Lady Long Rider Bernice Ende plays with her Norwegian Fjord horses Montana Spirit and Little Liska Pearl Tuesday, June 4, after spending the night at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds. Ende was returning from the East Coast on a book tour and a trip to see Susan B. Anthony’s home, trailering her horses as she heads home to Montana. For the past 13 years, Ende has lived outdoors during her long rides. She holds the honor of being the only person to ride round trip from one coast of the United States and back.
Heading Back to Montana – or, Back to the “Montana End(e)” of the Book Tour
Stopping to take a deep sigh, stopping to take time for Thank You’s. This is the first of two thank you letters I will be posting.
I remember thinking when I left Montana in September of 2018 with Bill’s Old Blue Truck, bravely pulling my two girls in a horse trailer nearly as old as the truck itself, facing a daunting book tour and thinking, “You are out of your mind. NOW, this IS nuts.” To which you might think, after the number of solo equestrian trips I have made, it would be a piece of cake for me.
But driving a truck! Pulling a horse-trailer! I had to learn how to drive again. A fifty-year-old truck no less!! It just seemed far more complicated with the vehicles and committed dates I had to fulfill.
I think the most remarkable thing about the entire 8000-mile book tour has been Bill’s Old Blue Truck. Noble steed. Not one problem, not one problem! At least not one thing serious enough to stop or which hampered my progress forward. I think I could write a story called, “Bill’s Old Blue Truck’s Great Adventure.”
I often tell this story at my talks…. An older gentleman wearing a baseball cap drove up to me in a brand new white Ford pickup truck, a truck with all the bells and whistles, a big thing!, somewhere in Arizona, in a parking lot. I turned mid-step into my truck when he stopped, rolled down his window, leaned on his elbow and called out, “Well gall-darn that’s the best truck Ford ever made” to which I replied, “Yeah well, ya wanna trade straight across?”
It is, I must admit, testimony to a truck well built to be capable of driving/pulling as far and as much as this truck has after 50 years of use. My hat however goes off to the mechanics that restored the truck to its current running condition. Roy Kern who rebuilt the engine. Then Kelly Mee, owner of The Trego Shop–he had his hands on it. But Tim and Wayne Bosworth, owners of Eureka Auto, really did a great deal of final work on the entire engine and running gear. Thank you, gentleman.
However, let’s not fool ourselves. I am a reminder of where we don’t want to go. You want to go back to these old trucks, back to horse travel? Believe me, the new Ford trucks ARE better. The level of comfort and ease and safety of driving–not to mention how much better the newer vehicles are on the environment. Yes, I have “recycled” an older vehicle for my use but it probably pollutes more than a newer vehicle. Trade offs.
Anyway, thank you, Bill Griffin, who left me the old blue truck many years ago. I pat the dashboard many, many times affectionately saying, “You are a champion, you are a champion.”
End-of-Book-Tour “Thank You’s”
Thank you’s, thank you’s, the list is long-spaced with deep appreciation and gratitude. 90 talks, 18 states, 33 interviews.
The horses lie next to me as I write, and I breathe contentment into my lungs. It’s the one thing about Fjords–traveling with them is a pleasure–there’s little nonsense, they adapt to new environments with calm and ask only, “Where is the food?” We stopped often, did short rides anywhere safe enough to do so, ears forward, alert, welcoming the road ahead of them with curiosity and interest. Little Liska Pearl, now with us 2 years (and who I continue to call Essie Pearl) has settled into her new life like a little puppy in a new home. She has blossomed from the adventure and matured with experience. The two horses have bonded–probably more so than Essie and Spirit ever did. They have mastered the art of travel.
Spirit lays back and stretches out completely flat on the green grass, covered with a thin sheet to keep the flies off her. Shes dreaming and makes running feet, as dogs do. Liska’s lower lip hangs and twitches as she stands nearby.
I am going to begin by thanking Sarah Wilson who orchestrated the show from behind the curtain as administrator. This was the very first time I had a professional working for me attending to details, calling ahead, securing dates, times, locations, editing, arranging interviews, or simply encouraging me with, “You’ll be fine, you’ll make it, take a deep breath.” So to Sarah Wilson, a most sincere thank you. I will miss her, and if the website does not look as tidy it’s because she’s no longer behind the scene.
Vigil is a computer geek/artist/adventurer and more. Linda has been
working for me for years supporting me with website troubleshooting and
updating. She orders DVD’s, hand-out cards, and is there quick as a wink
when I need help–never lets me down. Thank you, Linda.
Zac Basinger, marketing with FarCountry Press, was instrumental answering questions like “How does one do a book tour?” (smiles) I must have driven him and the staff at FarCountry Press nuts. FarCountry sent out books as I needed and were supportive throughout the entire book tour.
I may be the only author they have published who’s done a book tour with horses! Well, I am sure of it!!
Thank you, sincerely, thank you.
The next posting will be the long list of thank you’s to those I met for the first time on this book tour, and to those with whom I reconnected from earlier visits. I just wanted to get something out now, while I stop here in Minnesota, recovering from exhaustion!
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!