For the past few years, the Land of the Sun Endurance Ride, which is sponsored by the Wickenburg Horsemen’s Association (WHA), has brought riders from all over the southwest — and their horses — to Wickenburg. The event, which begins with registration and other events on a Friday, culminates with a 25- or 50-mile ride through some of the most spectacular desert scenery Arizona has to offer. Right here in Wickenburg.
As a member of the WHA, I work as a volunteer for the event. I start off on Friday afternoons, marking numbers on horse butts. (Some may say that’s a perfect job for me.) Then, on Saturday, I’m one of two timers who clock-in the riders at the 25-mile point. I also help out by bringing my famous 15-bean soup for part of the event’s lunch buffet for riders and volunteers. And, if I have enough time the day before, some oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies for added energy.
The whole event is made possible by volunteers like me. In fact, my role is miniscule compared to the woman in charge, Robin Ollendick. Robin frets about the event months in advance, bringing together all the pieces that make it happen. She and her assistants hand out jobs to volunteers and fill in the gaps in the rare occasion when a volunteer drops the ball. I called her a short while ago to confirm my time for horse butt marking and she was already at the rodeo grounds, rushing around, issuing orders. Our conversation lasted less than 15 seconds because that’s all she had to spare. She’ll be like this for the next three days, until the last of the riders has loaded up and driven out of town. Then a few months of relative inactivity before the whole thing starts all over again.
The Land of the Sun Endurance Ride is one of the few events that keep Wickenburg western. It brings riders and their horses to town for a grueling ride in the desert. It’s a competition, with prizes or winners and the sheer pleasure of accomplishment for the ones that just make it to the finish line. There’s plenty of horse sweat and everything that goes with it. This isn’t a parade with lots of observers and plenty of fanfare. It’s a difficult event that’s a lot of work for the riders, their horses, and even the volunteers that make it happen.
The ride is also one of the events that keeps Wickenburg on the radar screen for equestrians all over the southwest. Do a google search for the event and see for yourself. The event is mentioned on Web sites all over North America.
This weekend, why not stop by the rodeo grounds and show your support for the riders and WHA members? You’ll get a glimpse of what one part of the modern day west is all about. And who knows? I might hand you the horse butt marking crayon and put you to work!