One Registered Nurse accomplished her childhood dream of owning horses and has spent the past 18 years participating in trail endurance rides. She shares her memories from the competitions and how horses have shaped her livelihood.
Ericka Bjorum-Nelson jokingly asked her dad if he ever felt guilty about not getting her a pony growing up. Smiling he said, “Yes, but I got over it.”
Luckily for Ericka, she turned her childhood dreams of owning horses into a reality.
She got her first horse in 1997 and has spent her life as a horse-owner in a different way from most — as an endurance horse rider participating in several rides crossing many miles per year.
“I heard about endurance horse riding back in the ‘80s,” explains Ericka, RN, OCN, in Renown Infusion Services. “I finally was able to start endurance riding in 1998, when I found a mentor and she helped me get started.”
Settled in the Saddle: Endurance Horse Racing
Endurance horse racing (or riding) is a competition between the trail and the horse and rider team. Race distances vary in length from 25 to 30 miles and 50 miles to 100 miles. Ericka’s preference is the 50 mile rides, specifically the 50-milers that are five days long.
For successful riding, proper horse fitness and nutrition is vital to the horse, as well as the rider.
“It’s a controlled course, so to speak,” she explains. “It might be one 50 mile circle but there are vet checks to have your horse examined, and your horse must pass this exam and be found fit to continue. Then, your horse must eat and rest and drink before you can go on.”
Throughout the years, Ericka has participated in several memorable rides including a 200 mile ride at the Grand Canyon.
“On the last day of my Grand Canyon ride, it was such an emotional time,” she notes. “My horse and I were walking into camp, and there were no words to explain the emotions of coming to the last moment of something that meant so much to me.”
In addition to the rides themselves, Ericka enjoys camping and riding with her friends during the treks. Recently, she has added another endurance rider to the mix — her granddaughter.
“My granddaughter has started to ride distance with me,” Ericka says. “Now that she is interested, I’ve gone back down to 30 miles rides, and she is riding my older horse. She has completed three 30-milers and we recently had a 26 mile training ride on the Tahoe Rim Trail. That was just outstanding.”
While there is a lot of race training and preparation involved for both the horse and rider, Ericka is living her lifelong dream.
“I told my husband 20-some years ago if I don’t get a horse and try learning how to ride I’d be a grumpy 70-year old woman someday,” Ericka says with a smile. “So that’s what we did. Here I am with two endurance horses — WP Kardshark and PSR Karahty Kid — 4,565 recorded endurance miles and 18 years of memories.”