Bernice Ende has done horse rides in Canada, France and through most of the United States, but she’s never been to equine-friendly Pendleton.
But Ende has been trotting out a piece of Pendleton with her for a few years now, and she’ll take that piece with her as she makes her 30,000-mile journey across the country and back.
Ende, 65, is in town to promote “Lady Long Rider,” a new book that she read from at an event at the Pendleton Public Library on Thursday evening.
The morning before the reading, Ende is tending to her two Norwegian Fjord horses, Montana Spirit and Liska Pearl, in the pens by the pavilion at the Round-Up Grounds.
As she clasps fly masks onto her two mares to keep the growing cluster of flying insects at bay, Ende resists calling her book a memoir, although it is an autobiographical account of her second career riding horses on tremendously long trips that range from 1,500 to 8,000 miles.
Even though she grew up riding horses on her family’s farm in Minnesota, much of her early career took place off of horseback.
Ende studied ballet in Portland, got a fitness specialist degree, and eventually moved to northwest Montana, where she opened a dance studio and ballet school.
Once she retired in 2003, she began looking for a life change and decided to give long riding a try.
“I felt the pull of the open road,” she wrote on her website. “Adventure called, the need to go, see, do. A window of opportunity opened and I climbed out.”
Ende said she started long riding with no experience and little money, sleeping under a tarp she brought with her and subsisting on cans of tuna, tortillas, and cream cheese.
According to Ende, she first got involved with speaking engagements by playing piano and telling her life story at local senior centers in exchange for meals.
Ende said that although the country might be going through a politically divisive time, the main lesson she learned during this time was how unified the country was in its kindness, as evidenced by the food, water, and shelter strangers provided for her on her various journeys.
She gained enough notoriety over the years that several sponsors have stepped forward to financially support her lifestyle, but she still has a minimalist streak.
The book tour’s tight schedule means Ende needed to eschew a long horse ride for a 1969 Ford pickup, but Montana Spirit and Liska Pearl are still coming along for the ride in a horse trailer tied to the back. Instead of booking hotels or crashing on couches, Ende showed off the horse trailer’s small storage space, which she fashioned into a sleeping quarters with a few blankets and personal items.
Ende decided to come to Pendleton through Liska Pearl, who originally resided in Pendleton.
In 2015, one of Ende’s horses died and word got out through the Pacific Northwest Fjord Promotional Group, a nonprofit that promotes the horse breed.
At the time, the Pendleton nonprofit Rebecca Adams had founded, Dream Catcher Therapeutics, was going through a transition.
An organization focused on helping kids with disabilities by doing activities with horses, Dream Catcher was in the process of getting a new board, director, and location. Suddenly, Adams had a surplus of horses.
When she learned about Ende’s situation through the group, she started researching Ende’s long riding career and reached out to offer Liska Pearl.
Although the horse had mostly been involved with leading and grooming activities, Adams said she felt a connection with Ende and agreed to personally transport the mare to Ende’s cabin in Trego, Montana.
A friendship between Adams and Ende ensued and Liska Pearl has been with the itinerant Montanan ever since.
Ende said Liska Pearl took a couple of years to adjust to the travails of long riding, which often puts horses in stressful situations like walking through urban areas and crossing grated bridges.
Adams said most horses stay in the same pens, are taken to the same events, and are transported in the same trailers, creating a routine. With long riding, horses are asked to respond to a changing set of circumstances every day.
“It’s the routine of uncertainty,” she said.
Ende’s tour will take her through 19 states and officially ends in Fort Edward, New York, in 2019, the 100th anniversary of the year Congress approved the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. She wants to press on after Fort Edward to do a reading at Harvard University, the site of some personal feminist history.
“I come from a long line of suffragettes,” she said.
Ende’s great-aunt was Linda James Benitt, the first woman to graduate from Harvard’s school of public health. Ende said she finds inspiration for her rides through her great-aunt and other famous feminist figures.
Once she departs Pendleton, she’ll head south to events in Prineville, Klamath Falls and beyond. During one of her future legs, she’ll be joined by a crew filming a documentary about her.
And once she’s done promoting her book, she’ll unload Montana Spirit and Liska Pearl and reward herself with another long ride.
Contact Antonio Sierra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0836.