Gardner After nearly two weeks of riding, the Great Santa Fe Horse Race is over.
Participants started in Santa Fe, N.M., on Sept. 3 and wrapped up in Gardner on Saturday. The winner was Scott Griffin of Seattle, who was competing in his first horse endurance competition. His prize: A belt buckle presented Saturday night by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
The race went more or less along the wide, meandering trail that opened in 1821 as a trade route between Santa Fe, then part of Mexico, and its starting point in Independence, Mo. Originally, the race was to end in Independence, but the proliferation of highways, streets, subdivisions and businesses between there and Gardner ruled that out.
Participants rode for nine to 12 hours each day for three days, rested and traveled a day, then repeated another three days at a different place. Only two people finished the 515-mile endurance ride without changing horses.
The race started with 60 riders and 160 horses, but only about half the riders reached the final day. Some dropped out because of dehydration. One broke his collarbone and shoulder in Dodge City when his horse reared.
On Wednesday, the ride's ninth day, two horses were killed and their riders injured when they were hit by a car south of Canton. One of the injured riders, Teresa Wilcox of Chadwick, Mo., returned Saturday and rode a 15-mile leg.
"It was very unfortunate," said event organizer Rob Phillips, of Lawrence. "Was there anything we could have done different? Well, we could have not put on the event."
Veterinarians inspected the horses each day, and about five or six were eliminated every day for minor ailments.
"They have fared very well, and that's because people have been taking very good care of their horses," said Jeanie Hauser, a veterinarian from Leavenworth County.
Rick Medlin, a team rider from Paola, said Saturday that he wasn't sore and was willing to continue for three or four more days. "The most enjoyable thing is seeing the country and riding horses," he said. "It's the adventure of a lifetime."