Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Supporting Bernice's Travels

We have received many heart warming concerns and wishes supporting Bernice's travels lately. Below are responses to some of the comments we have been getting in support of Bernice's travels.

I am so envious and blown away with Bernice and her travels. I am curious to how she is supporting herself, horse, and dog during this really long adventurous trip? How is she managing feed, farrier, vet care, etc? Does she have any kind of sponsorship funding? I assume Outfitters Supply helped her out considerably with the cost of her new gear, which is awesome. I am one who would like to make a trip like Bernice’s someday. I will look you guys up for my gear when the time comes. My trip will be across the nationwide trail that goes from west to east or visa versa. I look forward to reading more about Bernice's trip as it progresses. She really needs to write a book on preparing for and executing a trip of this magnitude.

Happy Trails,
Susan B.

-Bernice is able to support herself on a mere $20 a week, due to mostly the support and generosity of those she encounters. While she does have funds set aside for emergencies, most of her farrier and feed needs have been covered by donations of both time and supplies. Bernice has also been giving many talks to local 4-H clubs, civic groups, and senior centers as she travels. Several of these have turned into "pass the hat" talks, which provide Bernice with additional funds.

-As for writing a book, who knows? Bernice has too many long rides planned to stop long enough.


I just wanted to express my appreciation for your support of Bernice Ende and the reports on her ride. She is an inspiration. As a result of the impression she has made on me, I drove my brand new F-350 from my home in New Jersey to western Ohio and then to northern Michigan, where I bought a gooseneck horse trailer and hauled it home. I am a single grandmother of retirement age, and I have never hauled anything before and the truck is the largest vehicle that I have ever driven. Following Bernice’s example, I took my dog with me. Getting a horse is my next step. I already have a Tucker saddle. I’ll be contacting you when its time for saddle bags. You don’t know what you can do ‘til you try.

Thank you and best regards,
Pat B.

-We wish you the best of luck in all that you attempt, Pat.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Should I Pack Horses or Mules?

I am asked this question regularly. Coincidentally, the only people who ever ask this question are those who have never owned a mule. That says a lot; however, my standard answer is this: If you own a horse that is just standing around burning hay, pack him. But if you are shopping for a pack animal, buy a pack mule. Why… Remembering that stock users, including me, are opinionated, below I listed the benefits for packing mules over horses:

  • Pack mules are born followers. A pack mule will follow a horse or another mule almost anywhere.
  • Pack mules know exactly where they will put down each foot. While some pack horses have a tendency to daydream and step off the trail.
  • Pack mules carry a load without a lot of swaying and lunging.
  • Pack mules are tougher than pack horses, pound for pound.
  • I never have to shoe my pack mules. I just keep them trimmed, which saves me money.
  • Pack mules know their job and want to do it.
  • Pack mules generally have a 20-30% longer life than pack horses.
  • Pack mules are easier keepers than pack horses for the most part.
  • Last, but not least, pack mules are cute.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Discomfort in the Saddle

In 21 years of selling saddles, the most common complaint I've heard is "My knees hurt!" As a matter of fact, about the only time that I haven't heard this complaint is when I have an English rider come in. Their knees seem to be just fine! I've heard several theories on why this is, but this week I've given it a lot of thought, and tested a few saddles, and had sore knees. (of course, I am getting a little older, and about everything else hurt just as much...)

The most obvious reason for sore knees in an average Western saddle is the sheer amount of leather that is under your leg. It's often several layers of thick leather that you're constantly fighting to turn back toward you, which is exhausting. This can be somewhat alleviated by overturning your stirrups or having them professionally and permanently turned with a Nevada Twist. Taking it several steps further, Circle Y's "Softee" leather has greatly alleviated the problem. The leather is soft, supple, and just not as bulky under your leg. Over half of my customers with bad knees have been made more comfortable by choosing a Circle Y Flex Lite trail saddle.

However, there are still complaints of knee pain, usually from people with prior knee injuries or short legs. After recalling a conversation I had years ago with a stirrup maker and doing some studying myself, I found another inherent problem with the Western Saddle. As described above, the fenders and stirrup leathers are designed to hang straight, then asked to turn so that you can place your foot in the stirrup. This causes another problem; the stirrup is now turned, but is positioned at an angle. Your foot is now at an angle, with your instep lower than the outside of your foot. This can put an unbelievable amount of stress on your ankle and knees during a long ride, especially if you tend to ride with a lot of weight in your stirrups.

That explains why English riders rarely feel as much discomfort. The English stirrup leather is hung so that the stirrup is flat and already facing the rider. For those of you that have terrible knees and are looking for a solution that does not switch you to an English saddle, I can't recommend the Tucker Equitation Endurance saddle enough. It offers a lot of security, a Western seat and all the attachment points you need for traditional trail riding gear. However ,it has English rigging and stirrup leathers to almost eliminate both of the problems outlined above. My wife (with terrible knees and an even worse back) rides this saddle, and she flat out won't ride another saddle anymore. She's content and comfortable enough to go all day in the saddle now.

There have been a few attempts by stirrup makers over the years to address the angle problem, but it doesn't seem like any have had the marketing to back up the idea, so they've all fizzled. Not a bad idea for the future, though! For the time being, the Tucker Trail Glide stirrup is about as good as you can get for helping to distribute the pressure evenly over the sole of your foot.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bernice Ende is loving the Plains Region

Letters from Bernice have become few and far between as she spends countless days riding without a "mail stop". She's made it through Kansas on the second leg of her journey (the first was from Montana to Minnesota). We received a lengthy letter from her that I posted on Bernice's page on our website.

She is still doing well, and is constantly amazed by the generosity and kindness of those she encounters on her way. She has received so much food from all that she meets that Honor only carries 50 lbs in addition to Bernice - and that includes her saddle, pad, and bags! She has to turn so many offers of help down; again, I am encouraged that there is so much good out there.

Claire is still keeping up with Honor and Bernice, although she does burn through the dog booties and a lot of fresh red meat that Bernice picks up along the way. Honor gets all the fresh grass she can eat on rest stops, and receives hay, grain and supplements most nights as they pass through all the farming communities and small towns of the Midwest.

I'm hoping to hear some more from Bernice this week as she stops at a library for an email break; I'll keep you posted as we hear more.

Hopefully the next posting will show a picture of that elusive bull elk we haven't stumbled over yet... Happy hunting!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Ride the Wind" book review

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted; the pre-hunting season is one of our busiest times of the year. Of course, hunting season means that I need to get out and product test our gear. If only I could find all those elk that I saw during my scouting trips…

I did finally read “Ride the Wind”, the story of the Abernathy Boys. As I read, all I could think was, “This has to be fiction. It’s impossible for a 5 and a 9-year old to have survived all that these two survived!” The book was written by a close relative a year after the two tiny travelers returned from their journey, and is written almost completely from their point of view. I was constantly entertained and amazed. Bud (only 9!) convinced his father that he could manage a 1,000 mile trip from their homestead in Oklahoma to Santa Fe, and back. He then navigated his chosen route, keeping himself, his 5-year-old brother and their two horses safe from all the Old West Obstacles they encountered. They even managed to return home in time to slide into their desk seats in time for school. Unlike most teenagers I know, they even met their deadlines for checking in with their father.

If that wasn’t enough, the boys plotted and planned for a trip the following summer - all the way to New York City - and they somehow managed that trip only slightly worse for wear. I was disappointed that the book ended in New York; one of these days I’ll have to buy the “sequels”.

Instead of riding the horses back home to Oklahoma, the boys took a couple of driving lessons and drove a tiny one cylinder car called “The Wildcat”. Their motorized adventures can be found in the book, “The Remarkable Ride of the Abernathy Boys”, written by Robert B. Jackson.

Their most unbelievable journey, was taken a year after “Ride the Wind”, in the summer of 1911. The boys rode alone from New York to San Francisco in only 62 days in the saddle. I’ve been told that “Bud and Me”, written by Temple’s wife, Alma Abernathy, is a great book journaling this trip.

The story was funny, frightening, and inspirational. All in all, I enjoyed reading the “Ride the Wind”, and feel it’s appropriate reading for just about any age.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bernice is headed out of Kansas and I have hunting fever

We just received word from Bernice Ende, who is about to leave Jetmore, Kansas on her way to Hugoton, which is in the SW corner of Kansas. She is still in good spirits and both Honor and Claire are doing well.

They've been staying at the Jetmore Fairgrounds, waiting out a little of the cold, rainy weather, so Bernice was able to write us a long letter. I'll post it and her photos just as soon as they arrive.

Also while in Jetmore, Bernice has given a talk to the local 4-H members. She's doing more and more speaking at clubs as she travels. Some of these end up being "pass the hat" talks, which provide a little of her traveling money. She's managed to meet her goal of riding on $20 a week; makes me wonder where my money goes, and is it really necessary?

On another note, Kevin and I've been scouting my favorite hunting grounds (sorry, I can't disclose exactly where - just that it is in Northwestern Montana). It's great country - if you're an elk, moose or mountain goat. However, I've taken quite a beating trying to get through the brush, rock and steep terrain. By the time hunting season is over, I'll either be in great shape or dead.

We have seen some game during our little nature walks. The first day I bugled in a young spike bull and we saw three larger bulls. We also saw a cow moose bedded down. Mostly, we've seen grouse, grouse and more grouse; many hens had two clutches. Of course, we've sampled just a few... The second day we were out, we saw two large bulls, and sampled a couple more grouse.

It looks like it should be a good hunting season here, even with only a dusting of snow in the mountains. If nothing else, a long day in the mountains is ALWAYS better than a short day at the office. I really need to spend time field testing our products, anyway!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Bernice leaves the birthplace of Russell Stover

Since leaving judging the chili cook-off and treating Honor to new shoes in Red Cloud, Nebraska, Bernice has spent one night each in Gaylord, Smith Center, and Lebanon, Kansas.

Bernice has now made it through Alton, Kansas, which is just off of Highway 24 in north-central Kansas. Like many small towns that she has passed through, Bernice found unbelievable curiosity, hospitality and support from all that she encountered.

These pictures were taken by Deanna Roach, a part-time rancher and freelance reporter living in Alton. Like many others, Deanna was touched and inspired by the spirit shown by Bernice, Honor and Claire. Read Deanna's article for The Osborne County Farmer on Bernice's web pages.