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    [RC] 1886 Endurance Ride Story--Texas to Vermont - Linda B. Merims

    Oh, you lucky people!  I just bought a scanner.
    Below is an account of an 1800 Mile Endurance ride
    that was run in 1886.  I found this in a copy of the
    April, 1940 issue of _The Vermont Horse and Bridle
    Trail Bulletin_, the official publication of the Green
    Mountain Horse Association (founded in 1926). 
    Linda B. Meirms
    Massachuestts, USA
    1800-Mile Trail Ride--Texas to Vermont
    By Frank Hopkins
    INTRODUCTION by Harvey Wingate
    I wish all of the members of the Green Mountain 
    Horse Association could have been with me when I 
    spent an evening with Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hopkins, 
    of Long Island City and Laramie, Wyo., who has 
    written this story of one of the greatest rides 
    ever held in the United States. This ride started 
    at Galveston, Tex., and finished at Rutland, Vt., 
    and was, undoubtedly, one of the longest 
    endurance rides on record in this country. Mr. 
    Hopkins is now over seventy five years of age, 
    and during his life has competed in 402 endurance 
    rides, most of them being races. He lost only one 
    of this number and that proved, afterwards, to 
    have been crooked.
    He has performed trick riding stunts before all 
    of the crowned heads of Europe and gave a command 
    performance, with only one Indian companion 
    before Queen Victoria. This exhibition was given 
    on a new lawn at Windsor Castle and you can 
    imagine what two wild ponies did to that lawn in 
    two hours of rough riding. However, the Queen 
    told him to forget the lawn as it could be 
    Frank Hopkins is the only white man to ever 
    compete in the "Thanksgiving Day" 3,000-mile ride 
    in which only Arabs were supposed to participate 
    and he also won that ride.
    I wonder how many of us could ride in a Wild 
    West Show for two hours every day for two years. 
    That is what Mr. Hopkins did for two World's 
    Fairs in Europe.
    While a dispatch rider, he was shot seven times 
    and bitten three times by rattlesnakes. He has 
    shot several outlaws for the Government, 
    including the very bad Tracy for whose killing he 
    refused a check for $3,000 given him by the 
    Governor of the State of Washington. He speaks 
    the various Indian dialects fluently and was a 
    friend of Sitting Bull, Big Foot and many other 
    famous Indian chiefs.
    His patience and native ability have enabled 
    him to train horses other people could do nothing 
    with and even today he can train them very well. 
    He loves horses and good horsemanship and has had 
    many a fight with men who used cruelty, in place 
    of training, to make a horse do the proper 
    things. Some day Mr. Hopkins will write us an 
    article on the training of horses-he has promised 
    me that he will. I wish to thank Mr. and Mrs. 
    Hopkins for a grand evening and for this story.--
         To one who loves the great outdoors, there 
    is nothing quite so interesting as a Trail Ride. 
    It makes little difference whether you ride the 
    sage covered plains and foothills of the far West 
    or the rugged hillsides of the Eastern States. 
    There is something fascinating about such a ride-
    the falling leaves moving about your horse's 
    feet, the squeaking of the saddle leather beneath 
    you. The busy horse seems to enjoy covering the 
    trail fully as much as his rider. There is new 
    scenery for every mile you cover, but in the 
    distance will be a beautiful hill covered with 
    green spruce or sugar maples, with their autumn 
    leaves of red and yellow, you will be anxious to 
    get to. And when you do get to this spot, there 
    will be another that looks more beautiful, 
    beyond. As the day draws near its end, maybe you 
    will see a glorious sunset dropping behind the 
    far away hills. So you have come. to the close of 
    the pleasantest day of your experience.
        Caring for your mount is part of the day's 
    pleasure. As a dispatch rider for the Army during 
    the Indian troubles on the Western Plains for 
    nine years, I have known the thrill of many long 
    rides. Some of these rides covered 200 to 300 
    miles. My mounts were fed on wild buffalo grass. 
    They got the best care I could give them, 
    although the best could not be much. There was 
    one class of horse I liked best and would ride no 
    other but this, even though there were many fine 
    looking mounts offered me-I refused all but the 
    Indian pony, a hardy little animal, no trail too 
    long or too rough-a horse that could get along 
    without grain and go without water for two or 
    three days at a time. Still the Indian pony has a 
    weakness-the sound of the human voice will worry 
    him off his feet. I never spoke to my ponies 
    while up there in the saddle.
       There was one pony I shall always remember in 
    particular and this horse will be remembered long 
    after I have crossed the last canyon. I called 
    him "Joe." He was given to me by a man who 
    believed him a hopeless outlaw. This horse was 
    still in the horsetrap where he had been caught 
    as a wild Indian pony. I broke him in the trap; 
    four months later I rode him on the buffalo runs. 
    When "Joe" became used to the crack of the gun he 
    was the best buffalo horse I ever expect to hear 
    of. He could stay with a run of buffalo till they 
    were shot down and then race off after another 
    run; he could lope off all day without dropping 
    back into a walk. "Joe" was not fast, but he 
    could wear other horses off their feet in a few 
    days. I rode "Joe" from Galveston, Tex., to 
    Rutland, Vt., the year 1886. I had been carrying 
    messages for General George Crook during the 
    Geronimo campaign down in Arizona. "Joe" was used 
    in my string and when I was relieved from duty I 
    rode him from Fort Apache, Ariz., to Fort 
    Laramie, Wyo. On reaching there, I was told of a 
    ride from Texas to Vermont. Buffalo Jones agreed 
    to finance me if I would sign to ride in that 
    race. Three days later I was booked at Fort 
    Russell and started training "Joe" for the long 
    Trail Ride. In three months, "Joe" was in the 
    best of shape-fifty miles a day, three days each 
    week, without a bandage on his legs or artificial 
    courage (such as stimulants) of any kind. I 
    allowed him, to travel as he wished, not trying 
    to force him to any particular gait; he preferred 
    to lope or a flat-footed walk. Trotting was out 
    of the program with this little stallion. Most of 
    those wild ponies can lope along without much 
    action-that is, they clear the ground and put 
    their feet down very lightly. "Joe" had carried 
    me on many long rides. I was sure he would reach 
    Vermont ahead of the other mounts. Some of them 
    were of the thoroughbred blood. I watched them 
    exercise for a week while we waited down there in 
    Texas. Fine looking horses they were, but too 
    snappy and nervous to start out on a long ride of 
    that kind.
      On the sixth day of September, 1886, we started 
    from the Old Point Ferry Slip, Galveston, Tex. 
    There were fifty-six riders in all-some were cow-
    boys, others cavalrymen and six were bridle path 
    riders (I was amused to see them bobbing up and 
    down on their small flat saddles for I had never 
    before seen the English type of saddle). All of 
    the riders left me at the very start. "Joe" never 
    cared about racing away with the bunch; he would 
    just put one foot ahead of the other all day and 
    never seemed to tire. The first day of that ride 
    "Joe" was a little sluggish, which I thought 
    might be due to change of drinking water. I did 
    not urge him on, but after riding twenty-three 
    miles, I called it a day. Under the rules of that 
    ride you could ride ten hours or less if you 
    wished. Each rider carried small cards that were 
    to be signed and the exact time the rider stopped 
    was marked on his card. This was done where the 
    rider stopped and then checked by the judges. It 
    was September 13 before I came up to the other 
    riders. Four of those riding English saddles were 
    in bad shape and their mounts were a sorry sight 
    to look at-over in the knees and spread behind, 
    their muscles trembled and twitched; those were 
    out of the ride for good. The next day I passed 
    twelve more tired horses. "Joe" was feeling fine. 
    When I took his saddle off at the end of the day 
    he would swing his head and let his heels drive 
    at me. I always let him roll after taking off the 
    saddle. This may .not be any good to a horse, but 
    they all like to roll. On the 17th, "Joe" and I 
    had passed the last horse and rider. We were in 
    Mississippi where there had been a heavy rain and 
    the yellow mud stuck to "Joe's" feet like soft 
    snow, but he .would shake his head, jump and play 
    at the close of every day.
      Our route was marked with red paint daubed on 
    trees, fences and stones, so it was easy to 
    follow. On this ride I weighed 152 pounds, my 
    saddle blanket and slicker weighed 34 pounds; 
    "Joe" weighed 800 pounds when we started the 
    ride. I used a six-strand rawhide Hackamore 
    without a bit. "Joe" did not like iron in his 
    mouth--it seemed to worry him.
      I got word from the judges when they caught up 
    with me in the towns, that I was putting a lot of 
    hills and valleys between me and the other 
    riders, but I could not believe I had gained so 
    much mileage. I had stopped to feed at mid-day in 
    the town of Gallatin, Tenn. One of the judges 
    stepped out in front of "Joe" as I was riding 
    away and said, "You're riding against time now 
    for there's not another rider within many miles."
      I do not think it is good to rest too long in 
    the middle of the day. Some riders do rest their 
    mounts two or three hours but I have learned that 
    a long rest is not good for horse and rider will 
    both get tired. One hour is plenty. And keeping 
    your horse on his feet fussing over him and 
    rubbing him after the day's work is done is not 
    good. I always taught my horse to lay down and 
    rest after I had rubbed his back with a damp 
    cloth, and let him rest for two hours before 
    feeding. I gave him a good bed where it was quiet 
    and let him alone for the night. A good rubbing 
    in the morning will make him feel fresh on the 
    start of a new day. I might say that a horse that 
    has plenty of endurance in him is not without a 
    background-even "Joe's" ancestors were of the 
    Arabian blood. The pedigree of a horse does not 
    stand for much if there is no bottom or stemming 
    in such an animal, although they get along in 
    their own class and are thought quite a lot of. 
    The real Morgan horse that I knew years ago was a 
    very hardy animal, but those horses have been 
    crossed with the thoroughbred from time to time; 
    this crossing did that breed more harm than good 
    for they neither look nor act like the old-time 
    Morgan. Each breed of horse should be kept in its 
    own class. If I tried to run any of my endurance 
    horses on the race track they would be out of 
    their class and if a running horse was entered in 
    one of those long rides he surely would come to 
    grief as it was proven on that Galveston-Rutland 
    ride. "Joe" and I were in Rutland thirteen days 
    before the second horse and rider arrived. That 
    horse was broken down in spirit and body. The 
    third horse came a few days later, a broken-down 
    wreck. I weighed "Joe" the following day after 
    arriving at Rutland and he had gained eight 
    pounds onthe ride; he was seven years old at that 
    time and I claim that it'is the best year of a 
    horse's life--at least I have found it to be so 
    with endurance horses.
      A large, heavy bodied horse with too much day-
    light under him will not make an endurance horse 
    for he will pound himself to pieces on the long 
    run. I would not train a horse, for a long hard 
    ride, that weighed over 1,000 pounds. He must be 
    close to the ground and well muscled with a short 
    back and neck-the horse with a long slim neck 
    will tire quickly. Today most riders want mounts 
    that stand 15 hands or more-that is the first 
    thing they will ask-"how high does your horse 
    stand?" There are many other things to look at 
    besides the height of a good mount. Some horsemen 
    will speak of a horse's color which, in fact, 
    goes only the length of the hair.
      "Joe" was buckskin in color. When I rode him 
    into Louis Butler's small stable at Rutland that 
    October evening many men of the town gathered to 
    look him over-more on account of his color than 
    anything else for many of them had never seen a 
    horse of that color. Although "Joe" had covered 
    1,799 miles in thirty-one days, without a day's 
    rest on the trip, many of those horsemen 
    criticized his color. "Joe's" average per day was 
    57.7 miles. I received $3,000 from Elias Jackson 
    for that ride. Three weeks later I shipped "Joe" 
    to Wyoming and bade farewell to those good people 
    of Vermont. To me it was just one more long ride 
    for my daily work had always been in the saddle. 
    When I reached Fort Laramie, Colonel W. F. Cody 
    was waiting for me. He wanted me to ride in his 
    show, which was known as the "Buffalo Bill Wild 
    West Show." I played in the first Madison Square 
    Garden, New York, that winter and then went to 
    Earl's Court, London, England, the following 
    spring. In fact, I stayed with Cody until his 
    death, 1917. I rode in many endurance rides 
    through Europe. After the World's Fair in Paris, 
    France, I visited Arabia and rode in a 3,000-mile 
    race, using one of my Indian ponies who also won 
    that race. That pony was spotted cream color and 
    white. He was a stallion whom I named "Hidalgo." 
    I left him in that country of fine horses, for it 
    was there he belonged.
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