A horseback endurance race in the upper Thompson River area is expected to attract more than 50 competitors from across the region July 17 and 18.
“We had quite a few last year so we’re hoping for 50 or more this year,” said Sherrie Calaway, manager of the Hooves and Co. Endurance Ride. “They are coming from everywhere.”
Riders are expected from Montana, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, North Dakota and Canada.
Among the competitors are former Iditarod champion Doug Swingley and Suzie Hayes, a well-known endurance rider from Ovando who competes internationally.
The 50-mile race is sanctioned by the American Endurance Ride Conference and is a qualifier for prestigious endurance races such as The Tevis Cup in California.
Calaway said there will be a 35-mile race and the 50-mile race, both starting on July 17 at the Thompson River Ranch just off U.S. 2 west of Kalispell.
Riders will use roads and trails heading south about 16 miles to a veterinarian checkpoint. From there, riders travel on two loops in the area, returning to the veterinarian checkpoint and then returning to the Thompson River Ranch.
The fastest riders will cover the mountainous terrain in just more than five hours.
“There’s a lot of training, a lot of hours in the saddle,” Calaway said. “They have to get used to trotting for miles with intermittent cantering. The fastest people will be cantering a lot.”
While it is a race, with riders trying to finish as fast as they can, there are other elements to the competition.
Calaway said one of the most coveted awards is a condition award, recognizing the condition of the horse, with consideration for things such as how much weight was carried.
Hooves and Co. started out as a competitive trail riding club in the early 1970s and has sponsored a variety of riding events in Northwest Montana. Calaway said this is only the second year for the endurance race; last year’s was based at Herron Park with riders using the Foy’s to Blacktail trail.
Calaway said some proceeds are donated to support development of the Foy’s to Blacktail trail network.
Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.