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Autumn Sun 100 - Julie Bittick

October 10 2023
By Julie Bittick

Last ride of the season

Starting at 5:30 am, self preservation made sure we went out last and did not catch another rider until we had a few miles under our belt. AND when we finally caught up to the first riders ahead of us, Hondo actually stopped, watched them trot away and took the time to pee before moving on….what?!! He also had zero shaking when I was saddling up pre-ride, he knows his job and finally seems completely comfortable in that space!!

Hondo was golden, it’s amazing the transformation over this season. In April I’m pretty sure fellow endurance riders were writing my eulogy when they saw our horrific and totally embarrassing start to the first endurance ride of the season. Now on our last ride of the season, Hondo was as cool as a cucumber. Lots of hard work and putting into practice great advice from some of our top horse men and women finally paid off!

My focus was to just be better than our first 100. So basically don’t get lost (yep almost had a temper tantrum that would put toddlers to shame at Midnight Rider) and I had more trust in Hondo’s fitness and amazing recoveries (so I let him move!)

By mile 80 we finally caught up to the 1st and 2nd position riders, just when I was passing my stirrup leather snapped. OMG what the heck!!

After assuring David and Melissa Laws that all was fine, I started to channel my inner MacGyver. Not holding back any punches here, my inner MacGyver SUCKS! I hade a couple of zip ties and a carabiner. That jimmy rig lasted about 10 steps.

So then I channeled my inner tough girl and decided I would just ride without stirrups. That lasted about 2 miles, muscles screaming and thighs being rubbed raw, decided my inner tough girl sucked!

So then I engaged the brain - do I have cell service? Yes! 1 bar, just enough to call in crew. The amazing crew, there would not be a success story without them!! I was 5 miles from where the trail met the road and somehow @ 10:30pm there were folks more than happy to drop everything and meet me to swap out tack and keep us moving forward. Will never be able to fully repay their kindness!

Back in the grove and moving forward I finally looked up and saw there was a meteor shower on display, the best one was the huge streak across the sky and a large ball of explosion. If I hadn’t realized the meteorological event going on, I would have freaked out thinking a plane had exploded in the sky.

I believe this amazing astronomy event was put on for the 40th birthday of our fearless ride manager and all around beautiful human being, Jessica Huber.

Hondo and I finally made it back to camp by 12:30am and he looked so great! Hondo tied for high vet score with Melissa Laws beautiful grey.

It is an honor to be a partner to this horse!

Thank you to all the volunteers, vets, and crew! There would not be the sport of endurance without you. Merri Melde for the picture credit.

2021 Autumn Sun Pioneer: A Fine Trial Run for Next Year's Distance Horse National Championships

by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
October 12 2021

A more welcoming and well-organized group of ride management family and friends and vets you won’t find than at the Autumn Sun Pioneer ride in southern Idaho. Put on by Jessica Huber and her family at 4500’ in the Gooding foothills out of a spacious and sheltered Ridecamp,

this year was the fourth year for this new(ish) Ride Manager, who next year will hold the The Distance Horse National Championships (50 and 100 miles), hosted by the Arabian Horse Association along with the usual Autumn Sun Pioneer.

The endurance of horses and riders were front and center, as Idaho presented all kinds of weather over this year’s 3-day event: sun, wind, rain, fog (trails were marked so well that nobody got lost in the fog!)

The ride had a bit of Endurance royalty in attendance: AERC Hall of Famer and highest-mileage-rider-ever Dave Rabe (73,000+ miles) and two of his rather famous horses, White Cloud and Cocamoe Joe, parked next to us in Ridecamp; AERC’s winningest rider Christoph Schork rode the 100; Suzie Hayes (AERC Pard’ners Award with Kootenai Zizzero in 1997 and Hall of Fame equine in 2011) rode the 100; Joyce Sousa (AERC Pard’ners Award with Jim Bob in 2001; Hall of Fame equines Jim Bob in 2005 and LV Integrity in 2015) rode with her daughter Jennifer Neihaus in the 100. And you couldn’t miss Piece of Perfection, aka Flash the Hackney pony, (Tevis Cup finisher this year), who carried Kyla’s little sister Layla on day 2’s 55-miler.

The 100-miler, run on Sunday, day 3, had 13 starters and 7 finishers. Tying for first place were Suzie Hayes and Al Marah Triple Speed, Christoph Schork and VA Blizzard of Oz, and Tom Currier and Zell the Bull in a ride time of 13:50. Al Marah Triple Speed earned the Best Condition award, and Suzie finished her 96th 100-miler. Finishing 6th and 7th were Joyce Sousa on Shahs Gold Nugget and Jennifer Neihaus on Bak Jabari, for Joyce’s 93rd 100-mile completion.

The Idaho IronHorse champion was The Duchess of Beatty’s Butte (Ness), ridden by Steven Coziah. This pair finished all 3 Limited Distance days at Idaho’s City of Rocks Pioneer, all 3 days of LDs at Top O’ The World, and all 3 days of LDs at Autumn Sun. Congrats to Steven and his super mustang mare!

And the Junior Idaho Ironhorse champion was Tai Juan ridden by Olivia Valtierra, finishing all 3 LD days at City of Rocks, Top O' the WOrld, and Autumn Sun. She's one of our Idaho Super Juniors!

Day 3’s 100 was the first 100-miler that Jessica Huber put on; with her test pilot riders this year, and their wise inputs, next year’s Championship ride trails will be dialed in to perfection. And the ride will be a weekend earlier in 2022, so you can *almost* guarantee the weather will be perfect!

Junior Olivia Valtierra Claims Idaho IronHorse Title

by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
October 15 2021

11-year-old Endurance rider Olivia Valtierra claimed the 2021 Junior division Idaho IronHorse LD last weekend. This title is awarded to the rider who completes at least nine days of the 3-day City of Rocks Pioneer ride in Almo in June, the 3-day Top o’ the World Pioneer ride near Spencer in July, the 3-day Old Selam Pioneer in Idaho City in August, and the 3-day Autumn Sun Pioneer near Gooding in October. Olivia rode all days of LDs except Old Selam.

Riding her 19-year-old trusty gelding Tai Bo, Olivia was sponsored on most of the rides by her mom Jessica Valtierra and grandmother Veronica Simpson (these 3 were on the cover of the June Endurance News magazine) and her aunt Lindsay Fisher. She also rode parts of the Top O’ the World trails with Steven Coziah, who, aboard his mustang The Duchess of Beatty’s Butte, earned the senior division title of Idaho IronHorse LD.

2021 was Olivia’s first year of Endurance riding, completing all 11 of her rides with Tai Bo - watch out for this Junior in the future!

A couple of Endurance Joes at the Autumn Sun Pioneer ride this weekend in Idaho. Well… not really. On the left is Christoph Schork, AERC’s winningest rider. He’s got over 400 wins now (http://tracks.endurance.net/.../christoph-schork-is-aercs...). (And, of course, over three hundred wins - http://tracks.endurance.net/.../the-three-hundred-win-man...), and almost 40,000 AERC miles. On the right is Hall of Famer Dave Rabe, who has over 75,000 AERC miles. If you look at Dave’s jacket, as Christoph is pointing out, Dave has won twice as many rides as Christoph, if you take to heart AERC’s motto, “To Finish is to Win.”

We all get a good giggle out of that one! Either way, these two are icons of our sport!

Join us for happy days & hppy hours in the high desert.
All are welcome and Juniors ride free!

For more ride details and to sign up, go to:

2020 Autumn Sun 5-day Pioneer

by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
October 16 2020

As if starting off as a first-time ride manager 3 years ago with a 3-day Autumn Sun Pioneer ride near Gooding, Idaho, wasn't a big enough event, Jessica Huber took on the challenge of a 5-day ride during this year's COVID-challenged season, Thursday-Monday, October 8-12.

Each year, the same private landowners have generously allowed Jessica to use a sweet fenced pasture as Ridecamp at the base of the Bennett Hills, surrounded by BLM trails. Every year Jessica is adding some new trails, and every year, the BLM gets a little more permissive in what she can mark. And even if she is only allowed to mark the two-track roads, riders can follow the cow trails, and we all know cows don't like rocky trails, and they make their own smooth paths right beside the roads.

Riders came from as far away as southern California to escape wildfire smoke and to get their mileage in, since endurance rides in that state have been pretty much non-existent this year due to fires and smoke and COVID restrictions. The Autumn Sun ride was able to proceed with the COVID protocols that have been established for the AERC endurance rides this year, which includes wearing masks in the vet check areas to keep the vets and volunteers safe, since they are the ones who encounter every rider at some point or another. (Only One Guy had trouble with this concept; please, don't be That Guy and put our rides in jeopardy, because there are plenty of other places you don't have to wear a mask.)

Aside from the normal swings in Idaho weather (wearing shorts one day, wearing 5 layers of insulation the next day), an added bonus this year was an autumn hurricane Saturday night, starting in the late afternoon with a breeze, then sprinkles and breeze, then (after the last riders got in) rain, then heavy rain, then sprinkles, then THE HURRICANE.

Warmest place to eat spaghetti was in my car!

My tent has weathered strong wind before, but nothing like this. And though I expected at any minute for it to be ripped up in the air and spun across Ridecamp with me still inside it, it survived without so much as a tear. Thank you REI!

While bracing myself in my tent for disaster (imagining tarps flying, pens flattening, horses running around in a panic, and trailers tumbling), I think only one horse got loose, and he came over to visit his friends near us, and he was quickly and easily rounded up and led back home. The storm did take some of the horses out of the ride Sunday morning, as many stood hunched over with their blanketed butts braced to the wind, and a few were a bit stiff in the morning.

Other notable excitement was the spotting of a cougar in the canyon on the morning loop of day 5, by Tom Currier and his wife Traci. Alas, I was shooting pictures in the canyon in the afternoon, so I missed it. Which - I don't know, depending on how you look at it - might be a good thing.

Day 1 finish, Ellen Hensley, Christoph, and Suzy Hayes tying for first

The biggest news of the ride was that Christoph Schork, from Moab, Utah, won all 5 days of 50s (aboard 3 different horses , GE Pistol Annie - 1 win, VA Blizzard of Oz - 2 wins, GE Haat Rod - 2 wins ), vaulting him to over 400 AERC wins, a mind-boggling record. He also won Best Condition 4 of the days (Suzie Hayes' Sanstormm got BC on day 1), giving him another AERC-record 200 Best Conditions over his endurance career. More on Christoph in the next article.

Other big news of note:
Four riders and horses completed all 5 days of LDs:
- Steve Downs and Kenlyn Hot Shot, and Carol Bischoff riding Kenlynn Struts, both from California (both Kenlyn Arabians bred by Linda Fisher)
- Marlene and Stace Moss, aboard Mikel and Cerro Blanco (and Stace did not get bucked off once!)

And, this year for the first time, we had not one, but two winners of the Junior Iron-Horse award, which this year included three days of a combination of the City of Rocks Pioneer in June, Top O' The World Pioneer in July, Old Selam Pioneer in September, and Autumn Sun: Kinley Thunehorst, riding Lady (sponsored by Rebecca Jones), and Joslynn Terry, riding SAR Tiki Eclipse (sponsored by Marlene and Stacie Moss… or was it Joslynn sponsoring them). Go Iron Horse Juniors, the wave of our AERC endurance future!

Photos and more from the ride at:

Five Wins at Autumn Sun Endurance Ride Propels Christoph Schork to 400-Win AERC Record

October 13 2020
by Merri Melde-Endurance.net

Moab, Utah's Christoph Schork crossed the 400-win mark in AERC rides at the 5-day Autumn Sun endurance ride in Gooding, Idaho this past week/weekend.

July 3 2016 marked his 300th win; win 400 came during a discombobulated year of COVID-19 which caused months worth of ride cancellations. Jessica Huber's Autumn Sun ride, normally a 3-day Pioneer, became a 5-day ride this year, attracting riders from as far away as California, and providing Christoph the path to his 400th win.

More to come on this remarkable accomplishment at www.Endurance.net

Ride Camp

Ride camp is on private land, so please be extra courteous. Certified weed free hay is NOT required.

Horse water and porta-potties will be provided. Please bring people water.

Deserts are weird. Be prepared for any weather.


Day 1: Endurance 50 miles, LD 25 miles
Day 2: Endurance 50 miles, LD 25 miles
Day 3: Endurance 55 miles, LD 30 miles
Day 4: Endurance 50 miles, LD 25 miles
Day 5: Endurance 50 miles, LD 25 miles

Non-competitive trail rides offered each day.

Our trails are mostly two-track and jeep-track through the high desert.

Hoof protection is absolutely necessary. If your horse is unaccustomed to our desert terrain, including some rock, you may wish to consider using hoof boots or pads.

Autumn Sun is part of the Idaho IronHorse Challenge. Ride safe. Ride far.


Endurance rides (50/50/55/50/50) begin at 7:30 each day

LD rides (25/25/30/25/25) begin at 8:00 each day

​Trail riders may start anytime after the LD riders are out. Please check out with the ride manager before you leave camp.

Join us for happy hour prior to each evening's dinner and ride meeting.

Dinners will be potluck style. Management will provide the main course each evening; please bring your favorite dishes to share.

Dave Rabe Crowned 2019 Idaho IronButt Winner

October 15 2019
by Merri Melde-Endurance.net

Nevada endurance rider Dave Rabe (73,000+ AERC miles) - with his matchless, accomplished gray equine companions White Cloud (10,000+ AERC miles), Rushcreek Okay (9000+ AERC miles), and Chey’s Cocamoe Joe (6700+ AERC miles) - is the winner of Idaho’s inaugural Idaho IronButt award after crossing the finish line of day 3 of the Autumn Sun Pioneer endurance ride on October 13.

This unique and demanding Idaho Ironhorse Challenge - 465 miles, nine days - took place over the summer and fall at the 3-day City of Rocks Pioneer near Almo, 3-day Top O’ the World Pioneer near Spencer, and 3-day Autumn Sun Pioneer near Gooding.

Nance Worman’s mare Second Chance Fance was the last rider-horse in the running for the ultimate Idaho Ironhorse award (all 465 miles with one horse), but she couldn’t quite pull it off, Fancy being unable to start the final day of Autumn Sun.

Dave was the only rider to complete all 465 miles aboard three of his horses, to receive the IronButt award. “It was easy,” he quipped, “Just ride 3 different horses.” Despite the frigid temperatures and howling winds, he of course wore shorts and made other riders bundled in layers look pretty wimpy.

Shyla Williams and her mare Bes Soumra Bint Karah completed all 9 days of the rides combining 25-mile and 50-mile distances.

Six horse and rider teams completed the Limited Distance rides all 9 days. Carrie Johnson and Payback Daysea Duke won first place in this division. Marlene Moss and SA Alamo finished second, with her husband Stace Moss and Cerro Blanco third. Fourth was Catherine Cook and HMR Diamonds R Forever. Fifth and sixth were daughter-mother team of Kaili Worth aboard Red, and Sandy Smallwood aboard Ty.

The Idaho IronHorse Challenge was arranged and overseen by the four Jessicas: (head vet Heinrick, vet Simons, Top O’ the World ride manager Cobbley, Autumn Sun ride manager Huber). It was endlessly entertaining when anybody hollered "Jessica!"

Congratulations to all the 2019 Idaho IronHorse champions!

Trails: two-track and Jeep-track through the high desert. This is a desert ride in Idaho, hoof protection is mandatory. If you are unaccustomed to dealing with desert terrain, including some rock you may consider using boots or pads.

Be prepared for any weather!

2018 Inaugural Autumn Sun Pioneer

October 3 2018

There was a hole in the southwest Idaho ride calendar with the long-established Owyhee Canyonlands no longer leaving tracks across the Owyhee Desert. Lynn White and Jessica Huber as co-ride managers stepped up to fill that gap over the weekend of September 28-30 with the Autumn Sun Pioneer, near Gooding, Idaho.

Lynn White took it on because she likes and knows the trails in that area. (She had put on a nearby 2-day ride a couple of years ago.) First-time ride manager Jessica Huber took it on because, as she said, "I'm twisted! I love it!"

A big blow came when private land owners, who'd agreed to provide a nice, convenient base camp, suddenly announced a tripling in their camping prices, just 2 months before the ride. New private land owners Pat and Colleen Lockwood stepped in and saved the day (and the ride) by offering their space (bringing tears of gratitude), and Ridecampers had a great little field on an old homestead, tucked at the base of the Bennett Hills.

A good turnout contributed to the success of this inaugural 3-day ride, with riders from near, and from as far away as Alberta, Canada (the Wadeys!). Trails wound through the sagebrush desert and up an into the nearby Bennett Hills, highlighted by a special hoodoo-filled canyon - the wind-carved monoliths made of tuff created by volcanic ash fall (and hereafter named Mad Cow Canyon, at the top of which is hereafter named Mad Cow Junction).

So called because the morning of Day 1 I was up there waiting to photograph the 23 riders on the 50 miler and the 16 riders on the 25. Which I started to do. Now bear in mind this was the weekend cowboys were starting to round up their cows for the winter and push them out of the hills. I didn't see any cowboys, but I did see a few calves heading up the canyon between riders, and taking a right turn down the road towards civilization. And then there was this cow: a she-devil psycho bovine. She appeared heading up the road towards me… and when she saw me from 30 feet away, she just sprouted devil horns and CHARGED me.

I turned to run, and tripped and fell and that's what saved me. Instead of crashing into me, she ran right over the top of me… as I was buried into the ground all I could think of was, "$h*t! My cameras! I have to shoot this ride!" I tried to hold them up while crouching into a tight ball and covering my head and neck. I felt her on top of me for a second, then laid motionless a few more seconds, until a rider said she was gone - halfway up the draw headed for Montana. "It was deliberate!" said Carlene Benson, who saw it happen.

I was skinned up and still stunned, but had riders coming up the road to shoot! Sadly I found that my best long lens (that I shoot 80% of my pictures with) was broke and had sagebrush stems sticking out of its innards. After shooting the rest of the riders with my second camera and smaller lens (which was dusted up but hopefully fine)… I found that Mad Cow had knocked the settings on that camera, so all those photos were overexposed and useless!

So I did what any stunned, bleeding, endurance photographer would do… I sat there a couple more hours waiting for both distances to come back by me so I could get pictures of them all. I didn't want to wash off the wounds anyway, that would just hurt.

By the time everybody rode back by me, they all knew the Mad Cow story, and several people had helpfully taken pictures of cows they'd encountered on the trails, searching for the errant beast. Sure I was still aching, but the most important thing was that everybody got their picture taken!

13 finished the LD, with Montanans Bill Miller aboard Raffons Noble Dancer (Sadie) and David Brown on Tezeros Hot Shot taking the two top spots, in 3:54 and 3:58. Sadie got Best Condition. Junior rider Jacelyn Butler finished her first LD ever in 5th place aboard Fletch, and she is addicted to endurance!

19 finished the 50. In a major endurance rally, Jessica and The Big Brass won the ride by a length over Mike Cobbley and Taladega (who last year had his own comeback with a bad brush with colic). After an uncooperative gall bladder that knocked Jessica out part of the year, and two pulls for Brass, they deserved that win, in a ride time of 6:36.

3 intrepid riders completed the 50 Cavalry style. That's where you get no assistance from anybody else - nobody can hold or feed your horse, and you have to carry everything you need with you, including horse feed. Hay and water are provided at vet checks. But if you need to stop to attend to nature's calling, you have to tie your horse to a sagebrush or hold onto him. Cavalry style can be a hard way to ride, if you're addicted to Gummi Bears and always need to have a big bag available, one that wouldn't fit in saddle bags.

Day 2 ran smoothly with no Mad Cow events to report. Trinity Jackson's racing mules and kids showed up for the weekend, always a popular sight to see. 10 started the 30 miler, with just 5 finishing, because the 5 mule riders accidentally missed a turn on the trail and ended up back in camp, instead of the out vet check. They all stopped with Rider Option pulls, but a good time was had by all, because it's great fun riding those (most always) well-trained mules, and watching those kids ride the mules. Beth Skaggs and Flashbykish (Sparrow) won the ride in 6:02, by just a couple of minutes over Terry Doyle and Benny. Sparrow won Best Condition.

9 started the 55-mile ride with 7 finishing. It was a 4-way tie for first, with Nance Worman and Second Chance Fance, Chris Samson and Belesema Anna, Sally Tarbet and Orlabiban, and Anna McNamer and Badacz SM finishing in 10:08. Finishing next to tail end in 12:10 was another comeback of sorts, Debbie Grose and Jack. They hadn't done a ride since June, after Debbie broke her arm back in July. She was here riding with an arm cast. I wonder if her doctor knew about this? We always talk our doctors into letting us "ride horses" too soon after an injury. We get away with that by never explaining what kind of riding we do.

18 started Day 3's 25-mile ride with all but one finishing. The Junior mule riders (and sponsor Trinity) all took the top spots, with Baylee Morgan and Rusty pulsing down first in 3:33. 7th place Bill Miller and Raffons Noble Dancer took Best Condition. Beth Skaggs finished next to last on her 21-year-old Sparrow… the only LD rider to finish all 3 days.

12 started the 50-miler with 11 finishing, and a 3-way tie for first with Jessica Cobbley and The Big Brass, Lauren Coziah and Taladega, and Simone Mauhl and Boogie in 6:17. Boogie took the Best Condition award. That was his fifth BC of the year.

Nance Worman and Fancy, and Canadian Robyn Wadey and DSF Saskatchewan (Chewie) were the 2 horse/rider combinations to finish all 3 days.

Stay tuned for next year, because Jessica has even more ambitious plans, including better trails (BLM required her to use and flag only 2-track roads this year; she's certain she can work on amending that), and an Idaho challenge along the lines of Nevada's NASTR's Triple Crown… but I'll let her tell about that.

Just watch out for a Crazy She Devil Cow, whose legend will live on though she's probably in the Canada by now because she was was on a beeline north.

Reporting from the endurance front lines,

My SmugMug photos are at: www.theequestrianvagabond.com/Clients-Endurance

Ride Managers: Lynn White & Jessica Huber​

​ Ride Camp: follow Highway 46 north from Gooding five miles. Turn right and follow road to the Lincoln/Gooding county line road. Turn left and follow road into base camp, about 4 miles on the dirt road. Signs will be posted.

Horse water & porta-potties will be provided in camp.


There is a $15/trailer fee for camp.

CWF hay is not required for camp as we are on private land.

Landowners have pets, we will ask ANY loose dogs to be removed from camp. NO EXCEPTIONS!

​ Trails: two-track and Jeep-track through the high desert. This is Idaho, please use hoof protection and be prepared for any weather! We are in the high desert foothills so there will be some elevation changes and some rock. There should still be natural water in some of the reservoirs and water sets will be out on the trail.

​ Entry Fees: $100 all distances, $60 juniors all distances. Trail ride on 9/29 is $15 and includes completion award.

Dinner will be potluck each night, management will provide main course. ​

CAVALRY DIVISION!: Rider must carry all supplies with them other than the hay and water provided at holds and in camp. Completion still counts for AERC but additional awards given for anyone who completes in this division! Please contact us for full set of Cavalry rules!