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New Ride! 2024 Sleeping Giant in Montana!

Around camp

Day 1 on trail!

Hillbillie Willie and the Sleeping Giant

June 22 2024
by Merri Melde

Sleeping Giant, the new Montana ride, is only around 8 hours from Oreana, so we loaded up Regina’s trailer with 3 horses and headed there on Thursday. Of course, “8 hours” is by car when you’re on a mission, and our adventuresome trip took 11 hours.

But when we pulled into Ridecamp in a field of yellow flowers on a private ranch north of Helena next to the Missouri River where the Nez Perce people lived and roamed, and where Lewis and Clark once floated by, it was worth the journey. The scenery is gorgeous, just the kind of country that makes you want to jump on a horse and ride into. I’d never ridden in Montana before so I couldn’t wait to hit these trails. “Sleeping Giant” comes from the mountain ridge above ridecamp, which resembles a giant sleeping on his back.

Hillbillie Willie was of course traveling with his BFF DWA Barack, and his frenemy DWA Papillon, and after Willie's unexpected wacko antics at Eagle Canyon this year, I wasn’t sure quite how he was going to behave at the ride. We’d be doing the 50-miler on day 1 (and possibly day 2) and one of his buddies would do a 25 each day. Willie and I practiced leaving them at times to walk around camp on Friday, and he seemed to handle it well. Maybe Saturday’s start wouldn’t be so bad!

I was hoping for that perfect spot at the start of day 1’s 50, not too many people strung out ahead of us, not too many people close behind, not too fast, not too slow. Who could I ride with that might match Willie’s pace? Willie was pretty calm as we warmed up before the start (yay!), and I ended up talking with Teresa from Minnesota aboard her seasoned 18-year-old gelding Aaz. “You want to ride together?” She asked. I said “Sure!” but with the caveat I always add, “We can try,” because I just don’t know anymore if my horse is going to be on crack or not, and if he is, my plans are out the window.

We let the fast riders go out first, and walked out the gate (!), before settling into a trot. Willie was amped and a bit bumpy, but not crazy (yay!). And with a calm influencer ahead of him, Willie settled into his fast trot, pulling, but not pulling my arms out of their sockets. In fact, he only pulled for 32 minutes (yes I looked) before he settled into hard work, and it did help that we soon headed uphill, up and up and up...

Read the rest here

Montana’s Inaugural Sleeping Giant Endurance Ride: Just Wow!

By Merri Melde-Endurance.net
June 19 2024

With the termination of the long-running Fort Howes Endurance ride near Ashland, Montana, that left a big hole and a huge hoofprint to fill in the ride calendar for Montana.

Enter Endurance riding families Cindi Weist of Choteau, Ann Depizzol of Helena, and Vonnie and David Brown of Great Falls. They all lamented the loss of Endurance rides in Montana.

Cindi regularly drove through Gates of the Mountains, along the Missouri River just north of Helena. “I kept thinking, I wish I can ride these trails, it's looking so wonderful. This would be a good place for an Endurance ride.”

Ann remembers hearing about her mom riding in the Governor’s Cup in the 1990s on the Sieben Ranch, owned by the Baucus family.

“I drive past that area all the time and have friends of the land owners,” Ann said. “Ava (my daughter) rode the Sieben Ranch years ago as they are very generous with their land and horse riding.

“Anne Perkins [another Endurance rider from Helena] is good friends with Cathy Campbell, one of the land owners, and made the introduction to Vonnie and Dave, and they talked with Cathy, and it all started there! We met with Cathy last fall and she loved the idea…as our trails needed to expand, the Baucus’s got involved and agreed also!...”

Read the rest here

Day 1 (Saturday): 25 / 50 / 75 miles

Day 2 (Sunday): 25 / 50 miles

Non-Competitive Trail / Intro rides will also be offered both days.

Come enjoy mountainous and forested terrain with single- and double-track trail. Hoof protection is recommended.

Pre-ride vetting will begin Friday, June 14, around 4:00 p.m.


Ride camp will open starting Thursday morning. Please plan to depart by Monday afternoon, out of respect for the land owners.

Camp is a huge field with short access off the interstate, easily accommodating large rigs. Horse water and porta-potties will be provided. Please bring your own people water.

Weed-free hay is required. Please spread hay and manure before you leave. All dogs must be kept on leash.

No meals will be provided, so be sure to bring what you need.

Driving directions

From Helena, MT: Take I-15 north to exit 209. Turn right onto Gates of the Mountains Road. Continue for approximately 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Hilger Road and follow the signs to camp.

From Great Falls, MT: Take I-15 south to exit 209. Turn left onto Gates of the Mountains Road. Continue for approximately 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Hilger Road and follow the signs to camp.

Ride Camp Address for Health Certificates: Hilger Road and Gates of the Mountains Road, Helena, MT 59601

Coordinates: 46.829434 deg. north, 111.980063 deg. west


Ride Managers: Vonnie & Dave Brown

Ride Secretary: Regina Rose

Email: vonnieformt@gmail.com

Phone: (406) 788-1568

Vets: Mel Schwartz, DVM (head vet); Kaylee Senior, DVM (treatment vet)