By Marlys Good
Hannah Pruss of Belle Fourche, S.D., swept the field in the Big Horn 100 endurance ride held last weekend, crossing the finish line in a flat 15 hours, and tacking on the coveted Best Condition award and a first place in the middle weight class.
Kathy Arnold of Basin won the Big Horn 50, finishing in 7 hours, 37 minutes; her horse earned the Best Condition award.
Hot weather and the rough terrain took their toll on both riders and horses. Of the 18 100-mile riders leaving the gate at 4 a.m., just 15 finished; the 12-field, 50-mile endurance riders faded to seven.
Jeannette Tolman, a key component of the Big Horn 100, said the five 50-mile riders who did not complete the course pulled themselves from the ride. “We call it ‘rider option,’” she explained, adding that she used that option herself Saturday. “All the others who did not finish the 50 had no idea what the trail was like; they were used to flat land rides.
“The first 12 miles of the trail are easy; the next 13 miles includes four canyons. You go up, up, up, then down, down, down, etc. Complete that first 25 miles, the rest is easy. The first 25 miles are most definitely a determining factor,” she said on whether a rider/horse is pulled or finishes.
Some of the riders got a bit wet around Battle Creek where rain fell for about two hours.
In the 100-mile ride, Gunnar Frank of Vinita, Okla., took second with a time of 17.16. Taking third and fourth, respectively, were Andrew Gerhard of Vista, Calif., and Alanna Frank of Vinita. Others completing the course, named in order of finish, were: Teresa Felt, Frazee, Minn.; Ronda Eden, Wellington, Nev.; Carla Lakenbrink, Moab, Utah; Christoph Schork, Moab; Andy Bown, Midway, Utah; Lynn Rigney, Bend, Ore.; Kristen Maholland-Grace, Powell Butte, Ore.; Tom Noll, Meridian, Idaho; Jane Depner, Alberta, Canada; Katherine King, Baton Rouge, La.; Ann Wicks, North Gorden, Va. Wicks’ time as the “tail-ender” was 20 hours and 36 minutes.
Top finishers in their weight class were: Featherweight – Frank, Eden, King; lightweight – Felt, Lakenbrink, Rigney; middleweight – Pruss, Gerhard, Schork; heavyweight – G. Frank, Bown.
Coming in behind Arnold in the Big Horn 50 were Belinda Daugherty of Ten Sleep; Christina Martin, Platte, S.D.; Bill Hobbs, West Jordan, Utah; Angie Mikkelson, Scranton, N.D.; Roberta Grieger-Nimmo, Bismarck, N.D. and, last but not least, Lisa Cook of Burlington who was clocked at 8 hours, 45 minutes.
Top finishers in the weight classes: Featherweight – Mikkelson, Grieger-Nimmo; lightweight – Daugherty, Martin, Hobbs; middleweight – Arnold.
Tolman said Noll, a longtime endurance rider who has competed in the Big Horn 100 eight times, told her “This is the best marked trail I’ve been on” — and he has been on a lot of them.
That sentiment was echoed by a rider from California, who told her he had heard stories circulating about the trail being poorly marked. “I don’t know how that got started,” he said. “This trail is as well-marked as any I’ve ridden.”
Tolman said comments like these are music to the organizers’ ears. “One year, because of the weather we couldn’t get up in time to do a decent job; some weren’t sure where the trail was, some riders got lost…it was a nightmare,” she recalled. That hasn’t happened since.
This year’s veterinarians included longtime head vet Lyle Bischoff and Bryan Neves of the Powell Veterinary Clinic, and new to the ride this year, Kris and Chuck Powell, who have opened a vet clinic in Ten Sleep.
Tolman emphasized that the success of the rides has always been due to all the volunteers who keep things running smoothly and efficiently, from start to finish.