endurance, event

Tonto Twist Report

The third annual Tonto Twist was run on Saturday January 18, 2020.  This is Arizona’s only stand-alone 50-mile ride (no LD or Intro option), and limited to only 55 riders.  The ride was once again managed by Lancette Koerner, and co-managed by Ellen Hickey and Wendy Letteer.  Despite suffering from a debilitating accident (that involved a rambunctious hay bale) that put Lancette out of riding commission for several months, she was not going to let anything prevent the Tonto Twist from happening!  The ride route was largely unchanged from the previous years, with only minor reroutes to accommodate washed out trail from the winter rains.  It consisted of 3 loops: Loop 1 (Bulldog – 30 miles) followed by an hour hold back in camp, Loop 2 (Goldfield – 14 miles) followed by a trot, pulse, and go back in camp, and Loop 3 (Prospector – 6 miles).  Although all checks were back in camp, there were several stops along the route where crew could come out and meet the riders to provide some on-trail support.

The Twist is a deceptively challenging ride, with a combination of steep and rocky climbs, twisty single track, deep sand, as well as a decent amount of flat desert trail that allows riders to move out. The ride takes place in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains, one of the most iconic landmarks in this part of the state.  The first long loop of 30 miles is the most challenging and requires riders to carefully manage their horses through difficult terrain while keeping an eye on the pace to ensure they didn’t fall too far behind. Most of the elevation gain occurs during the first loop, including some very steep technical trails as well as long pulls in deep sand.  Crews had access to their riders at Bulldog Canyon (Mile 16), Usery Mountain Regional Park (Mile 20), and Prospector Park (Mile 29).  Riders without crews were also supported at these checks by an army of volunteers who provided horse and people water, hay and carrots, and helping hands wherever they could be of assistance. Thank you to all the volunteers!  Once riders passed the Usery Park checkpoint, the trails opened up into really nice desert footing, and then it was back to the rodeo grounds for the hour hold and lunch provided by management.

Some of the spectacular scenery, deep in the Goldfield Mountains, on the first loop.

The second loop followed the same trails out for the first few miles before forking away from the trails of Loop 1.  There was more climbing and technical terrain, though not as much as the first loop, and fun scenic trails past the iconic Goldfield Ghost Town (and the sounds of the wild west gun fight that happens in the Ghost Town streets throughout the day).  After looping through camp again for the pulse and go vet check, it is back on the trail for the final 6 easy miles.  A few glow sticks helped mark the turns for the tail-end riders finishing in the dark. Riders once again had the option of utilizing the Ride with GPS navigation app (in addition to the traditional ribbons and paper maps), and the voice cues were spot on all day.

View of the Superstition Mountains on the 2nd loop

Riders came from all over the continent to be part of the Twist, including California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Canada.  The weather was perfect all day, with a breezy 68 as the high and a cool 41 first thing in the morning.  The breeze helped many of the horses keep cool, as many of the equine competitors were sporting thick winter coats. As noted earlier, there was an army of volunteers who helped make this ride happen.  This is truly a premier ride on the Arizona calendar, and it could not be done without all the support.  Lancette said “since I was still recovering from my broken pelvis and shattered wrist there was much I could not do. Ellen, Wendy, Bob Mallia, Robert Hickey, my husband and daughter Tiffany Zehring and grand girls, made sure everything was taken care of.”

The perpetual “Faster than a Speeding Bullet” trophy (First Place) and BC went to Susie Kramer and A Ali Aseel (Steel), who set a course record with a ride time of 6:19, knocking 26 minutes off their winning time from 2018 (they came in 2nd in 2019).  This makes back-to-back wins/BC for Susie and Steel at AZ rides in 2020 – awesome job! The turtle award went to Shannon Conley riding Triton, who crossed the finish line with a ride time of 10:50.  33 of the 43 starters completed the ride, with 4 Metabolic, 4 Lameness, and two Rider Option pulls.  No horses needed to be treated, and the wonderful vet crew of Dr. Debra K Freiberg and Dr. Peggy Brosnahan took excellent care of the horses all day.

In addition to the standard First Place, Best Condition,  and Turtle prizes, the Tonto Twist post-ride dinner had awards for many other accomplishments:

·                  First 5 Riders to Sign Up (Jill Askew, Ashley Wingert, Susie Kramer, Brad Person, Leona Beveridge)

·                  Top Ten Finishers (Susie Kramer, Tracy Fink, Sandy Dory, Corina Voll, MJ Fridley, Kacy King, Marianne Martin, Lisa Pallini, Dayna Weary, Pam Brimhall)

·                  1st Junior (Micheala Cartrette)

·                  Junior Mentor (Brittany Cartrette)

·                  Mid-Pack (Brittany Cartrette)

·                  Mentor Award (Barbara Fredy, Tammy Gagnon)

·                  Lucky 13 (Leona Beverage)

·                  Hard Luck Award (Lisa Doring)

·                  Oldest Horse (Stephanie Duross on the indomitable 27-year old Hadji)

·                  Most Bubbly (Victoria Olson)

·                  Farthest Traveled (Mark Borden – 603 miles!)

·                  Almost-the-Turtle (Shari MacFarlane)

As in previous years, all riders who were attempting their first 50-mile race were recognized whether they finished or not.  And as a special surprise, all entries for these riders had offers of reimbursement by the “Pay It Forward” sponsorship from Andrea Maitland.  Our first 50-mile riders were: Micheala Cartrette (Junior), Tracy Fink, Doug Nicholas, Corina Voll, and Pam Brimhall. Congratulations for taking the plunge!

Corina, riding Nashville, said “My first 50-mile endurance ride was the most awesome experience and so worth the hours of training and conditioning as who does not love more hours in a saddle on your best friend. The event was so very well organized and with the most awesome group of volunteers. The scenery was epic and watching my horse carry me all those miles left me in awe yet again what these amazing creatures do. The amount of encouragement, kindness, congratulations and prizes where awesome!” Corina, an artist, is planning to ‘pay it forward’ next year by creating a custom oil painting as one of the ride awards – what an awesome idea!

First 50 (and Junior) Micheala Cartrette agreed.  “Having my first fifty as the Tonto Twist ride was amazing. I couldn’t pick a better fifty. The view, the landscape, and the terrain made it perfect. It is crazy to me that I would only have twelve hours to do it. But, I had a great ride partner – my mom (Brittany Cartrette) – who kept us on track and on time. It was also great to have her as my ride partner because it made it a lot easier to handle the pressure and anxiety of the race. Though, she may have wanted to leave me with all of my singing and random jokes! I was lucky enough to ride my grandmother’s (Effee Conner) horse who had done several fifties in the past, Zip a.k.a XYZEE. He was truly my partner through the race as we worked together to get through the fifty miles. We joked that he was Eeyore, because he just clomped down the trail not worrying about any other riders. At the finish, both me and my mom were pushing ourselves to the finish both in pain but still light in spirits. But, my mom and I finished hand in hand until she cheated and beat me to the finish!” Congrats Micheala!

Brittany and Micheala coming into the finish

And finally, the last award of the night – the Spirit of Endurance Award – went to Ride Manager Lancette Koerner, who was presented with a beautiful white embroidered vest.  This was a super-secret award this year, as we knew that Lancette would NEVER nominate herself, as she is as humble as she is generous.  In fact, Lancette thought that no Spirit of Endurance Award was going to be handed out this year, so when her good friend and assistant ride manager Ellen Hickey started reading off everything Lancette has done to support our Arizona endurance riders…well let’s just say there weren’t many dry eyes in the house that night.  “I was shocked when I was presented with the Tonto Twist Spirit of Endurance Award,” Lancette said. “I would like to say thank you to all who were involved in honoring me with this award. Being a member of AERC and riding Endurance since 1996 has brought immense joy into my life. My equine partners, the beauty of the trails we have traveled and the dear friends I have made along the way are memories I treasure. I simply cannot imagine my life without Endurance. To give back in some small way to the sport I love by introducing others is my hope. Perhaps another’s life will be touched just as mine has.”

Our fantastic ride manager and Spirit of Endurance award recipient, Lancette Koerner

Official ride photographers Susan and John Kordish were out on the trail capturing photos of riders going through the beautiful Usery Mountain Park. To see all of the official ride photos, head over to their website at AZ Cowgirl Photography.

photo by John Kordish

For everyone who can’t get enough of this fantastic ride, or for those who missed it this time…start planning, because the 2021 edition of the Tonto Twist 50 is already sanctioned and on the AERC calendar! Save the date…January 16, 2021!

And that’s a wrap!  Next up on the ride calendar is the Land of the Sun 2-day ride held out at Boyd Ranch in Wickenburg on 2/29 and 3/1.  In addition to an Intro distance (Saturday Only) as well as 30 and 50 mile distance each day, LOTS will also hold Arizona’s only 2-Day 100. For those who are unfamiliar with the 2-Day 100 format, it is similar to doing back-to-back 50 mile rides EXCEPT that the same horse/rider team must finish both days in order to get a completion.  If the team is pulled on the second day, then no miles count even if the first day was completed successfully.  For those entering the Saturday ride, you may see some of our Burro Cross running teams out there with you following the Intro route!  We love our long-eared trail running partners and are so thankful that many of our AZ rides have welcomed our burro buddies into the AERC events.

Thank you to Andrea Maitland for compiling and submitting the ride report.

endurance, event

Dashing Through the Trails Report

On Saturday December 14, 2019, the 2020 AERC ride season opened in Arizona with the second annual Dashing Through the Trails endurance ride held at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear.  Once again the ride was managed by Effee Conner, and assisted by her daughter Brittany Cartrette. The entire extended Conner family pitched in to make this ride possible – marking trail, manning water stops, making sandwiches at the vet check, trotting horses, and everything else that goes into putting on an endurance ride.

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Landon Cartrette trotting out Andrea Maitland’s Mustang Wyatt Earp at the Friday afternoon pre-ride vet-in.
Photo courtesy of Susan Kordish, AZ Cowgirl Photography

There were some changes to the trail this year, based on rider feedback from the inaugural race in 2018.  The distances were shorted (55 to a 50, and 35 to a 25 for the LD), and the LD route included longer sections with great footing and less technical areas.  The 50-mile riders still had all of the technical sections from last year, though the layout of the trail was updated to include more trottable sections.  Assistant RM Brittany Cartrette said the “feedback was positive, and the trail was challenging which made it fun”.

Another change for this year was the inclusion of a Ride with GPS option for riders who wanted to take advantage of turn-by-turn voice navigation to keep them on course.   Although the trails were easy to follow with conventional maps, ribbons, and pie plates – one of the benefits of riding in the Regional Park system is that all turns were at permanently marked trail sign junctions – having a little extra confidence while on trail is what Ride with GPS provides. Local rider Andrea Maitland volunteered to create all the tracks by pre-riding, adding voice cues, and then re-riding all of the routes to make sure they were accurate.  50-mile rider Leona Beveridge, a self-described non-tech savvy person, stated that Ride with GPS was “spot on and easy to use.  I had absolutely NO issues with the directions.  I enjoyed the comments like “horse eating bench” and “mini Cougar rock ahead”. Thank you so much for all you do to help keep us riders safe on the trail with the awesome RWGPS tracks.”

The trail itself was a mixture of technical rocky terrain, some elevation gain (about 3500 feet total for the 50, and 2000′ for the LD) and stretches of good footing that mostly consisted of varying depths of desert sand.  Hoof protection was a necessity due to the abrasive nature of the trail.

The changes to the LD this year made it a faster course, with all but one rider finishing in under 5 hours of ride time.  24 out of 26 completed.  First place and BC went to Corina Voll riding Igor do Lucero (Nashville), with a ride time of 3:26.  The turtle went to Bruce Weary riding his new mustang Buckles.  It was Buckles’ first LD and they enjoyed nearly every minute of the allotted time, finishing with a ride time of 5:14.


The 50, affectionately dubbed the ‘Arizona Virginia City’ due to all of the rocks, was much more technical, and as a result the ride times were slower.  About a third of the field finished well after dark, with the turtle team of Stephanie Duross, riding Hadji Halef Omar (Hadji) and Barb Clausen, riding Ashquars Dream (Ash) coming in with one minute to spare with a ride time of 11:59.  This was an especially significant ride for Stephanie and Hadji, as they completed their DOUBLE Decade Team with this completion.  Twenty years of riding 50-mile rides together – what an accomplishment!  First place and BC in the 50 went to Susie Kramer riding A Ali Aseel (Steel), with a ride time of 6:24.  The trail took its toll on a few horses, with 20 completing out of 28 starters.

Congratulations to Double-Decade team Stephanie Palmer-DuRoss and Hadji Halef Omar

There was also a Fun Ride in addition to the LD and 50. 8 riders took to the trails for the Fun Ride, and navigated the Competitive Track loop.  This is a tough and challenging 10 miles, with lots of climbing and technical sections.  13-year-old Junior Marshall Brown completed his first ride on the trusty mule Queen Z (Zelda), owned by Courtney Colvin.  Marshall was also sponsored by Courtney and co-sponsored by Catherine Gottschalk.  Marshall had an awesome first ride and enjoyed every minute of it.

“Catherine suggested I might like endurance. She was right! It is a fun way to get in all the minutes and miles I want. It was a new experience to participate in the vet checks before and after the ride, as well as see the organization of the event. This was my first time riding a mule, too. It took me a minute to get used to the way she moved. I had to be on my toes to keep her from straightening out the curves. My favorite part of the trail was not hearing or seeing the sights and sounds of modern life, like cars, houses or construction. This made it easy to pretend I was riding in a posse from an old western movie. The several steep descents and technical twists added to the black and white scenes playing in my head.”  When asked if anything interesting happened, he said, “As we rode out and spotted the first signage of the trail, a pony in our group decided she wasn’t interested in going any further. We tried various approaches of urging her along; pushing her with a horse, dismounting and shooing her and pulling her from the ground and saddle. It was slow going. At the top of a hill, she balked again. We were almost out of ideas. I decided it was my turn to have a go. I jumped down and went running after her, flailing my arms, stomping and hollering like a crazy person with a taste for lazy ponies. She finally moved on. I didn’t want to stop the momentum, so I mounted Zelda at a walk. The tenacity of the rider kept the pony going to the end…or at least until she realized the trail turned back toward the trailers!”  Would he do another endurance ride in the future?  “Absolutely! I’m looking forward to it!”

Not all rides go according to plan, as 50-mile rider Rebecca Roush found out when she became separated from her horse Tequila early in the ride and spent several hours apart before being reunited.  The reason for the wayward horse and rider team?  Not choosing the right time or place to pee!  Rebecca said she “got off my horse in a little wash so as to not be seen peeing. My horse was very excited to catch the LD riders she saw ahead. I had a hold of her the whole time until I didn’t. I was one handed pulling up my chonies when she decided to hop straight up the side of the switchback much to my chagrin. My choice was to be pulled along with her while falling and possibly being dragged as she was now at least 2 feet above me or to let go. I chose to let go.” Tequila took of after the horses in front of her, but ended up deeper into the desert and not on any of the ride routes.  Fortunately for Tequila, Rebecca had a GPS SPOT device on her, which allowed Rebecca to track her horse’s location remotely.  Both horse and rider were safe and uninjured throughout the ordeal.  The moral of the story?  Choose your potty break spots wisely!

Ride photography was provided by Susan Kordish of AZ Cowgirl Photography. Susan and her husband John can be found out on the trail at many of the Arizona rides, capturing memories and ride moments for riders to enjoy for years to come. The ride photos from this ride can be seen at: https://www.azcowgirlphotography.com/EquestrianEvents/2019-Equestrian-Events/2019-Dashing-Through-The-Trails/.

Overall this was a fantastic ride weekend and a well-run event.  The Conners put their hearts and souls into the ride, and their dedication showed throughout the weekend.  If you are looking for a technically challenging course that will test you and your horse (possibly in the dark!), then come out next year to Dashing Through the Trails!

Our next Arizona ride is the Tonto Twist 50 on January 18th, out in Apache Junction and managed by Lancette Koerner.  It is Arizona’s only stand-alone 50 (no LD option), and is a great ride to test yourself by moving up in distance.  Vet checks are all in-camp, the trail is challenging yet fun, and lots of volunteers to help you succeed.  And bonus for this year, the $115 ride entry fee will be covered for ALL riders attempting their first 50!  See you at the Twist!

Thank you to Andrea Maitland for compiling this write-up.