The Big Horn 100 endurance horse ride predates the American Endurance Ride Conference. The ride was founded in 1970 by the Canyon Cavaliers, a local riding club. It is a single loop 100 mile trail of spectacular beauty and challenge.
The Big Horn 100 was twice the site of the famous Race of Champions. It starts out of Shell, WY at ~4,000 ft. The first 25 miles rise gradually out of the desert to the base of the mountains. The sunrise over the desert floor takes your breath away. Purple, orange, rose, and every shade of brown and tan appear in the rocks. You cross beautiful, clear, cold streams of water.
Then you begin the spectacular climb 5,000 feet through a series of five canyons with running streams. As you climb, the views of the valley floor spread out below you and you see the mountain ranges in the distance…the Beartooths, the Absarokas, the Pryors and the Wind Rivers. Wild flowers of every imaginable color spread out over the Big Horn trails once you get to the top. Pictures really can’t do them justice. Once on top of this plateau, you see the snow capped peaks of the Big Horn Mountains, especially Cloud Peak, and you ride toward those distant shrines. At the half way point of Antelope Butte, you just think that it can’t get any more beautiful. But, you are wrong.
The trail leads out of the mid way point near Ranger Creek Station. The quaking aspen trees, streams, flowers, and views continue to be awe-inspiring. After arriving at Battle Creek, you climb to Adelaide Lake and Shell Reservoir. The lake is a jewel surrounded by alpine meadows, streams, and spectacular rock formations. As you continue to climb through Boulder Basin, you look back over your shoulder to see both Adelaide Lake and Shell Reservoir sparkling below you, surrounded by mountains. You reach the high point of the ride, almost 10,000 ft. and see the entire Big Horn basin of Wyoming spread out below you.
Then you begin the descent back toward Battle Creek and your final rest before the long trail back down to Shell over the Black Mt. Road. If you are “my” speed, you get to watch another amazing sunset as you descend through more wild flowers and mountain meadows toward the desert floor. The stars in the Wyoming sky look like you could reach up and touch them. You see a few scattered pinpoints of light below that show you really aren’t totally alone in this magnificent place. As you make your final drop onto the red desert floor and head toward the few vehicle lights awaiting the end of your journey, you know that you and your horse have accomplished something magical that no one can ever take away from you. You won’t have a stadium of cheering volunteers, but the people there will care about you as an individual because you will be one of a very small number of riders they worried about all day long.
I have completed the Big Horn 100 12 times. I have helped with the ride in a variety of jobs since 1981. I have faced the “agony” of defeat and the ecstasy of success on this trail. It fills my dreams and my heart. I hope my ashes are spread over it. I love every inch of it, but the Adelaide remains my favorite section. It represents endurance riding to me, and all of the brave horses that have carried me over it. I can close my eyes and feel them under me. I can lean down and smell the greatness in their manes. I am humbled by these horses’ hearts and the courage of their riders willing to tackle this amazing trail.
I truly believe that the Big Horn 100 is the most beautiful trail in the world. We are a small, tight-knit group of volunteers who run this ride. It is a labor of love.
Cindy Collins, ride manager 2020
For more information 307-272-2816 or FB @bh100endurance
P.S. The youngest rider to ever complete the ride successfully was 6 years old. Last year a 9 year old completed. The oldest rider to complete was in their early 80s, I believe.
The pictures on this page were provided by HippieChic Creative, The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch and The Trapper Creek Ranch in Shell.
Endurance riding is:
All ages and abilities
From the youngest junior riders to seniors who have plenty of time to travel far and wide to compete, riders from across the U.S. and Canada have many things in common: a love for their equines, desire to ride on scenic trails, and at least a little bit of competitive spirit. Riders compete in endurance (50 or more miles) and limited distance (25-35 miles) rides. AERC offers junior-level prizes in most categories, and all riders may compete for regional and national awards, or just to earn mileage awards with their favorite trail companion.
In endurance riding, the equine and rider are a team, and the challenge is to complete the course with a horse that is “fit to continue.” A panel of control judges supervises the equines, each of which must pass a pre-ride examination in order to start the event. During each ride are set hold times, which vary in duration from a simple gate-and-go to one-hour rest holds. During these holds, the equine’s physical and metabolic parameters are checked. The horse must pass the exam in order to continue on the course. Each horse must also pass a post-ride exam in order to receive credit for completing the course.
Educational and fun
Member education, through AERC’s mentoring program and articles in Endurance News, helps riders learn the latest tips and techniques for this exciting sport. Learning together can be fun, and friendships spring up along the trails as riders share their experiences and become part of AERC’s “endurance family.”
A great family sport
Whether you are a competitor at heart or are looking for a sport for your entire family, endurance riding has something for everyone. Endurance riding combines the opportunity of riding a challenging course with your equine partner and the fun and camaraderie of camping and socializing with a group of individuals who share your same interests. The competition itself is just part of the fun of this family-oriented sport.
Welcoming to beginners
The best way to get started in endurance riding is to volunteer at a local ride, get your horse in shape, and read up on AERC’s educational literature. Mentors are committed to helping new members and answering their questions about endurance riding. Once your equine and you are ready, it’s time to try a limited distance event of 25 to 35 miles. These rides are great for newcomers to the sport, or those who prefer riding shorter distances. Everyone who completes an AERC ride earns a completion award. But no award can match the satisfaction of earning your first completion!
An advocate for trails
AERC, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the nation’s leader in encouraging the use, protection and development of equestrian trails, especially those with historical significance. Many events — particularly multi-day rides — take place over historic trails. Such rides promote awareness of the importance of trail preservation for future generations, and foster an appreciation of our American heritage.
If you and your horse are ready for the trail and the challenge . . . we invite you to join AERC!
AERC National Office
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6027 • Auburn, CA 95604
Street Address: 1373 Lincoln Way, Suite A • Auburn, CA 95603
Call us: 866-271-2372 • 530-823-2260