“Thank you” is the place to start at this ride!

So many people made this ride possible. We want to try to hit everyone. If we missed you, please send me a note, and I’ll get you recognized! I want to!

Anyone who has ever managed an endurance/distance ride knows that, honestly…it takes a village. Well, the Mary and Anna Memorial Ride Village is rich in Village.

Max and I (Darlene) have been managing rides for over 10 years now, between us. We kind of know what needs to be done to get a ride off the ground, but singularly, this is an overwhelming task. We are so fortunate to have a cadre of invaluable volunteers that are just so appreciated!

First of all, one must have trails. To have trails, one must have permits to ride on the USFS and BLM lands. Max has just gone over the top to make sure our permits are in place. Without permits, you have no ride. Both of our rides, the Mary and Anna Memorial Ride and the Grizzly Mtn Ride, have 5 year permits, thanks to Max.

Then one must have trails. Max and I have spent countless hours scouting potential trails. Then we go ride them. Will this make a reasonable trail for our riders? How many gates are there? Where would the water go? Do we need an out vet check? How “horse friendly” is the footing?

Then, we submit all that, and wait. Once approved, we go about the rest of the nightmare of managing a ride. What order do we put the loops in to best serve the riders and their horses? Is there readily available water to fill the water truck, in order to fill the tanks on trail and in camp? How friendly is the road to any outcheck? Can a rig get in to haul folks out if they get pulled? One must plan awards, meals (if offered), trail markings, NIGHT trail markings, accommodations for the riders and their horses. You have all of the above to consider, and then comes the part of how do we get this all done? It honestly takes more than one or two people. Yes, I’ve seen it done with one or two, but that Ride Manager is a prime candidate for burn out within a few short years. One needs…volunteers. It’s just that simple. Max and I want to create a ride that is Outspoken and Inclusive of all who show up, no matter to ride, or volunteer.

A few, to many, volunteers, can make the difference as to whether your ride succeeds or founders. All of the rides that I’ve ever managed turned out to be very successful, just in terms of volunteers. I’m actually quite proud of that. People come to our ride to volunteer because we do our level best to put on rides that folks want to attend! We want to treat our volunteers well because we want them to come back, either to ride, or to volunteer again! People determine whether to return to a ride on the advice of a volunteer sometimes! One just has to provide the best ride possible, in every way. That’s where the volunteers come in.

First and foremost, the most dedicated volunteer at the Mary and Anna Memorial Ride is, Max Merlich. Max probably takes a month of time per year to get these rides off the ground. Max handles the permits, he scouts the trails, he puts the water out, with his truck he delivers wood to customers in. He takes pulses, he (when needed) hauls horses from out checks. He hob knobs, and regales all with his stories of rides gone by. Our rides wouldn’t be the same without Max. Ok, they wouldn’t exist without Max. He takes many weeks a year from his self professed work schedule to make these rides happen. I couldn’t make the rides happen without Max, but the rides would happen without me. It’s really that simple.

Second-most, the Nunn-Sampson Gang. Ever since we talked to Anna Sampson about hosting a ride that honored her best good friend, Mary Nunn, and then losing Anna so soon afterwards, we had the undying support of their families. The first year we hosted the ride we had a whole big bunch of Nunn-Sampsons at the ride, and since then we always have Frank (a Nunn) and Irita (a Pilcher, one of Anna’s kids) and Zach (another Nunn) and Cortney, and whomever else can make it. This year it was Frank, Irita, Jennifer Seymore (Irita’s daughter and Anna’s granddaughter), Thomas (Jennifer’s son), Zach and Cortney, and their beautiful daughter, helping us out. They helped get water on the trail, get water off the trail, Frank pulled rigs out of the soft sand, they put out the glow lights, and unmarked the trail (you have NO idea what a chore this is!)…OH…and repair a water hydrant that was ripped out of the ground by a horse who decided it looked like a scratching post, as well as any other “broken” stuff that occurred while Max was on the trail. This family is invaluable to the Mary and Anna Memorial Ride. They ARE the Mary and Anna Memorial Ride. My heart swells each year that any member of these amazing families show up. I’ve asked to be adopted by them.

Lois Fox. Yes, Lois deserves her own paragraph! Lois coordinates our awards. She keeps me honest with her gentle (and sometimes not so…) reminders to get things done. Her encouragement and wisdom are golden and we’d be lost without her. Thanks for adopting us, Lois!

Carol Giles. Carol is invaluable to the Mary & Anna Ride. She not only keeps our books straight, she spends probably three plus weeks out of her life helping out, marking trail, checking paperwork, and making herself available to the cause. She and Ron Sproat spent an entire day marking the Ft Rock loop this year. We would be lost without them!

Gate Guards...here in Central Oregon, there is an abundance of trails on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands. Ranchers hold leases on these lands to graze their cattle. If you leave a gate unattended and the cattle go where they do not belong, you raise the ire of the ranchers. You raise the ire of the ranchers, you get your BLM permits revoked. You lose good loops. This year we had Gwynn Daniels, Brandi Burk (her first time volunteering at a ride!) and Beth Skaggs holding our gates down. Brandi did two gates! We’re happy to report that no cows ended up where they did not belong. I watched Gwynn chase “her” cows off down the pasture and had to laugh. These Gate Guards save our riders valuable time and effort getting on and off their horses and literally wrangling some of these gates. We know the gates are well tended and the ranchers stay happy. Gate Guards are largely unnoticed in this sport, but they are very appreciated by Ride Management!

Next up, our “Ambulance Driver“, Elayne Barclay. Elayne not only sacrificed her rig to get horses in from the out check, she went with Max in HER rig to rescue a 100 mile rider off the trail, in the dark. The Ambulance Driver is invaluable also. Elayne took the time from her weekend to bring her gear, and her stethoscope out to the ride and commit herself to the outcheck. She kept the timer sheet (a chore unto itself when you have nearly 30 riders going by!), she took pulses, she hauled horses, and made herself available. Elayne is simply…awesome.

Pulsers! We had a stellar line up of pulsers at this ride! Since we had over 130 riders on Saturday, we needed pulsers! Pulsing horses in the age of Covid-19 has taken on a life of its own. Our crew had it all goin’ on! Many thanks to Lois (our AERC and Covid Steward!), Paula Rasler (one of the RM’s for the Lava Cast Ride!), Moly Farkas, and Paul Latiolais for taking pulses on Saturday, and thank you to Carol Giles (our EDRA and Covid Steward), Don and Beth Skaggs and Brandi Burk for taking pulses on Sunday! SO appreciated!

Greeters...not a thing that rides in the “old days” needed. Nowadays, in the age of Covid 19, a ride needs a greeter, or…greeters as this ride quickly proved! So thankful for Carol Giles, Jo Weinstein, and Carol Hassebroek for greeting the rigs, gathering the various waivers and sending the rigs into the ride camp. They made sure that riders and their crews were aware of the camp rules and had their Covid Gear in hand.

Ride Secretary...it sounds simple enough, but this job is so multi-pronged! In this age of “online registrations”, Covid waivers, amenity reservations, and then the monumental task of organizing the ride results and getting them turned into the various organizations, this position has grown to exponential proportions! When Shawna Bowin agreed to be our Ride Secretary, I bet she had no bloody idea the job this would turn into! She fielded emails, phone calls, PM’s, and more for months ahead of the ride dates! She handled it all with grace and composure. Then ride days came and she had 3 people hollering her name with pulse times, she had riders demanding to be weighed for Best Condition exams, she had riders demanding to know what loop they were going out on, which loops they were coming in from! They wanted horse mash, they wanted sponge buckets filled and the hay to be fresh and they demanded it all from…Shawna. At one point, she was truly channeling Anna Sampson as she told the masses of pulse takers, riders and others that she needed one moment and she would address them. And she did. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Shawna Bowin has come closer than any single other person in this region to being “the next Anna Sampson”. Shawna is amazing. We love her. Thank you Shawna!!

Vet Card Runners! Who are these folks? Where did they come from? Covid 19 has dictated that we do things differently. Riders don’t carry their cards this year. The cards are kept by management and taken to the vets at each hold by a “Vet Card Runner”. Michelle Barker contacted me and asked to volunteer. Boy did I have a job for her! I told her, no matter what I say tomorrow, don’t listen! Just stay focused on getting the right cards to the vets! She was spot on her job! Elayne Barclay and Carol Hassebroek also helped keep the vet cards straight each day. We are so thankful to them for this crucial job! It’s not easy juggling all those clip boards and cards! You gals are my heroes!

Ride Veterinarians! You need trails, you need a venue, you need permits, you need volunteers, but not one single distance ride could take place without the veterinarians. They are there to protect the horses, plain and simple. They take a whoopin’, I tell ya. If I had a nickel for ever time a rider told a ride vet, “that’s normal for this horse” when the horse trots off grade 2 lame, I’d be a wealthy woman. If I had a nickel for every time a rider “stiff armed” their lame horse to try and attempt to mask that horse’s lameness, I would have $5 in my pocket. (It amazes me that folks still try this “trick”!) Covid 19 has made their task more difficult as well. These vets get paid a fraction of what they’d make taking farm/clinic calls on a Saturday, so they’re truly there for the love of the job. They’re there for us and I just can’t thank them enough. Dr Cassee Terry, of Redmond Veterinary Clinic, Dr Kelley Jones, of Around the Bend Veterinary Services, and Dr Shannon Findley, from Bend Equine, worked their hineys off into the wee hours. We are so lucky to have such great vets available to our rides. This was Dr Findley’s first experience as a ride veterinarian. We hope she is hooked!

The Core Group. This ride would simply not be possible without the Core Group of volunteers. The gang I call the Management Team! Max Merlich, who does a whole big bunch, Carol Giles, who keeps our books straight, marks trails, takes on Steward duties, does the BC calculations, and is just everywhere. Lois Fox, who’s just everywhere. She took on Steward duties, she organized those amazing awards! She took pulses, she mentored folks, AND…she rode the 50 miler on Sunday! Shawna Bowin, who took her Ride Secretary duties very seriously. Ron Sproat came out and spent a few days helping mark trails. This is a hard job when the trails aren’t always apparent and there are marauding cows to take out your well laid ribbon! And well, myself. the PR Director. These rides are nearly always my personal brain children, and with a team like this, they are seen to their maturity.

We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Phil at the Waterin’ Hole, in Ft Rock. He fed our volunteers Covid friendly meals all weekend! Yea, we’ll be back. My mama, PJ Blonshine, also made meals for the volunteers this year. Her yummy breakfast burritos had everyone smiling!

The Photographer. Jala Neufeld is so much more than just our photographer! She shows up, gear in hand ready to work. Her photographs are stunning, but her helping hands do so much more! She pulled rigs out of the soft sand, she and Andrea Hurn were everywhere helping out! They went and found one of our 100 mile riders in the dark and helped navigate Max and Elayne to their location. Jala is a gift and we’re happy, and thankful to have her as our ride photographer.

Thank you, Alex Lewis, for bringing Camilla, the PNER Blood Machine, and making yourself available to the riders and ride vets to run Camilla. Between that and the body work services you provided, there were some happier, healthier horses at this ride.

Last, but by no means least, we want to thank YOU! Our riders! You responded to our Outspokenly Inclusive invitation and you signed up to ride! The very first AERC/EDRA weekend was a huge success because folks like you talked with your feet and showed up to ride. We are so darn thankful for you! Because of you, we’ll be back next year. If you only knew how sincere these words really are. Max and I were ready to throw in the proverbial towel. You all restored our faith in the region, in our riders and in our own mission.

We love that we can put this ride on to benefit the Mary and Anna Youth Rider Fund! Thank you to all of you who donated your unused ride entries to the Fund. The kids will really appreciate it! WE REALLY APPRECIATE IT!

See you next year!

~Darlene and Max Merlich, your Ride Managers for the Mary and Anna Memorial Ride.

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