Greetings to all of you who follow my rides and journeys. I am so delighted to announce that I will indeed be attending and participating in the Equus Film Festival at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, December 5-8, 2019.
A hearty thank you must be extended to Russ Barnett, owner of Outfitters Supply, and Steve Tucker, owner of Tucker Trail Saddles. Both are long-time sponsors who have generously made it possible for me to attend this big event. Russ Barnett shipped my exhibit which will be displayed during the festival and ongoing for a couple more months, and Steve Tucker is shipping ME over to the event. Gentleman, my sincere “Thank You” to both of you.
Although the documentary film produced by WE1 Productions about my journey will not be released until Spring 2020, previews will be shown throughout this festival. It will then be entered in this film festival next year, and shown around the country in about six locales in 2021.
Also, my book “Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback” has been submitted in the festival’s Literacy Contest – we shall see how it fares!
The festival will be hosting several panel discussions in which I will be participating, one of which is sponsored by Outfitters Supply & Tuckers Saddle on Saturday. The festival schedule which will show the times of my participation is still being finalized and should be up on their website very soon. Please do check out this incredible event at http://www.equusfilmfestival.net/ and all that is happening with horses, horses, horses.
I am so grateful for passing lanes. My travels with Bill’s Old Blue Truck, albeit faster than horse travel, are still relatively slow. Mountains are daunting as I shift down into second gear, grateful for the passing lane that allows angry drives with shaking heads to speed past the trudging old truck pulling two horses.
After Montpelier, Idaho my next stop was Logan, Utah. It required a long, uphill climb — with snow on the ground I might add — and a fair amount of traffic before arriving at Utah State University’s Equine Center where Barbara Middleton had made arrangements for me to speak. The facility is one of the finest, from the website…
About USU Equine Programs
Utah State University’s Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences Department proudly offers a four-year Equine Science and Management Emphasis. Through lecture, laboratory, and actual on-the-farm experiences, students are exposed to exceptional management and handling techniques. The program is directed by Utah State University faculty who carry industry and show credentials. Course work covers areas such as nutrition, management, riding fundamentals, colt starting, and equine evaluation, along with a special topics course, which allows students to focus on a specific area of interest. Students are actively involved in the daily Equine Education Center activities including feeding, medical care, and facility upkeep. Students also gain industry experience by working with a professional in their area of interest through an internship program. With Utah State’s strong Extension equine program, students are encouraged to attend and assist with programs presented across the state. This provides students with the opportunity to meet and work with professionals in the industry developing their own network.
“Turn your passion for horses — and love for animals, in general — into a career with an education in equines studies. Our equine degree program will lead you in an exploration of every aspect of the equine industry, from nutrition, anatomy and physiology to the practical management practices for keeping a safe barn or stable. Our Certificate in Equine Veterinary Assistant program will train you in the skills and techniques you need to support large-animal veterinarians with the treatment and healing of horses.”
The large enrollment of mostly young women did not surprise me, as they’re becoming the leaders in this new field of equine health, developing many new programs never before heard of in the human/animal bond connection.
A very interesting class taught by Sherrie Petty finally unraveled the complications of Equine-Assisted Therapy for me. Whether or not it could truly be called “therapy”, who could teach it, what training needs to be applied, and importantly, the care of the horses used in Clinical Practice of Equine-Assisted Therapy programs. One does not have to look far to see the growing use of animals in healing/therapy, mostly horses and dogs. The need for a more comprehensive training and certification program is emerging right here at USU Equine Center. I felt they were definitely on the right path. Merging: PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship; AHA (American Hippo-therapy Association); ACA (American Counseling Association which includes Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling Competencies); and IAHAIO (International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations). It was needless to say very impressive facility and program. Hearing what creative ideas were floating around in these young peoples minds for their futures truly gave me hope.
The following photos are of the trip from Salt Lake City south through some of the most outrageous country we have in the United States. Utah you are something else… colorful!
St Johns, Arizona… a surprise visit to see St. Kay McDevitt who has been the fairgrounds/campground manager for ten years. An overnight stop and dinner with friends. Woke up to find my horses gone. Well now, I thought, Spirit no doubt had unlatched the gate, but knowing as I do, my girls are not run-away horses. It didn’t take long before I found them with noses to the ground. But still, it does give the heart a startle to find the horses GONE!
And my last stop, but certainly not the least of my stops, was Cliff School, Cliff, New Mexico. Home of the Cowboys and Cowgirls.
“It is not often that I speak to an entire room full of Cowboys and Cowgirls,” I said to the group of K-6th graders who sat restlessly in front of me. “How many ride horses?” I asked. ALL, I mean ALL of the hands went up. They were ready for action. “How many like dogs?” Again, ALL the hands when shooting to the gym ceiling. “Well good, because this is a dog story.” I do a “Claire Dog Speaks” slide show where my beloved Claire has written a letter to them telling of her travels as a long riding dog…. “We speak different languages, we eat different foods, we are even different colors all of us, but we travel together like friends, like a team, like a family.” They were with me!! and such a delight.
Out they filed and next came the 7th thru 12th graders for the “What I have Learned from 30,000 Miles of Equestrian Travel” talk I had prepared for them. Serious looks rode on their faces. “Um,” I thought, “Will I have anything of interest or value for them?” Well I think they were the most responsive group of high school students I’ve ever spoken for. AND, the questions that followed we could have gone on for another hour had they let us. As they filed out the senior boys lined up, shaking my hand and thanking me.
And for a grand finale, I brought my horses up outside the school and the whole assembly, about 250 students, flowed out of the school, surrounding us. I thought, “How will the girls handle this many people?” but they were perfect, steady and calm. What a way to end my speaking year of over 100 engagements.
Speaking with two of the teachers and the principal, I learned they had all attended school in Cliff, returning after many years elsewhere. I think this says something about the community and how much they care for the future of their children. It showed, truly it showed!!
Thank you so very much Maggie Slavick for making this stop happen. I met Maggie on the book tour when I spoke at the Cliff Community Center last year.
It is harvest time for the famous Idaho Russet Potatoes, by means of a very complicated and sophisticated piece of machinery which I could see as I drove past the fields of workers, working with urgency as the weather now bears down on them – on all farmers. This is it, harvest time.
Kalispell, Montana was our first stop as we journeyed south. We had a comfortable camp at the Kalispell Fairgrounds and presented for the local Northwest Montana Back Country Horsemen. I learned for the first time about their 4-H Trail and Packing Class/Club. Following, is information from club president Rick Mathies.
We have just completed our fifth year of doing this with the kids of Flathead County 4-H. We started with just teaching Packing, and have added Trail – getting your horse ready for the trail. We found that many of the horses involved in 4-H have only been used in the arena or on roads, and we all know if they haven’t been on a trail, they can be very dangerous… so that is why we feel they need to work on some basics to get their horse ready to be on a trail.
We also take the kids that can go on a overnight trailhead camp-out at the end of the season. Our Level 4 and 5 kids get to do actual packing projects with our BCH chapter. Last year they did over $35,000.00 in volunteer contributions.
Next we moved south to Missoula and were the guests of Meredith and Dean Hoistad, members of the Missoula Back Country Horseman. Big turnout for the event thanks in part to the nice article and photos done by photographer Ben Allan Smith and veteran journalist Kim Briggeman. One hundred and thirty four people attended! Several people I’d met on past rides and even Smoke Elser was in attendance. Smoke is a legendary packer and the documentary, “3 Miles an Hour”, tells his story. I met Smoke years ago on one of my rides in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The following is from his website. Now, I find THIS man inspiring!! What a gentleman.
Smoke Elser, The Instructor
After graduating from the University of Montana, Smoke spent the next forty-five years as a wilderness outfitter in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and has spent more than 55 years as an instructor in packing, horsemanship, and minimum impact camping. Smoke is past President of the Montana Outfitter & Guides Association, founding member (1974) of the Professional Wilderness Guide’s Association, past President of Back Country Horsemen of Missoula, serves on the Advisory Council of Elders for MWA, and is currently active on the USFS Region I Pack Train Board. He is an instructor at the Nine Mile Wildlands Training Center, Region I, USFS. He has missed only one or two years of traveling in the Bob Marshall Wilderness each and every year for the past 56 years.
It might be noted that he failed miserably at “retirement”.
Smoke is a recognized leader in practicing the art of Alight on the land horse use, designing and building new light-weight horse and packing/camping equipment, and in educating the public in these areas. Well over 5,000 students have taken his classes during the last 55 years and well over that number of guests have experienced his hands-on use of such techniques. He is the co-author of the book, “Packin’ in on Mules and Horses”, a well-known how-to book on packing and horsemanship. Learn more about Smoke in the National Geographic article.
Now, a rest stop in Montpelier, Idaho visiting Elaine Zeyer whom I met in 2009 on a 6000-mile ride. Back then, I rode into Soda Springs (north of here). She was there visiting the springs with a friend of hers when I rode up. I had cracked my ribs about a week earlier and looked, I suppose, a bit rough. Well, she helped make arrangements for my stop in Montpelier and then fed me and fed and fed me!!
Alone across America: Montana long rider shares her stories
We measure our lives in days, weeks and years.
Bernice Ende measures hers in mile markers.
Mile by mile, 10 miles at a time, 30 miles a day in a trot-walk-trot-walk cadence, the former ballet instructor from Trego in northwestern Montana lives with her horses of sturdy Norse heritage.
She’s up to more than 30,000 in 15 years of long rides that have taken her coast to coast (in one long ride) and to two other countries.
“The love and longing of the ride,” Ende said Wednesday. “I’m alone a lot. There I am in the desert with my little fire and the horses next to me with their bells. It’s like: And they wonder why I do this. It’s like it is so magical, it is so transforming. It’s just so … submerged in life.”
Ende was in town for a gig Thursday night with the Back Country Horsemen of Missoula, after a similar presentation in Kalispell on Tuesday for the horsemen’s group there. At 7 p.m. in the Opportunity Resources, Inc., building, 2821 S. Russell St., she’ll show and tell the story of her 8,000-mile ride from Trego to the coast of Maine, to Sedro Woolley, Washington, and back home. The public is welcome with no charge.
It’s a special event for the Missoula Back Country Horsemen. Dean Hoistad, who invited Ende to town, said there are Back Country Horsemen chapters in most states. The first two were formed some 50 years ago, first in Kalispell, then in Missoula by a small group of men that included fabled outfitter Smoke Elser, Hoistad’s neighbor in the Rattlesnake.
The fundamental purpose of Back Country Horsemen, Hoistad said, is to perpetuate the use of horses on public lands.
“For years and years, they volunteered their services to help the Forest Service keep the trails open, and to pack things for the Forest Service workers,” he said. “It went great guns back in the day, but right now it’s kind of a dying thing. But we’re still trying to keep it going.”
The normal monthly meeting was moved to Thursday to fit into Ende’s travel schedule. She’s heading south to New Mexico, not on horseback but with horses in tow, to spend the winter. On the way, she’s stopping in Utah and New Mexico to deliver her message.
Ende’s 8,000-mile, 2½-year ride began in 2014, the 100th anniversary of passage in Montana of women’s right to vote. It was no coincidence.
Her first book, published by Farcountry Press of Helena, was “Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback.” The memoir came out last year, won the Independent Book Publishers Association award for best new voice in nonfiction this year and was the inspiration for a documentary coming out next year.
Ende, 65, is working on a second book she said will bear the title “Mothers, Aunts, Suffragists and Lady Long Riders.”
Her longest ride included stops in New York at the homes and gravesites of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage, leaders in the suffragist movement in the late 19th century and early 20th.
“I come from a long line of suffragists, and I know that I ride, I can do this, because of them,” Ende said.
It all started with a bad ending.
A lifelong horse person, Ende was coming to the end of a 30-year teaching career in classic ballet in Trego and of a relationship that was “never going to go anywhere.”
“I said, ‘I’m going to ride and forget about him.’ And I did.”
She’d been married as a young woman and never remarried. Ende had no children, and didn’t know at the time what a long ride was, let alone that there exists a worldwide Long Riders Guild.
She cried the day she headed out of town on a borrowed horse with her dog Claire Dog, “a rare breed of unknown origin,” trotting alongside. For two weeks she didn’t let go of the horse.
“I was a fairly competent horsewoman, but I got blown out of my saddle when I got out there. It was like, what? There’s no more fences? There’s no security net? There’s nothing,’” she said.
For three years, she slept under the stars with no tent. She lay her head on her saddle blanket and under her overturned saddle.
Ende ended up on that first ride in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Then she turned around and rode back — a distance of 2,000 miles. That was in 2005.
In the next two years, she had a ride of 5,000 miles, to Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Death Valley, the Sierra Nevadas, and Mount St. Helen’s in Washington before she headed for home. Ende tucked rides of 1,500, 2,000 and 3,000 miles around a 6,000-miler from 2009 to 2011, in which she circled the West to Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Minneapolis.
Three years later she started on the epic 8,000-mile ride, becoming the first person documented to have ridden from coast to coast and back again in one continuous trek.
She started her public speaking by riding into a town around noon and tying up the horses — these days it’s Montana Spirit, a Percheron/Fjord mare, and the smaller but sturdy Liska Pearl, a purebred Fjord mare — in front of the local senior center. There she’d play a couple of tunes on the piano, tell her story and land a free lunch. Often it included enough food for a week on the road.
Despite her life of mostly solitude, Ende is a riveting speaker. She remembers what now seems like a brash statement she made in Red Cloud, Nebraska.
“I said I’m going to ride until it changes me completely, and I’m going to be the best long rider that ever lived,” she said. “I have to laugh about it now, but at the time I was so serious.”
To be the best she learned how to shoe her horses, how to forage, how to make her own clothes and do her own saddle and tack repairs.
Ende thinks a lot about how it all fits into the world that sometimes seems to have gone crazy. Thousands of people ride with her through her website and Facebook posts, many of them chipping in donations to keep her going.
“I know what happens to me out there,” she said. “I’m a magnet for people’s dreams. They’re looking for something. They’re looking for courage, or they’re looking for inspiration. It’s a dream that they’ve always wanted to do, maybe not the horses, but something.
“I’ve had women who did a motorcycle ride because they saw me, or they went and took a trip somewhere because they saw me and talked to me. It’s humbling, and I don’t take it for granted, I really don’t. I feel very committed to it and see that there’s a very seriousness to this, because of the value it offers to so many people.”
Back Country Horsemen of Missoula is sponsoring an evening with Montana’s own Lady Long Rider, Bernice Ende, at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 3, at Opportunity Resources, Inc., 2821 S. Russell St.
Ende has ridden her horses over 30,000 miles, criss-crossing the U.S., Canada, and parts of Europe. She took her first long ride in 2005 at the age of 51. From 2014 to 2016 she became the first person documented to have ridden from coast to coast and back again in one continuous trek. She has won world acclaim among Long Riders who are recognized masters of long-distance equestrian travel and exploration, gained the respect of hundreds she met along the way and earned membership in the International Guild of Long Riders for her accomplishments. She is the author of “Alone Across America on Horseback, Lady Long Rider,” published in 2018 by Farcountry Press.
The public is welcome to attend her slide presentation on the horse journey of a lifetime.