third of the way through when The Livingston County News caught up with her Thursday morning in Caledonia, where she made a rest stop at the Fairgrounds. Ende was getting transportation assistance from Sgt. Gary A. Cicoria of the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol for her trip to Rochester, where she planned to visit Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite at Mount Hope Cemetery and the Susan B. Anthony House before continuing her journey. Ende’s ride commemorates the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Montana.