The John & Kathy Schroeder Farm, a century home where John and Kathy, third-generation owners, kindly hosted my stay for two nights when I gave my talk at the library in Park Falls, Wisconsin.
Iron River, Michigan.
For those of you concerned about the snow… Well, I did indeed get stuck right in the middle of it–but, the folks in Iron River, Michigan, helped me through it. From Gina Giuliani whom I had met in 2014, to the librarians, and the road department–all came to my aid and put me up at the Iron County Michigan Fairgrounds where the horses had shelter and we had support. I remained warm, safe, and dry for which I say again and again, “Thank You!”
Lake Michigan, Mackinac Bridge, Lake Huron
As we traveled eastward from Park Falls, Wisconsin, toward the Mackinac Bridge between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, the snow lessened, green grass began to show, and there it was, Lake Michigan. It was a thrill to see, even if it was not on horseback as it had been in 2014. I could not help but wonder if Spirit could smell and remember the area. Little Liska is on quite the adventure, as is Bill’s Old Blue Truck!
Fairgrounds in Cheboygan, Michigan
Leigh Lasley welcomed me to the Cheboygan County Fairgrounds. I met Leigh in 2014 when she stopped as one of the curious and interested. She brought hay and we have remained friends ever since. And again this visit, she brought hay. Oh my, to be through the worst of the weather, I do believe!
The eBook of “Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback” is now available from the publisher, FarCountry Press, https://farcountrypress.com/details.php?id=815 and Amazon (internationally). Especially awaited by international followers of our favorite long rider, Bernice Ende. Above is a lovely photo of Ylime Marie and her Lady Long Rider book on the way to Buenos Aires! (that is, before the e-book was available).
Author and long-distance horse rider Bernice Ende stands with her stalwart companions from earlier rides: Honor and Claire Dog.
Bernice Ende shares a moment with one of her horses while traveling through New Mexico.
In 2005 at the age of 50, Bernice Ende mounted her horse and rode south, starting an odyssey that would take her 2,000 miles away from her starting point of Trego, Montana, to Edgewood, New Mexico. The experience that unfolded over the following five months would have been the journey of a lifetime for most people, but for Ende, it was just the beginning.
Over the past 14 years, Ende has essentially adopted the life of a nomad, riding 30,000 miles through the United States and Canada. While she still owns a log cabin in northwestern Montana, Ende spends the vast majority of her life traveling with her horses, constantly outdoors, ever on the move.
Ende’s life wasn’t always this way.
Before her first ride in 2005, Ende grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm, riding horses from the time she could walk. When she grew up, Ende pursued an education in ballet, teaching dance for her entire career. In 1992, Ende moved from the west coast to Trego, Montana, where she opened a small dance school and began giving riding lessons and training horses.
Then it happened.
“I just suddenly had the realization that I had to move, had to change, had to do something,” she said. Although horses and riding had been a lifelong passion, riding across the country had never been something she’d considered. Until now.
As Ende tells it, she saw a window of opportunity open and climbed through.
With nothing but her horse and her dog, Ende set off, aiming for New Mexico. The journey was exhausting, both physically and mentally. With a horse determined to return home to the safety of his pasture, Ende felt she couldn’t safely take her hands off the reins. For two weeks, she never let go of her horse. The only way to keep them both sane was to keep moving, so they rode — 30, 40, 50 miles in a day. Ende recalls her legs collapsing when she tried to dismount. She slept in ditches. During the few hours of sleep she got in a night, the only thing that kept her warm was the body warmth of her faithful dog. Ende cried as she rode, often only able to focus on taking one step after another.
Yet, eventually, horse and human found an equilibrium. While that first long ride was a challenge from start to finish, Ende rode into New Mexico with the realization that she could never return to normal life. The experience had forever changed her.
“It was as if, at 50 years old, I had crawled into my own skin for the first time,” she recalled.
Only months after returning to Montana, Ende was on the road again, which is where she has found herself ever since. Many things have changed since that first ride, both in how Ende personally approaches the experience and in the country she is riding through.
After 14 years of moving at a walking pace through the country — traveling east, west, north, and south — Ende has gotten a taste of the world she could never have experienced if she had stayed in her “normal” existence. She has experienced both true danger and true kindness on the road, from encounters with grizzly bear and people pulling guns to perfect strangers welcoming her into their homes and greeting her with a hero’s welcome.
Perhaps the most surprising realization for Ende is the fact that so many people long for such adventure in their own lives, and how many people she now brings vicariously on her rides.
“This is a unique way to travel in the modern world,” she said. “Not just the physical experience, but the romantic image people hold in their head of a lone person crossing the country on horseback. I realized I wasn’t just on a journey for myself — I am out here for hundreds, maybe thousands of other people who want this.”
By her own choice, Ende’s life is one different than most. Year-round, she lives outdoors with her horses, sleeping either in a tent or sometimes her horse trailer. Her days are not as simple as riding from one point to another; horses, even those well trained, are still powerful and unpredictable animals. Every moment Ende is riding, she must remain alert to the possibility of something unexpected occuring. While she maintains that the vast majority of her interactions with other humans are positive, Ende does carry a gun for her own safety.
As she rides, she navigates her routes along small highways using state maps that she carries with her. The routes she chooses are based on a litany of variables: weather, food, people, and road conditions.
In a life stripped to its bare essentials, Ende lives on about $3 a day. Every day she is on the road, her focus is in finding food and shelter. At the end of day, there are often quiet moments, when Ende might find time to read or write in her journal as her horses graze nearby.
“Living this way has changed my sense of space and time,” explained Ende. “My awareness of other people, animals, the weather, has all broadened. To leave behind your walls and stalls, all the things that separate us, is an experience so unique and intimate.”
Yet such freedom always comes at a price.
“It is a trade-off,” Ende freely admitted. “To live like this, you give up community and relationships. I don’t have a home or a job or a town. There are times when that’s hard. But what I have in an expansive group of people that believe in what I’m doing, and have been so generous to me.”
Perhaps the hardest experience Ende has had to face in all her many years of riding has been the loss of some of her longtime companions. Her faithful first companion, a mix-breed dog of unknown origins that answered to Claire Dog, passed away at the age of 16 in 2015 after covering 17,000 miles with Ende. While her first long-distance horse is happily retired on a Montana ranch, Ende lost her beloved second horse to a freak accident. A third horse passed away in retirement, and a fourth horse died of a brain parasite. Through the strong bonds forged after years and countless miles spent together, these are losses Ende will always carry.
The gumption that comes from a long line of strong and independent women is part of what has given Ende the inner strength required to stick with her way of life. Ende dedicates each of her rides to her mother, who she describes as a capable woman that always encouraged her daughter to seek adventure. In turn, Ende hopes that in some small way, her own journey will encourage other women to surmount challenges and become strong leaders.
Since October 2018, Ende has been on the road traveling once again, this time with a trailer for her horses and boxes of books in her truck as she tours the country sharing her story with others.
Ende’s eight long-distance rides have become her first book, “Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback.” Ende will be visiting the Park Falls Public Library at 6 p.m., Monday, April 8, to tell her story, which will also be the topic of a documentary released later this summer.
While Ende’s journey has taken her across the country, it is still far from over.
“I think I still have several good rides left in me,” she said. “At this point, my trips operate a lot more smoothly than they did when I started. I’m not sure where I’ll be heading next, but I have a couple ideas in mind.”
Okay, here it is April. The weather can not make up its mind. And I must go north into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan which still has a foot of snow on the ground. Fortunately, I have lots of help once I get into Michigan and Burton Robson in Portland, Michigan will be making sure I get through all of this “Michigan Madness.”
I have seven more weeks remaining. May 22nd I wrap up the tour in Glens Falls, New York. How or why this old blue truck is still running and running like a champion – only amazes me!! I can only thank Bill Griffin who gave the truck to me years ago. What a trooper it has been. Don’t think I didn’t look at that old truck and trailer way back in September of last year and say, “YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND, BERNICE.”
My oldest sister, Kathryn, who may complain of my putting this on the website. My earliest memories are of her holding me as an toddler and I am screaming and crying and reaching for Spot (the old crippled Welsh pony that embellished our lawn.) Kathryn’s book club came to her home with many questions–a round table of sorts. It was lovely with wine and cheese, and what, 20 women!
And last but not least, I must thank Greg and Sue Jeddeloh for hosting a one week stop in Elk River. I have known Sue for many years. We were once hot shot waitresses at the Rogers Truck Stop. She’s been to my cabin many times with her brothers and sisters, and their husbands and wives. She’s an x-ray tech at a nearby hospital. Her husband, Greg, is on the Minneapolis police force–I won’t say which division. When I think of how I simply ride into smiles, day after day, I will think of him, because he drives into the worst of the worst that humanity has to offer, and yet he remains a kind and gentle soul, a loving husband, and good neighbor. I think, now if this man can do what he does and still retains a positive out look, then I say, “So can all of us. Be kind to one another.”
Regardless of a winter reluctant to “give it up already” the birds are glorious in Spring song. The loudest being the Red-Winged Blackbirds! Oh my, oh my, shout it out one and all, shout it out!!
Only a hint of green presses out through the brown leafless landscape, reaching for sun and Summer. Rivers and creeks rage with coursing flood waters, “Look out, we’re coming through.” It’s like watching a miracle happen, movement everywhere, winds, water, birds, even people move more freely with discarded heavy winter coats. Welcome to Spring in the Midwest.
Casey and Doyle Sandman provided a place for my girls and myself a couple of miles outside of New Ulm, Minnesota, at their Kaboy Up Arena while I spoke at the Community Center in town. Casey greeted me on horseback with a group of other women on a warm, sunny Sunday-afternoon ride. I parked the truck and trailer next to the arena, unloaded the horses, threw a sheet on Spirit and with Liska Pearl in tow we joyfully joined the ride. The other horses were a bit, let’s say disturbed, by the sight of…. “NO, not those Fjords!” For whatever reason, whether its the mane or markings or what, Fjords can easily upset “regular” horses. I smile. My Fjords are rarely upset by anything.
Kaboy Up Arena was already busy when I arrived. Besides working as a correctional officer, Casey offers boarding and events throughout the year. A resident trainer offers lessons and training. Busy place, nice atmosphere. I had the “Saloon” to myself–a western style building with restrooms, kitchen, and lounging area. I spent two nights.
I rode through New Ulm in 2010, coming up from Texas, having lost Honor. Then, I rode the big paint gelding, Hart. Essie Pearl carried Claire Dog and in we came–escorted by Duane Kitzberger and his team of perfect Percheron draft horses pulling a caisson canon and outriders. Someone tipped him off and they thought it might be fun, to, “Bring her in, in style,” said Duane. This year, I visited Duane, now 84, living in New Ulm’s care facility. I gave him a book and showed him the photos from 2010.
This is a German Catholic community much like the one I grew up in. The accents are still thick as are the jokes. It has not changed much.
those attending the talk in New Ulm were folks from Butterfield,
Minnesota, with whom I had stayed, in their real-but-renovated livery
I am now in Fairbault, Minnesota, giving a private dinner talk this evening at the home of Julie Lambert. Julie heard about my ride from a friend who lives in Mexico of all things and in a round-about-way invited me in. The horses are comfortable in a large round pen and will be exercised shortly. I have been plied with more food than I can imagine eating while spending a lively evening of talk with new friends.
To each and every one of you, as I am adding new friends to my heart roster, and touched by old friends from the past, a heartfelt, “Thank You.”
The landscape tenderly wakes from a long Midwest winter. The news is of course about historical flooding and thankfully I made it further north when I did from the Horse Trail Riding Expo in Elkhorn, Nebraska. Thanks to social media Steve Slater reached out and said, “I have a place for you and your horses.” Had I waited another two days I would have had a hard time getting to my talks in Denison, Cherokee, and Peterson, Iowa. Steve taught school for over 30 years and has such a pretty little farm just west of Denison. I can’t thank him enough for putting us up for this extended period while giving three talks in the area and waiting for the weather to settle.
Before arriving in Denison, Iowa, I came from the Horse Trail Riding Expo in Elkhorn, Nebraska, just west of Omaha (now flooding).
Despite the weather, the Horse Trail Riding Expo was well attended. I believe this competitive trail sport is a wonderful way to see horse and rider in unity. Training of horse and rider for the showings produce a quiet horse with high maneuverability and trust. Most were young women, not all, but I felt the training and skill went far beyond simply horse and rider. Pleasant and interesting to watch, nice to see how well the animals were handled. The horse and rider face several obstacles–must walk in water, over and under any number of different things like balloons and hanging tarp all set up cleverly, like an obstacle course. I met two Rodeo Queens and one Ms. Junior Queen from North Carolina, and commented to all three how well they carried themselves–they reflected confidence.
The event seemed well organized. I certainly enjoyed the three well-attended talks I gave. Thank you Nebraska Horse Trails Committee. — Lady Long Rider, Bernice Ende
I visited Nicodemus, Kansas, and Historian Angela Bates at the Nicodemus Visitor Center. Although Angela and I have remained in touch since first meeting in 2006, we have not seen one another since 2008. I tell you two women never scream as much as we do when we get together! Then it’s non-stop philosophical conversation and questions. She is a remarkable woman who saved Nicodemus from extinction and placed it on the National Historic Register, the only remaining town settled by emancipated African Americans.
Look at more photos on the Nicodemus Visitor Center website, at http://www.kansastravel.org/nicodemus.htm
Written by Angela Bates: Lady Long Rider, Bernice Ende, was in the area on Wednesday, March 6, visiting Angela Bates and Nicodemus. Bernice has logged over 29,000 miles across the country and Canada on horseback. Angela first met Bernice in 2006 when someone called saying she needed a farrier (horse shoe-er), and Angela referred her to Barrie Tompkins who was living south of Plainville. Angela traveled to meet her at Barrie’s place and they spent the evening talking. Two years later Bernice came to Nicodemus while on another long ride. She met Rose Stokes, Esther Clark, Juan Alexander, and a host of others. She, her dog Claire, and two horses camped out in Juan’s garage during a tornado warning. Juan, being the horse lover he was, cherished his visit with Bernice and her horses. Although she has two new horses on this trip across the nation, she is not riding them, but hauling them by trailer as she visits various towns and cities on her book tour. In her book, “Lady Long Rider”, she dedicated Chapter 11 to her visit to Nicodemus. Chapter 8, Night of the Black Stallion, is my favorite, where she tells of hours fighting off a wild stallion who was trying to steal her mare for his wild herd. It unfolds like an action movie. To her life journey as a Long Rider — I praise her for her courage to ride for all women. And for her safe travels, I pray. — Angela
Okay, here we are, Montana Spirit, Little Liska Pearl, and I, with only two more months of the Lady Long Rider Book Tour. This old truck is such a champion. It likes the flat land we can travel at 60 mph! Cruising. I realize now that a ride following this book tour will be impossible. The horses will simply not be ready for such an excursion and I have other obligations with the documentary film coming out. I will return to Montana for a couple of months to take care of the cabin and head back south. Maybe then I will get a ride in this year.