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Endurance horse riders take on Sleeping Giant

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Posted at 6:09 PM, Jun 16, 2024

GATES OF THE MOUNTAINS — The American Endurance Riders Conference (AERC) hosted the first Sleeping Giant Endurance Rides from June 14 through 16.

The AERC lost their last Montanan endurance ride last year. Instead of not hosting a ride in the state, they managed to gain access to the land near Sleeping Giant for the rides.

The Sleeping Giant Wilderness Study Area is a non-motorized recreation area located on the west side of the Missouri River and Holter Lake, about 30 miles north of Helena. The rock formation is a well-known landmark, readily visible from Helena.

“Your horse has to pass vet checks every certain mileage, for instance, 10 to 15 miles,” said Suzanne Hayes, one of the endurance riders, “They go through a vet check and the horse has to be recovered metabolically as well as look shiny and bright and ready to go on.”

While some people are competitive and racing for a personal best time, many take part to spend time with their friends and their horses.

About 100 riders will be heading out for 25, 50, or 75-mile rides. In other words, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

“The 75 milers will have a time limit of 18 hours to finish that,” said Vonnie Brown, one of the ride managers. “And most of them finished before then.”

Rides take place throughout the weekend, and same-day registration is possible. The AERC loves taking in new members but does suggest you start with the 10-mile introductory ride.

“People that come into the sport new are just amazed at how friendly everybody is and how helpful everybody is,” Hayes said. “And you don't have to have any kind of special horse to ride in this ride.”

Rides began at 6:00 AM on Saturday, June 15 and Sunday, June 16 and will be taking place throughout the days.

To learn more about the AERC click here.

More information about the Mountain Region Endurance Riders can be found here.