Younger Men, Shorter Horses, Older History
By Carol Ruprecht

Reprinted with permission from

The Winners: Rufus Schneider, Willie, and Anne Langstaff © Rick Noer

Sydney Vale returned to the Descanso Ride & Tie this year with a running partner decades younger than her 2002 partner. They shared an Icelandic horse to race in a sport celebrating history far older than the American Wild West. The sport of ride and tie was invented based on stories of the west, but historical research reveals it was used as a mode of transportation in England by the 1700's.

June 7 th 2003 Descanso California - A year ago Sydney Vale completed the Descanso Ride & Tie with Bob Edwards on a wild and inconviently tall mare that had never tried the sport before. Edwards, a Ride & Tie icon well into his seventies with streaming shoulder length white hair, was recovering from hip replacement. Their strategy was simple. Edwards would ride the horse to a good tree, tie the spinning mare, and then walk away. Vale would untie the horse, and ride until she found Edwards (usually sitting on a rock or a shady bank.) Since he could not get back on this tall mare by himself, Vale would dismount, boost her partner back into the saddle, and repeat. At the end of the race Edwards was aglow with achievement. "I met my goal. I am still alive!" he announced with great enthusiasm.

This year Vale partnered with John Parke on Remington. Parke, an AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference) director with over eight thousand endurance miles under his belt was at the starting line for his very first Ride & Tie. Parke was here to celebrate his fiftieth birthday by disproving a doctor's prognosis delivered three and a half years earlier. After a nasty fall, Parke had been told he would probably ride again, but he would not compete in endurance. He would probably walk again, but he would not run. In 2001 Parke participated in the XP endurance ride across America . His horse was one of the five highest mileage competitors clocking well over a thousand endurance miles in the process. Endurance: done.

Parke claims since the fall he no longer runs, he shuffles. But regardless the actual mechanics, it was good enough. Vale and Parke completed the fifteen-mile short course handily and now he can say... running: done. But not completely; next he hopes to do a Ride & Tie with his son Will. Studies at Berkeley leave Will Parke little time to compete, but with summer nearly here perhaps the Parke team will be training for the World Championship (which also offers a short course) in early September.

At fifteen years old, Remington is fifty miles short of completing six thousand endurance miles. "He's been working hard, and he deserved a break. It was great fun for him," Parke said after the race. The pace of Ride & Tie is very different from endurance, which has a steadier rate of going. In Ride & Tie the horse runs then rests to run again. Parke said the difference was mentally refreshing for Remington.

An Icelandic, Remington is also short in another way. To a Ride & Tie competitor there is no more beautiful sight than his horse, tied to a bush waiting. It's just one in a series of priceless gifts one partner leaves another on the long trail to the finish. It's a sight all the more lovely to a tired runner if the horse is short. At 13H 2 Remington's height is an advantage in this sport. At the starting line Vale says she felt "confident on a small horse that was happy to be there." She is an unofficial mentor for ride and tie, often partnering with people trying it for the very first time. After the race Vale declared "People with Icelandics should do this sport."

Linea Hearst riding Lacota Mare, and Kat Swigart © Rick Noer

While Parke may have been the newest recruit at the starting line of the Descanso Ride & Tie, the most experienced competitor in the field was Willie. At eighteen years of age, Willie, the winning horse on the twenty-three mile full course, is no stranger to the sport. In fact, he's been competing at Ride & Tie longer than either of his partners. In 1992 Willie won the World Championship Ride & Tie. Rufus Schneider has been competing since 1995, and their partner Anne Langstaff got hooked less than a year ago. Willie is on the comeback trail. He arrived at the Schneider's a week ago on loan from Pat & Nita Browning, and hit the trails competitively at the Descanso Ride & Tie.

Schneider planned to be cautious because Willie is new to her and Anne, and their intention is to compete with him at the World Championship Ride & Tie. Descanso was a trial run leading up to the big race in September. Their goal was to get Willie through the Descanso race and get to know him better as a team member. Running head to head with last year's defending champions for most of the course, Willie and the women lost contact at the fourteen-mile mark and were prepared to settle for second place. That plan was thrown right out the window when at nineteen miles they sighted the first place team, and proceeded to run them down.

The best moment, said Langstaff, was "when we saw (the team ahead) again." After taking the lead, Schneider, Langstaff and Willie were racing on a winding trail though thick underbrush. "Where are they?" Schneider asked her partner as they traded the horse one last time. "I don't know and I don't care!" replied Langstaff. Schneider urged her partner to not let up on the pace. With no firm idea what sort of lead they had, and competing against a runner who had "snuck up on me and just popped up out of nowhere" far too many times in the past, Schneider didn't think they could afford to ease up until they achieved the finish line. Right they were. Galloping to second place on The Knucklehead, Gey and Ruprecht performed one last flying tie to come across the line just one minute behind Willie and his partners. The winning time was two hours and thirty seven minutes.

"I'm scared of you guys," Schneider claimed after the race was over. Langstaff, on the other hand, thinks about the day and concludes "it's still all fun." The riding is still new to her and as a veteran distance runner she enjoys every aspect of the sport.

Best Condition was awarded to Lacota Mare, a ten year old Arabian standing 14H1 ridden by Kat Swigart and Linea Hearst. "One always hopes." Kat said of the BC judging. "She's very fit and I had a ton of horse left over." Just the same, it was a very impressive result. The amount of time each horse finishes behind the winning team counts against their BC score. In the case of Lacota Mare, she was nearly an hour behind the first team, and yet she finished in best winning condition.

For complete race results, a schedule of upcoming events, and advice on how you can get started in the sport of Ride & Tie, please visit the website at or call the Ride and Tie Association at 650-949-2321.

About the author:

Carol Ruprecht has been competing in Ride & Tie for three years. She started competing in order to avoid crewing for her parents who have been racing since the late seventies. Both mother and father have completed 20+ World Championships. Carol's husband, sister, brother-in-law and nephew all compete in the sport as well, so getting Carol to lace up her own shoes and jump off and on horses on either side while running trail was probably inevitable.