October 30, 2008 -- Five weeks after Hurricane Ike devastated trails in the Clark State Forest in Indiana, the 100-mile and 50-mile American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) National Championship riders and horses enjoyed excellent weather and trails on October 16 and 18.
"The only reason the ride took place was because of the nearly 300-plus hours in manpower it took to get the trails in excellent condition," said co-ride manager Cindy Young. "Few people realize what a mess those trails really were and without some key people working diligently on some 35 miles of trails, the championships would probably not have happened."
For a sport where weather can make for precarious conditions, especially this late in the season, this year's national championship was nearly perfect. The ride had 45 starters in the 100-mile event and 114 starters in the 50-mile event.
"The level of competition and the caliber of riders truly made for a national championship on all levels," said Young. "We had competitors from 26 states as well as Canada, Switzerland, Holland and Namibia."
The winner of the 100-mile contest was AERC Hall of Fame inductee Valerie Kanavy with King Ali Gold. With a time of 9 hours and 53 minutes, they were 45 minutes ahead of the next competitors. Best Condition went to Hot Desert Knight, ridden by Farzad Faradyi, who was the second-place finisher.
Top weight division finishers: Joni Buttram and Cash Bonus (Junior), Kirsten Kimbler and Cody Canuck (Featherweight), Valerie and Ali (Lightweight), Farzad Faradyi and Hot Desert Knight (Middleweight) and Ed Kidd and Merlin (Heavyweight).
There were 31 completions out of the field of 45 starters in the 100-mile event, held October 16.
Teresa McCarty and Spectacular Gold were first to finish the 50-mile event, with a time of 3 hours and 58 minutes, and they also won Best Condition.
Other top weight division finishers were Austin Shaffer and Pearl Jam (Junior), Katherine Shank and Wind Dancer-Bey (Featherweight), Deb Shaffer and Sheik Abu Galihad+ (Lightweight) and Roger Barrett and Blueberry Bey (Heavyweight).
There were 114 entrants and 98 completions in the 50-mile event, held October 18.
The prestigious endurance ride was held in conjunction with the Arabian Horse Association's Arabian and Half-Arabian Endurance Championship. Next year's AERC National Championship will be held in Northern California on September 11 and 13. For more information on AERC and endurance riding, visit www.aerc.org.