Why would anyone hop on a horse and ride 100 miles in less than 24 hours across all imaginable terrains, in every weather condition possible when there is absolutely zero financial incentive for doing so?
For Anacoco, La., resident Kerry Lowery it’s because she likes a challenge and she gets to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the country that most people never will.
She also said it was because of the bond it establishes between her and Takoda.
“Being with your horse is one thing, but being on your horse when you’re 80 miles in to a 100 mile ride is something completely different. It’s like being on a team, you’re together and it’s teamwork, we are partners. There’s no other feeling like it.” Lowery said.
Lowery competes in the extreme horse sport of endurance riding. What makes Lowery a little unique is that she started competing just seven years ago.
In 2010 she had been looking for a horse she could train for endurance riding. She was having a difficult time finding the right horse because she wanted one that was not broke before the age of four.
Lowery explained horses that are used for endurance and broken before the age of four tend to have joint issues and they have a shorter career in the sport. By waiting that two additional years it increases their ability to compete longer.
Endurance rides are conducted in various locations throughout the U.S. and are 50, 75 or 100 miles in distance that must be completed within a specific period of time.
The 100 mile ride is the longest at 24 hours.
In that time period the riders must complete the total miles, multiple holding periods and several veterinary checks. All while maintaining her personal health to remain hydrated as well.
If at anytime rider or horse are deemed “unfit to continue” they are immediately removed from the competition.
She currently has eight horses. Three of them she has ridden for competitions but the one she rides the most is Takoda.
Takoda, or Kodi, is his barn name. He is a registered half Appaloosa half Arabian gelding whose official name is Westwind Wild Fancy and he is eleven years old.
Lowery found him for sale and unbroke at two years of age in west Texas.
His owner then intended to train him to work as a cattle horse on his ranch but from a young age, Takoda began exhibiting fear anytime he caught sight of a cow.
The owner rendered him useless and put him up for sale for a mere $400.
Lowery said as soon as she saw the mischievous glint in his eye in the picture the seller posted she knew immediately she wanted him.
She bought him and the seller delivered him to her because she did not have a horse trailer at the time to go get him.
She and Takoda bonded quickly and he immediately began showing just how mischievous he could be.
The first day he was in her pasture he opened the internal gates of two adjoining pastures and all of her horses were mixed together.
On another occasion Lowery had several horses, including Takoda, tied to a rail in the corral and stepped inside the house to answer the phone. When she came back Takoda had untied himself and all of the other horses.
After she bought him she spent the next two years training him as much as she could without getting on him.
She had been putting a saddle on him and walking him with the bridle so that once he turned four years old, all that was left to do was to hop on him and ride.
Lowery is a member of American Endurance Ride Conference where she began competing in endurance rides in 2012.
Since then Lowery has ridden Takoda well over 3,200 competition miles earning them a milestone patch.
Her next goal is the 5,000 mile patch and she is confident she will reach that goal.
Together, Lowery and Takoda have won the ANCER (Appaloosa National Endurance Ride) twice, in 2016 and 2018. The ANCER is a 50 mile ride and the first on across the finish ride is the winner.
In October 2018 they also won the Half Arab Reserve National Championship award and in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 they won the Appaloosa National Mileage Award.
No other horse has ever won that award more than twice in the past.
Additionally, in 2017 she and Takoda were awarded the Horse and Rider of the Year from the Texas Endurance Riders Association.
In 2017 and 2018 Takoda was one of the horses in the Top 20 of all breeds to have the most competition endurance miles, 770 in 2018. In 2016 he was the first place horse of any breed in the Central Region of the ANCER.
In 2018 Lowery and Takoda competed in one of the hardest endurance rides in the world, Tevis. Started in 1955 it is a 100 mile ride that starts in Reno, Nevada and ends in Lake Tahoe, California across some of the most beautiful, but extremely dangerous terrain.
At one point in the ride riders are required to ride up the side of a mountain and cross over what is called Cougar Rock.
In 2017 a photographer taking photos of riders crossing the rock stepped back and fall off the rock. Fortunately the photographer was not injured.
Lowery said she was scared to death going over Cougar Rock primarily because she has a fear of heights.
She recalls that when she was able to get off Takoda after making the crossing her hands were completely numb.
Takoda has well over 100 rides of 50 miles or more with a 94% completion rate.
National endurance riding is definitely not about the money you can win because there is absolutely no money in the sport.
First place finishers are awarded a t-shirt, a trophy of some kind, maybe even a belt buckle but there is no monetary rewards at all.
Lowery said that she hopes they never introduce monetary rewards because when money is involved it often corrupts the sport.
For Takoda, at this point in his career it is very difficult for Lowery to take him on an actual trail ride.
He is so used to trotting during competition rides that he wants to trot all the time, even on leisure rides.
Last week, Lowery and Takoda planned to compete in Arizona on a Pioneer Ride. They will be riding 50 miles a day for three consecutive days. This is the first time they have attempted this distance in a shorter time frame.
Lowery said that if they successfully complete the event she plans to compete in the Shore to Shore event in Michigan later this summer where they will ride 220 miles in seven days.
Lowery said that even if they don’t come in first, as long as they cross the finish line it will be a successful ride. She firmly believes in the AERC motto, “To finish is to win.”