In a sport where simply crossing the finish line takes determination and grit, earning Hall of Fame honors in the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) is reserved for those riders and equines with true tenacity. Endurance enthusiasts from all over the country gathered this weekend in Reno to attend the AERC Annual Conference and national awards banquet where Pat Oliva, 78, was named AERC’s Hall of Fame person. Pat has been competing in endurance riding for more than 40 years, with a 21,495 lifetime miles on rides of 50 miles or longer. An inspiration to all who know her, the Woodbine, Maryland, septuagenarian completed 575 miles of endurance competition in 2014.
Introduced by one of the many riders Pat has mentored over the years, AERC Board Member Skip Kemerer, Pat took to the stage with her characteristic modesty and good humor. “I want you to know that it’s because of all of you that I’m still riding,” she said. “We race each other, but in the afternoon, when the ride is over, we’re all friends.” Upon accepting her award, Pat encouraged her fellow endurance riders to “pass that kindness on to others.” Known for her loud and frequent laugh, Pat rode the first-ever Old Dominion endurance ride, back in 1974, as well as the 40th anniversary ride in 2014. Her main mount over the past year has been Colonel Pepper, an 18-year-old bay Arabian gelding.
AERC’s Hall of Fame horse for 2014 is MRR Pyro (“Murphy”), owned by Karen Fredrickson of Kneeland, California. Murphy is a ranch horse who just happens to have captured just about every honor an equine can earn in AERC: Decade Team (10 years of competition with a single rider), Perfect Ten (10,000 miles, 10 years of competition, 10 first place wins, 10 Best Condition wins), and the Pard’ners Award, for the ultimate in sportsmanship and team partnership, with his human counterpart.
Murphy, 18, has a 97% completion rate, remarkable in a sport where so much can happen over 50 miles of competition out on trails in the wilderness. Karen accepted the award for Murphy, calling him her “once-in-a-lifetime horse” and said he was the personification of all the horses in children’s stories, cowboy tales and Disney movies you could imagine.
The organization’s Pard’ners Award went to Ron Barrett and Rafuro HCC. With 132 finishes out of 134 starts, the duo teamed up to compete for 19 seasons before Raf retired in 2006. To date, Ron has completed 11,200 AERC miles and Raf retired with 7,380 miles.
Gail Williams of Zillah, Washington, won the Ann Parr Trails Preservation Award for her trail building (and re-building) work in endurance riding’s Northwest Region. The Anne Ayala Junior Scholarship went to young rider Starla Dale of Murrieta, California.
Members of the nonprofit American Endurance Ride Conference, which sanctions distance rides of 25 to 100 miles, will again gather for their annual awards presentations next March in Reno, Nevada. More information on endurance riding is available by visiting www.aerc.org or by calling the AERC office at 823-2260. By request, the office will send out a free information packet to prospective members.