Thursday, May. 23, 2024

Crandell Heads West For Fort Howes Win

The sun gets up early and stays up late in southeastern Montana in June. It was full light at 5 a.m. when some of the best endurance horses and riders in the country hit the trail for the 100-Mile American Endurance Ride Conference CEI*** and Arabian Horse Association Championship Endurance Ride in Fort Howes, Mont., June 10.


The sun gets up early and stays up late in southeastern Montana in June. It was full light at 5 a.m. when some of the best endurance horses and riders in the country hit the trail for the 100-Mile American Endurance Ride Conference CEI*** and Arabian Horse Association Championship Endurance Ride in Fort Howes, Mont., June 10.

The Circle Bar Ranch and the Custer National Forest hosted the multiple championships, which included a 50-Mile AERC, FEI** and AHA cham-pionship divisions, as well as an AERC-sponsored 55-mile ride. The rides also held a new division of CEI**/*** for young riders. Forty-four riders took the field in the 100-mile ride, including 27 FEI riders.

A total of 25 riders finished the 100-mile AERC ride, 13 riders in the FEI division.

John Crandell III from Star Tannery, Va., rode Heraldic to finish first in the AERC, FEI*** and AHA divisions in a ride time of 8:34:49. Heraldic also received the Best Condition award in all three divisions.

Joey Mattingley from Scales Mound, Ill., riding SA Laribou, was reserve champion in all three divisions as well, arriving right after Heraldic at the final vet gate in a time of 8:35:22. Darolyn Butler of Humble, Texas, finished more than half an hour later on DJB Mercy Merci.

“I started off to do my very best and ride my own horse regardless of anybody else’s race,” said Crandell. “I am always going to do what gets him home healthiest and fastest.”

After following Butler’s mare, Mercy Merci, through much of the ride, Crandell and Heraldic gained quiet ground at each vet gate. Leaving the final gate, Butler’s mare maintained a narrowing lead.

“We went a little bit slower this loop than the 25-mile loop,” said Crandell. “It really helped him as I was going slower, and he was looking and feeling better.  For the last several vet gates, Darolyn’s mare had a good PR turnaround. On the last loop of 17 miles I had not intended to try to catch her if she kept up that pace, and Joey Mattingly was right behind me. We just motored along like that. We passed her [Butler] about halfway around the last loop.”

Crandell knows that he has an exceptional horse, and his quiet management style allows this talent to excel.

“He’s great,” said Crandell. “Athletically, he has no weak spots, and the older he gets, he just gets better.”
The 9-year-old Heraldic has been acquiring a tremendous résumé. In 2006, he won the Florida Goethe 100-Mile Challenge and received BC early in the year, but he will forever be remembered for going on to win, back to back, three of the toughest endurance rides in the United States—the Old Dominion 100 (Va.), the Western States Tevis Cup 100, where he also won Best Condition (Calif.), then finishing the year with the win and Best Condition at the AERC Championship Ride (Va.).


Mattingly, who had ridden in the top 10 for most of the ride, also gained ground as the lead horses tired. “It was a great ride overall,” he said. “We managed and paced the ride well. It was warm, but we have humidity where I live also. We had fun, and everything worked out.”

Fort Howes always attracts some of the best endurance horses in the country, and this year was no exception. In addition to Crandall and Heraldic, Steve Rojek had traveled to the competition from South Woodstock, Vt., with LJ Moun Raff, or “Finch,” winner of the Biltmore CEI*** 100 (N.C.) in May.

Cheryl Dell, from Springville, Calif., had arrived to defend her 2006 AHA 100-Mile championship title. Butler drove up from Texas, and 2006 World Equestrian Games team members, Christoph Schork, from Moab, Utah, and Joseph Mattingley, from Illinois, came to ride on Montana turf.

Foreign riders came from Canada, Great Britain and Sweden, including 19-year-old Swedish young rider team member, Maria Hagman-Ericksson, who was making her seventh appearance at a U.S. ride.

The Ride Unfolds
Rojek, Dell, Schork, and Butler were some of the first into the first vet gate at 6:44 a.m. Crandell was not among the first 10 horses into the gate, but Heraldic recovered well on arrival.

Rojek pulsed down and left first onto Loop 2, with Crandell right behind. Coming back into Vet Gate 2, Rojek, Butler and Mattingley were riding close together, with Crandell and Dell applying pressure from behind. Dell’s horse recovered quickest and was first away from the third vet gate, with the rest in close pursuit. After an hour hold, the group left for the grueling, 26-mile loop that circled out into the Custer National Forest.

Dell and Butler gained a few minutes lead on this loop and arrived first at the last 45-minute hold. Rojek and Schork had already been eliminated, and Dell’s horse was spun before the final loop. Butler left the gate minutes before Crandell and Mattingley.

Mel Hare took top honors in the AERC 50-mile ride in a time of 3:52:32 riding DWA Sabku, owned by Schork.

“He is very competitive,” said Hare. “I had to hold him back the entire last loop.”

The AHA awarded second-placed honors to Butler in the Purebred Arabian Championship as well as Best Conditioned horse for her 50-mile ride on DJB DC MacProof. Suzanne Hayes, of Ovando, Mont., riding RS Silverado, won the Half Arabian 50-Mile Championship.


In its 11th year at the Circle Bar Ranch, the ride takes its name from the infamous 1886 stone building, Fort Howes, built to defend the local ranchers from Indian raids. The Fort stands as a sentinel over base camp.
Seven horses were presented for the BC award using AERC guidelines, 10 minutes after completion. Head veterinarian, Dr. Ray Randall, of Bridger, Mont., thought that the temperature, high humidity and the distance that many of the horses had traveled to get to the ride had a significant impact.

“These horses looked pretty darn good,” he said. “This is a wonderful place to hold one of these events in a natural setting. It doesn’t get much better.”

There were 11 veterinarians on hand, including Antonia Mota Pereira from Portugal. She came to this qualifying ride to observe and help in preparation for her part as Head of the Veterinary Commission for the European Championship ride in Portugal. Prospective members of the 2007 and 2008 U.S. Endurance Team will be ranked from FEI rides. The first team event will be the European Endurance Championship, to be held in Portugal on Sept. 8.

Young Rider Recognition
Young riders Kirsten and Kelsey Kimbler finished the 100-mile ride in the company of Canadian neighbor and sponsor, Myna Cryderman.

Kirsten, 18, is the U.S. Equestrian Federation Youth Council representative for endurance, and the entire Kimbler family is involved in the sport. Their father, Carl, rode with McCamey, 11, Kelsey, 14, and Kirsten in the 50-mile AERC/AHA ride.

Kelsey is a junior, while Kirsten rides alone as a young rider. Kelsey won the junior award in the 50-mile and 100-mile AERC division and also received the first junior award from AHA in the 50-mile ride.

Heather Stevens won the AHA first junior award for the 100-mile ride. Junior Best Condition award in the 100-mile ride went to Jennifer Stevens riding Genuine Pizzaz. Tessa Kimbler, 8, just finished her first limited distance ride.

Ride managers Bill and Jan Stevens, whose two teenaged daughters rode both days and who have both competed internationally, were pleased to host an FEI young riders division along with the CEI **/***.

“This was the first time for the young riders division in the United States in the FEI,” Jan Stevens said. “The remaining U.S. FEI endurance ride managers were also able to send in additional sanctioning to sponsor these Young Riders.”

Pamela Burton




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