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.


After being actively involved in the sport of endurance for fifty-seven years, fifty-one of those as an event manager Ann and I look to the future with a heavy heart.  Plain and simple, the sport is fading away and I see nothing on the horizon to keep it going.  Its not just endurance riding that is failing; its all of the activities I have spent my life enjoying.  Horse racing, horse shows, endurance and all other equine disciplines are on a steep decline.  The AERC, in their infinite inability to look to the future and see what their actions will result in, are on the brink of financial collapse as they move to drastically cut back on the attendance of their sanctioned events.  Anyone who thinks increasing mileages of existing rides by ten to thirty-five percent is not living in the real world. The demographics of the sport have changed dramatically as riders have aged and there are too few of today’s youth willing or able to make up the difference.  Every endurance rider now living is going to die and as they get older and closer to death and debilitating dysfunctions they are going to no longer be able to do 100’s, then 50’s then 25’s and finally they won’t be able to get out of bed and go pet their old favorite horse. That folks, is an eternal truth.  The path to successful continuation of the sport is to deal with that fact and offer venues that will offer the least able of us to continue to enjoy. 

There was a time when Endurance was a growth sport. That growth came mainly from horse people who were tired of the increasing structure (rules) in CTR and horse show events. Endurance was a new sport that took riders and their horses to beautiful new places where they could share their love of the outdoors with their horses.  AERC was started as a record keeping organization based in the west.  Ride managers were free to improvise under broad interpretations of the basic rules.  Over time that concept has succumbed to the “too many cooks spoil the broth” theory.  Every new rule results in tightening the noose around the neck of ride managers.  Its easy to sit in a board room, far from an event and order ride managers to strict interpretations of the many rules, but its a far different story when a RM is face to face with someone who has supported their event for years, and have to tell them they have to abide by some edict “because its in the rules”. Over the many years we have been involved in the sport, Ann and I have always tried to do what was fair and reasonable in keeping the spirit of the rules in mind.  However, that practice has resulted in increasing grief and criticism in which we are no longer willing to withstand. 

The latest and most egregious,  of the recent decisions is over the mileage issue.  Let me be absolutely clear: AERC has never had accurate mileage in a large percentage of the sanctioned rides.  I know this as I was one of the few who had the equipment and ability to ride motorcycles with accurate rally odometers over many of the courses of years past, including the Tevis.  Even back in the day when most of the country was open to motorized vehicles, the common practice for measuring mileage was by drawing the trail on a topographical map and then using a string to lay over the trail and measure the mileage using the scale at the bottom.  The potential for error was huge, especially in difficult terrain.  Our events were historically long and accurate as most were measured by the motorcycle odometer.  Winning times of five hours with the last riders coming in before the 12 hour cut off were reasonable and were the standard for the sport.  Since the advent of the GPS, there is a possibility of more accurate mileage when used properly by knowledgeable technicians. However, that requires a drastic change in what has been done in the past and leaves future riders being forced to compete against mileage records that are completely unsubstantiated as to correct mileage. No rational person can honestly believe that holding the western rides, which generally take place over more challenging terrain, to additional mileage requirements of ten to thirty-five percent for sanctioning, as not having a serious draconian effect on the AERC and the individual events. It will kill some of them.  Kat Swigart in her infinite wisdom has proved beyond a doubt that many beautiful trails and venues will not support “accurate GPS mileage”.  There is plenty of historical statistics to show what happens to rides when a competing ride shortens their trail.  AERC BOD members are the poster children of short rides. For years they have gotten away with pointing fingers at others while putting on events that were ludicrously short. 

So what is the way forward? I can’t speak for everyone, but this is what we are planning. This will be the last year that AERC sanctioned XP Rides will compensate for mileage with a time factor.  Obviously our “short” rides that are taking 5.5 to 6.5 hours for people like Christoph Schork to win with some riders barely finishing or coming in overtime will become very difficult and close to impossible for people and horses to safely complete when additional miles are added. One of last years Mt Carmel rides would have only had two finishers on time if the remainder of riders continued the additional mileage at the same pace.  If we are to do that, we will see the rides fade away as the number of riders and horses able to step up the pace are simply not available.  The resulting drop in attendance can and will result in cancellation of rides as we will be unable to continue with the significantly fewer numbers. Bear in mind that Terry Wooley Howe cancelled a very popular and well attended ride because she needed a minimum of 65 riders a day to break even. Another west region manager told me they have to have a hundred riders to break even.  While we can manage on smaller numbers we cant afford to drop to the level that will result with “accurate GPS mileage”.  The only way forward I can presently see is to create a new association that will keep endurance records in the future.  Keeping records is what AERC was originally all about but that has given way to micromanaging the ride managers in a mistaken attempt to “level the playing field”.  Playing fields aren’t level when competing over varied terrain.  Comparing 50 mile rides that are won in the 3 to 4 hour range with 35 to 40 mile rides that are won in the 6 to 7 hour range is ludicrous to say the least. It’s incredible the combined AERC BOD fail to see what increasing ride mileage from 10 to 35 percent is going to do to attendance.  Its a no win situation for riders, management as well as the AERC.  It has been suggested that we simply make the rides flat and easy so we can have accurate mileage. That is an antithesis to the XP model, which is to put on rides in scenic places on interesting but doable trails and over lands that can not be regularly accessed by the general public. Riders through the years have used the winning and final completion times in their decision making process when considering attending a ride that is new to them.  I can see no way to come close to a “level playing field” than to include a time factor with GPS mileage.  The standard in the west, as well as my personal standard was to adjust 50 mile rides to have a winning time of 5 to 5.5 hours and have all of the riders in by 11 hours. This worked in the past and will work for us in the future.

 The way forward for XP Rides will be to continue doing the same rides as we always have with our same attitude towards being fair and consistent with everyone.  We will do this by creating a new organization that will keep fees and rules to an absolute minimum.  There is a model already in place for what we are planning. ECTRA, an eastern CTR organization has been co-sanctioning with endurance rides and keeping mileage records for their members that includes mileage from ANY organized distance event.  As riders choose to participate in this new organization their combined mileages from AERC LD AND endurance miles will be combined, as will mileage from any other structured event, such as EDRA, FEI, NATRC and the XP Rides miles.  LETS BE CLEAR: A FUTURE ORGANIZATION WILL ALLOW RIDERS TO START THEIR NEW MILEAGE RECORDS WITH THEIR CURRENT FEI, AERC, EDRA, XP AND CTR MILEAGES ALL COMBINED.  After all, if creating a record of accomplishments for riders and horses is what is important, we should look at the big picture. A database is being created at present and we hope to have something up and running by then end of the AERC and FEI seasons. December 1st seems to be a common ending for competitive events and we hope a new Western Endurance Ride Association, composed of western endurance rides and riders will be in place at that time. The geographical area of the organization will start with the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and a small part of western South Dakota and include all states west of that geographic area.   I want to be absolutely clear that we are not trying to replace AERC and we will continue to request AERC sanctioning but we will be more judicious in following the AERC rulebook.  This will require significantly more effort on the part of riders.  It will also require more effort on the part of management and judges.  This is where the epigram “We can’t fix stupid but we can charge for it” comes into play.  This is a good time to consider what it costs to conduct an FEI ride and why the entry fees are so high.  The future, as I see it, is for western rides to offer events that offer dual opportunities to satisfy the needs of ride managers and riders alike.

I am truly sorry that it has come to this. I would have much preferred to see AERC become the a true National Body that would see a way forward to accommodate the many facets of our sport. Its about time we start looking at what we can do to save the sport.

A response from an AERC BOD member who “gets it”:

   Comparing a mountainous and technically demanding course of western rides with flat and easy terrain in other parts of the country is just insane. It has been argued by SE riders that the humidity and high temps of some of these areas are also very demanding on the horses and match the challenges of our technical terrain. I have ridden in the winter months in these states and it is rather pleasant then. The rides are flat and have pleasant temperatures on top of it.   The AERC Board could work on this mileage issue by implementing a difficulty rating in courses. That difficulty rating, or handicap system like they have in South Africa or Europe, is based on the winning time of the previous years course. This has worked well for ride managers in the west and is more in line with international practices. Marc Lindsay, from South Africa, who is working with me at the GETC has agreed to write a summary for us to explain how it is working and how it can get implemented. 

            Many riders just cannot do Multidays rides anymore when rides are excessively long. I have seen it with the Ft Stanton rides as an example. Years ago there were many Pioneer entries at Ft Stanton. It used to be a big ride. It was a rocky SOB, but it had good entry numbers nevertheless. Roger Taylor succumbed to the pressure by the AERC Board and made his rides so long that not one rider finished either of his Pioneer events last year. Not a single one! In fact, his entries for the 50 were down to 6 entries on the last day. The demographics have changed and the average age of riders is older and they just cannot and do not want to do it anymore. Ft Stanton entries are just a shadow from what they once were. In talking to Roger he said he felt pressured to make his rides now over 50 miles just to keep the critics at bay. He barely has any revenue anymore, surely not enough to continue without outside support. I’m not sure he can even afford to conduct them anymore. That is totally ludicrous. 

The threats and intimidation tactics employed by some BOD members towards RMs for so-called short rides have to stop. Otherwise we soon won’t have any RMs anymore. Who is going to be willing to do all the work organizing rides, often loosing money while doing so, and then be expected to accept abuse by AERC Board members on top of it all? 

According to statistics on the AERC website, if XP Rides were counted as a region they would be the third largest region in the AERC. Should XP Rides not be sanctioned in the future ,  the ripple effect could very well cause other ride managers to follow that path. That would spell disaster for AERC.

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




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.