2011 Gold Medal: Karen Chaton and Granite Chief+/

XP 2011 Day 40 Finish in Virginia City. Photo by Nannette Young.

Rider and horse name: Karen Chaton and Granite Chief

Horse Barn name: Chief or Cheefy

Breed: Arab

Horse & rider years in endurance & # of miles: Chief finished 2011 with 12,000 miles, and I had just over 30,000. Ten years for Chief, sixteen or seventeen for me.  Chief completed more miles on the long XP this summer than any other horse.

Which XP ride did you enjoy the most this year? The 40 day 2011 XP.

Which ride did you find the most challenging, and why? The 2011 XP, riding forty days on two horses is a pretty big challenge. It’s hard to compare a 2040 mile cross-country ride with anything else, it kind of is in a class by itself.  I love the feeling of riding through history on a historical trail like the Pony Express and Oregon/California trail.  We are so lucky to be able to do that; it will be a sad day when we lose trail access to these wonderful trails that are so much a part of us.

What do you feel is the most important thing you learned about yourself and your horse this past year? Chief proved that he was the toughest horse I’ve ever had on the XP this summer. He was awesome, and I was so proud that he and Bo were awarded the best performance award after completing all 40 days of the AERC sanctioned rides. We had so many great adventures this year on all of the XP rides and I learned to really appreciate how fortunate I am to have been able to do this.  I learned that I can set big goals and achieve them, but that it takes a lot of work, effort and dedication….plus a bit of luck and having a great support system.

Karen and Chief. Death Valley Encounter 2011. Photo by Steve Bradley.

Is there anything you did this year that you would do differently next year? (or, if you had a chance to do this last year over again)? It’s hard to second guess when the year turned out to be pretty spectacular. I asked a lot out of my horses, and they came through more than 100%. I couldn’t ask for more and am grateful that we were able to accomplish what we did.

What do you think was the best thing that you did do? Bring two well prepared horses on the long XP, and ride them conservatively. I think ultimately, what worked was riding my own ride, and trying to avoid the multitude of ongoing accidents waiting to happen in camp and on the trail.

What are your horses best qualities? Chief has always been a tough little horse with lots of go, attitude, and an incredible ability to take care of himself as well as me. I couldn’t ask for more in an endurance horse. I love Chief’s personality. He is a quiet horse, very easy to handle and has a lot of different facial expressions that tell me what he is thinking or feeling at that moment.

Did anything funny or strange happen on any of the rides this year? Fortunately, it was a pretty dull year as far as accidents or mishaps went. Most everything went very well for us especially where the horse’s were concerned – they both had a totally ‘on’ year and amazed me with what they were able to accomplish. The worst thing to happen all year was when I blew three tires and two rims out getting to the Grand Canyon ride in October.

I want to thank my husband for being the best crew a gal could ask for, plus the most supportive husband in the world. I also want to thank everyone that helps with these rides because without each and every one of them, we wouldn’t have these rides. I am always amazed and impressed at how The Duck does such an excellent job of finding new trails and putting it all together to make the rides turn out really great. Thanks to all that helps to keep these rides going. You are much appreciated.  I also really appreciate the support of my sponsors and their contributions towards my success – THANK YOU ALL!