Christoph Schork was awarded the Ed Johnson Memorial award at the Mt Carmel XP for his outstanding sportsmanship throughout the years.  Although Christoph is has the distinction of winning the most AERC rides of any other rider, he has never failed to take the time to help others in need whether they be fellow competitors or ride managers.  His grace and composure under stress is exemplary. 


Fire Mountain Malabar, closing in on the all time AERC Most Best Condition awards, has been awarded the Wendell Robie Memorial award at the Mt Carmel XP for continued outstanding performance during the past year.  Fire Mountain Malabar’s paternal grand dam was a full brother to Ed and Kathi Johnson’s great stallion Bezatal.  Look for him on the trail for years to come.

The article A Look to the Future has been moved to the the Potpourri Page

A Look to the Future

A Rational Discussion on AERC Miles

Perhaps the hottest topic in AERC today is the question of mileage. What appears to be a simple black and white issue is actually quite grey.  Here are some of my thoughts on the subject. When attempting to reset the sport around the question of mileage a few things need to be considered. 

1. What is a mile?  Just a brief search shows the following which I paraphrased from wikipedia:
The mile, originated from the Roman mille passus, or translated as a thousand paces, which measured 5000 Roman feet. Around 1500 the “old London mile” was designated as eight furlongs. At the time the British used the larger German foot, which was 625 feet, thus making the mile 5000 feet. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the mile gained and additional 280 feet to make it 5280 feet under a statute of 1593 that confirmed the length of a furlong to the length of 660 feet.
The Irish mile of 6720 feet and the Scottish mile of 5952 English feet. A nautical mile was originally defined as the length on the earth’s surface of one minute (1/60th of a degree) of an arc along a meridian. Because of the slight flatening of the Earth in polar latitudes, the measurement of the nautical mile increased slightly towards the poles.  In 1929 the nautical mile was redefined as 1.852 kilometers at an international conference in Monaco, although the US did not change over to the new international nautical mile until 1954. This measure remains in universal use in both marine and air transportation.   Finally by the 20th century those of us in the United States were comfortable with defining a mile as 5280 linear feet.  A big question remains. Is this 5280 feet on a straight line or is it 5280 feet measured over the surface of the earth.  That is, are we talking about surface miles or air miles?  This can be a huge difference.   

2. After question number one is answered the more important one becomes HOW are we going to measure it?
    a. tape measure:  steel tape or fabric that will mold to the rocky terrain
    b. survey wheel
        1. small wheel
        2. large wheel
    c.extrapolate from a map with string or map wheel
    d.measure by pacing at a walk
    e. measure by averaging time
    f. vehicle
        1. one with calibrated mileage
        2. any vehicle calibrated or not
    g. GPS
        1. set to record via time
        2. set to record via distance
            a. distance set to a set standard
            b. distance set to whatever a person desires
3. How is the course going to be defined?  
4. How much deviation is going to be allowed for being off trail?

This brings up an interesting point. AERC rides, as well as many other off road events measured miles the best they could using technology available at the time.  A lot of well meaning ride managers have done the same.  The first endurance rides varied greatly, some by design others by ignorance.  Adjusting length to time was an acceptable practice that worked well today and was a much better solution to comparing rides under varying conditions.  The introduction of GPS has offered a new technology that CAN, if used correctly, more accurately estimate mileage but it has very little ability to level a playing field nor to provide a good comparison for different rides.

Mileage alone is a bad way to compare rides, yet it has become the focus of AERC.  This is wrong and should be corrected one way or another. It is of the upmost importance to come up with a way to enter a time factor into the length of rides.  This can be done by stating that the existing databases, while not necessarily true statute miles, are what they are, and the records were set by mostly honest people doing what they thought was right at the time. AERC by-laws state the purpose of their Rules is to assist Members, Ride managers and veterinarians in holding quality Rides, held under uniform criteria and comparable conditions. Does anyone seriously believe a ride won in under 4 hours with the last horse finishing in 8 hours is an equal demonstration of equine ability as a ride won in 6 hours with horses not finishing in 12? 

Those who venomously criticize XP Rides for being short refuse to acknowledge that we have always attempted to reach what we thought were correct miles and keep our mileages in line with what the majority of ride managers were doing around the country.  We did that, as many others have done and continue to do, by using time as a factor.  The bottom line remains that mileage is not the Holy Grail for comparing equine endurance events.


2018 XP Results are now available on the main result page. Congratulations to Crockett Dumas, Phyllis and Otis Bartholomew and Heidi Helly our Gold Medal Riders for 2018. 

Results are now posted up through Mt Carmel




Contrary to any rumors you may have heard, Strawberry Fields is going to take place as scheduled. We are in camp now and working diligently to clear trails.  Howard and Hosebag are continuing to have great success. See you there.

Strawberry Fields


June 28-29-30, 2019

The Strawberry Fields Endurance Ride is one of the most beautiful rides in the Mountain Region. Located in the Uintah Mountains, 55 miles SE of Salt Lake City and just 20 miles east of Heber, just north of Strawberry Reservoir, this is a ride to enjoy in a friendly, relaxed environment. The terrain is challenging, but not difficult, with trails winding through aspens and meadows filled with wildflowers and spectacular mountain scenery.

2019 is the 17th year for Strawberry Fields and once again, it will be a 3-DAY Pioneer Ride. There will also be 25 mile rides as well as 10 to 15 mile Intro/Duck each day.

Dave and Ann Nicholson are helping Howard continue this great ride. 

We look forward to seeing everyone again this summer. We hope everyone will spread the word about the beautiful scenery… the area is blessed with some of the most pristine, gorgeous riding terrain imaginable. At this time of year, with the spring run‑off, numerous creeks are flowing, and the wild flowers and Aspen are blooming everywhere. It is a perfect time of year to enjoy a memorable Uinta Mountain riding experience.

We are looking forward to taking our riders back up to the Red Cliffs and on the spectacular high mountain trails again but there is a lot of snow that will have to melt to be able to do that.  Come early, stay late and savor the pure mountain atmosphere. Sightings of deer, elk, moose and beaver are not uncommon, and look for bald eagles and hawks soaring above. The scenic value of this ride is what makes it truly unique and special, and if taken at a moderate pace, this is a ride to cherish and remember forever. 

DIRECTIONS: Base camp is about 55 miles south east of Salt Lake City, Utah, with easy access. From Heber City, take Hwy 40 eastbound for approximately 25 miles. You will go over Daniel’s Pass and the Daniels Summit Lodge. Base camp was moved to Co-op Creek last year and will be there again in 2016. 7.6 miles east of Daniels Summit Lodge you will see the  sign for the Co-Op Creek Road. The turn off is between milepost 41 and 42. Turn left and continue on the good gravel road for approximately 2 miles then turn left on Forest Road 451 to Base Camp.

If you are coming from the east, the turn off is about about 5 miles west of Fruitland on Hwy 40. Turn right at CO‑Op Creek.

TRAIL DESCRIPTION: Our trails are mostly single track through woodland and open meadows, and some gravel roads. There are plenty of creeks and ponds, and an abundance of green grass for horses to snack on. Although it is high altitude, and there is significant elevation change, the trails are not difficult and the footing is generally very good. This is an excellent opportunity for those wishing to be introduced to the sport of Endurance Riding in a friendly, relaxed, environment and there will be people around who would be pleased to show you the ropes and get you started.

We plan for the 55 and 50 milers to start at 7am and the 25 milers at 7.30am, but weather and trail conditions could dictate a last minute change in plans. Daytime temperatures usually range from 70 to 80 degrees, and you can expect the occasional thunder shower so come prepared. The nights can get chilly so warm jackets and horse blankets are advised. Annie has decided to cook meals for the riders who are interested. You will need to reserve meals 24 hours in advance. Complimentary sandwiches, snacks and drinks will be provided for riders each day at the control check point.

For more information contact Ride Manager:

Cell and internet service is poor at the ride site. Emails and text work best but don’t be frustrated by no response as we may have to travel some distance from camp to make contact.

Ann Nicholson, 907-209-8881

Dave Nicholson, 907 419 0924

P.O. Box 422, Klawock, AK 99925






There are several pertinent web sites for information on this ride. for general information on XP Rides for information on Riding vs Racing for veterinary information


Riding and Racing

Some years back I wrote an article on riding vs. racing that explained my personal opinions on the differences. At the time I was supportive of the FEI for those who chose to go that route.  Although I do not have the time at the moment to edit that editorial, which is posted below, I have to now state publicly that I have become disgusted about where the FEI has taken our sport and fear the backlash will come to haunt us for years to come.  AERC needs to make some clear distinctions between what the FEI is doing and what a large number of our members are doing. The Western States Trail Ride remains the ultimate accomplishment for this sport. I knew Wendell Robie personally and I can assure you he is rolling and twisting in his grave over what this sport is becoming. There is no connection between what is happening at the FEI level and what the sport of endurance riding is all about. 

Endurance Racing and Riding – a discussion by Dr. David Nicholson

Apparently there are many who are unable to understand the difference between Endurance Riding and Endurance Racing. While the fine points of the definition can be argued forever, a race is an event where the first entrant across the finish line is the winner. I suggest that a ride is an event where the entrants set their personal goals and only those entrants know if those goals were realized during the event. The XP Rides have catered to those who enjoy long distance riding and the personal challenges offered. We have placed little emphasis on winning or going fast on any given day, feeling that true endurance champions are proven over years and many different conditions. Events like the AERC National Championships, the Race of Champions and FEI sponsored events are Endurance Races. There is a place for both and the sooner we stop arguing about it and appreciate that both venues offer a place for horses and riders to enjoy the great outdoors, the better off we will all be. I suggest that ride managers have the prerogative to set the tone for the type of event that they desire to conduct and that they have the responsibility to design their event accordingly.

While our rides appeal to many, they offend others. Some consider them a detriment to the sport of Endurance Racing that prevents the sport from attaining Olympic status. Others insist that the FEI and hardcore racers are threatening the gentle sport they love. While there is some truth to both points of view, the real truth lies in the mind of the beholder; both racing and riding have their place. Obviously, long distance horse racing is a sport with great potential for death and serious injury to the horses and riders. Everyone should understand and agree that endurance racing needs a lot of control. Similarly, everyone should agree that a group of horsemen out for a long ride don’t need the controls required in a race. . Endurance Racing is a strenuous sport that places severe stress on the equine athletes. I personally believe that horses should race no more than once or twice a year. On the other hand, I know that horses can ride 30 to 60 miles a day, five days a week, essentially forever. I believe that the time has come for AERC to take the middle road and formulate rules to address the needs of both factions of our sport

I believe that ride managers should make clear to prospective entrants just what kind of event they are coming to. XP Rides emphasize riding over racing. We offer meager awards and give no recognition to placing in the various divisions. I submit that the ride itself is the reward. We stress the responsibility of the rider in caring for the horse and use the services of veterinarians to help the riders get through the event safely. Our approach has worked well for us in the past and we hope that it will continue to work for us in the future.

New for 2019

Rumors abound regarding the Nicholson Family Plans and some things have been misinterpreted.  The facts are that we have moved our winter home from Inyokern California to Kanab Utah.  We were never residents of California nor did we ever have any intention of becoming California residents. We have owned property in Utah since 1962 and have always intended to move there when we were forced for health reasons to remain in one place year around.  That time has not come but it is time for use to start building plans for that day.  As for the California rides, we are planning on continuing with the rides we have done all along for at least the foreseeable future.  Those critical of the XP for having too many rides in SoCal should bear in mind that the Coso ride was taken over at the request of Sue Benson. The Death Valley ride was taken over at the request of Jackie Bumgarner. The Eastern Mojave was created at the request of Al and Nanette Young. The Cuyama rides were taken over at the request of Jim Mitchell. The Lost Padres and Sesenta Anos rides were taken over at the request of John Parke. That leaves one single ride, the Laurel Mtn ride that was the sole event originating from the Nicholson family. If and when we decide to no longer conduct these events there will be lots of people waiting in the wings to continue them. 

Starting with the 2018 ride season the XP Rides will be adding an Intro Ride to all of our events.  These rides are also known as Fun Rides or Duck Rides.  We have offered Duck Rides for many years but we are going to formalize the events to a limited degree and will be more diligent in keeping track of the rider mileage in ALL divisions. This means that your ALL of your mileage will count  for the year end awards regardless of what division you rode in.  Just to be clear, we will include AERC Endurance Miles, plus AERC Limited Distance Miles, AS WELL AS XP INTRO/FUN/DUCK MILES. We are doing this as we now have many riders and horses who have reached an age at which it is no longer fun or even possible to “go the distance”.  These old campaigners, have been reluctant to drop to the “lower” levels of competition for various reasons. We miss them and want to offer them an opportunity to continue in the sport they have supported for so long.  Starting with the Coso Junction Ride in December we will track mileage from all divisions including the Intro/Fun/Duck rides.  This cumulated mileage will then be the basis for the year end XP awards.  

We are expanded our 5 day events (Mt Carmel ~ Grand Canyon ~ Virgin Outlaw) to 6 days.  They will start on a Sunday and run for three days. Then there will be a rest day on Wednesday. Another three day Pioneer Ride will start on Thursday and run though Saturday.  Everyone convinced us to continue with this format so we will do that for the foreseeable future

2018 Results through Sesenta Años are now posted, as are the 2019 Results through Laurel Mountain. XP Rider, Carol McLeod has volunteered to build a data base for XP Results.  At some time in the future we will offer an option to include all your lifetime XP mileage in that database. Many thanks to Carol for taking on this task



Entry Fees in General: 

Ride information will be sent to those who have entered online usually within a week of the event. If you have not received a response with the information you are looking for you should call or email us. 


We do not require pre payment for most of our rides, so its easiest to just bring cash or check to the ride and pay when you decide how many days you have ridden.  Its the old time way of doing business based on trust.  


Entry fees are a composite of ride entry fees along with other charges that must be passed on to the riders. These hidden charges include fees to the various government entities such as the BLM, USFS and NPS as well as camping fees to state, country and private entities. They also include drug testing taxes levied upon the riders from the State of California and/or the AERC. In addition there are AERC rider fees which vary depending upon membership status. XP Rides and the XP Riders host a number of events, all of which have different financial conditions.  Not only do fees vary from ride to ride, they also vary within most rides. Our policy of not publishing fees comes from accusations of government officials going to the ride site, extrapolating information and applying it as they wish.  We have not increased any of our ride fees for many years and have no plans for any increases in the foreseeable future. Cuyama and Lost Padres are the only XP Rides that require prepayment.  Most riders pay at the end of the ride on all the other rides.

Photos for Sesenta Años, Lost Padres and Cuyama available at:

Photos for Mt Carmel, Strawberry and Grand Canyon available at:
 You can learn more about each of our rides by going to XP Rides and Dates on the menu bar and scrolling down to the one you are interested in. 

XP Rides for 2019 Ride Season

(Subject to AERC & Landowner approval)

Coso Junction ~ December 1 & 2

Death Valley Encounter ~ December 28-31

Laurel Mountain ~ January 26 & 27

Eastern Mojave ~ February 8-9-10

 Cuyama Oaks ~ March 22-23-24

Cuyama Rain Date ~ March 29-30-31

Lost Padres ~ April 6 & 7 DO NOT SEND RELEASES TO THE RANCH.

Lost Padres Rain Date ~ April 13-14

Mt Carmel ~ April 28-29-30 Rest Day May 2-3-4

Strawberry Fields ~ June 28-29-30

Grand Canyon ~ August 25-26-27 Rest Day 29-30-31

Virgin Outlaw ~ September 22-23-24  Rest Day  26-27-28

Sesenta Años ~ November 15-16-17 (postponement due to National Championship in 2019 only)



EasyCare, Inc. is proud to provide year-end awards to XP riders. EasyCare, Inc. has a full line of hoof boots and natural hoof care products that protect the hoof, allow horses to cover rough terrain, act as a spare tire in case of a lost shoe, and aid in the treatment of laminitis and other hoof problems. EasyCare’s hoof boot brands include the Easyboot, Boa Horse Boot, Old Mac’s and EasySoaker.  While the main focus at EasyCare is horse boot design, we proudly make other top quality products for trail riders and recreational horse owners such as Stowaway Saddle Packs, EZ Ride Stirrups, Comfort Pads, hoof boot accessories and natural hoof care products.





Please don’t be offended if the Duck doesn’t add you as a friend or associate on Facebook,  LinkedIn,  or  any other type of social media.  He just simply does not participate in those things!



Over the years our family has made a lot of great friends along the trail. We always look forward to the new ride year to renew those friendships and to make new ones. We hope you will be able to join us on the endurance trails this year. Come ride with us, you will be glad you did.