By Carol Ann Beckner
Appaloosas are in my blood!. It started in late 1960 when I was converted to the versatility, heart and people orientation of the breed. I started raising a few colts from Tonys Boogie Britches, a high point performance winner at shows and son of the first AAA race app.
Meanwhile I was reading about endurance rides in the West from Western Horseman. Pistol B. Britches (Pee Wee), a one-eyed gelding born in 1971, exhibited never ending stamina. We would show all day, come home and he would still be playing with his pasture mates. I could not wait to find endurance rides to try. (see picture below)
That was over 10,000 AERC endurance miles ago for me. Pee Wee and I campaigned for several years starting in 1976 - winning his ApHC endurance medallion in 1976, 1977 AERC Regional award and Certificates of Achievement from the Appaloosa Horse Club for years after that. It was Kenneth Coffman in 1976 who told me about AERC, but he also kept telling me you have got to get an Arabian, seemed like about every time I saw him at the rides. I do not think he could understand why I did not heed his advice.
Late in 1977 Pee Wee and I were running at the Jubilee Ride in Illinois along with Ken and his big red gelding that was AERC Reserve Champion that year. Ken and I ran the whole 50 miles together while other contenders just kept dropping back. He won by 25 seconds; we cantered in behind about as happy with 2nd as I was not concerned with national points. Ken never told me I should get an Arabian after that - I never doubted apps abilities.
Since then many of my 10,000 miles have been spent promoting youngsters for sale so my miles were divided between over a dozen appaloosas to be started in competition. I feel I can judge much about his heart by how he accepts his first 50 miler. Horses I have started have never done 50 until the competition and may not have done over 15-25 miles at one time. We ride slow (this is where we get their long slow distance work) and I can see the attitude expressed in making that first 50 (many times alone and never quitting along the way.) They do not just ride alone or just ride slow - when condition allows they move right up and go with the best of them. My beginners often go right on by things were experienced horses are balking and we have ridden by mounts who have quit - just gave up- not medically stressed. I have never ridden a quitter.
For constant competition I try to find a farrier and keep them shod, but in a pinch, when we just need a completion my appaloosas have done many miles barefoot as the have outstanding feet. They will wear down under repeated use, but rarely chip or crack and soles become so tough that pads are not necessary.
Many people have a stereo type about apps having big heads and club feet or the new stereotype of the bulky quarter horse type. Naturally there are good and bad individuals in every breed, but those of us who love endurance strive for the appaloosa developed by the Nez Perce Indians in Idaho in the early years of our country. They were the only I-ndians known to selectively breed for horses of stamina, intelligence, speed and hardiness (most tribes stole, caught or traded for horses). Their staying power was effectively demonstrated when carrying the non-warring Nez Perce over 1300 miles with all their belongings, women and children and the Calvary with fresh remounts could not manage to stop them. Until finally, weary of the strain on his people, Chief Joseph surrendered to the famous words,-- From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.
Not all my mounts stayed beginners. I managed to do over 2000 miles on the one eyed gelding and two of my broodstock have over 1500 AERC miles; my stallion earned Endurance Horse Registry Legion of Merit.
I feel it takes a few hundred miles competition to learn each individual mount and become a team. There is no better cohort through the traveling and conditioning it takes than an appaloosa. My partners start understanding english and bonding better than most loyal dogs. They are truly the people oriented companion with all the ability and heart it takes to cover the miles in style and comfort as I thought when I was first attracted to their versatility in the late sixties.