Lady Long Rider treks through New York to celebrate the journey of Women’s Rights
Bernice Ende is a Lady Long Rider. She is on an 8,000-mile personal quest to ride from her home in Montana to the coast of Maine, back through Canada to the Pacific coast, and then home again to Montana. She’s been on the trail since April 1, 2014 and expects to be riding for two-and-a-half years. Her ride was inspired by the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Right to Vote in Montana, and she purposely rode to New York State – the cradle of Women’s Rights in America – to recognize and celebrate that event.
Tipped off by a neighbor in August of 2014, I found Bernice camping under a picnic shelter alongside Canaseraga Creek, not far from my home in Dansville. The 60-year-old retired gymnast and ballet teacher is a wiry, leather-tan and tough-as-nails lady with an uncompromising streak of female independence. I also found her to be charming and sincere, with a sweet but somewhat stubborn personality. When I asked to interview her, she agreed without hesitation.
But the interview did not come easily. Other curious folks stopped by to visit and she had some items of maintenance to take care of – like repairing both of her panniers, which are used to carry the gear on her packhorse – before starting the next day’s ride. She was well-equipped with needle, thread, scissors and a Leatherman tool.
While the Lady Long Rider entertained visitors and attended to chores, her hobbled Norwegian Fjord draft ponies, Essie Pearl and Montana Spirit, grazed in an adjacent hayfield. Both mares were in very good condition especially considering their five-month, 2,000-plus-mile ride from Montana to New York.
Since my initial interview was not all that productive, I returned to the Lady Long Rider’s camp early the next morning to find her saddling up, ready to continue her ride. She was heading for Rochester to pay homage to Susan B. Anthony, who helped to spearhead the Women’s Rights movement. I asked if I could catch up with her from time to time along the way to continue our interview. She agreed and mapped out her route for me.
A day later, I caught up with Bernice as she rode through the town of Groveland, heading toward Geneseo. She stopped to visit with folks along the way, and to rest and water her horses. During her ride, she sticks to back roads and when she finds a shady spot, she hobbles the horses, removes their saddles and packs and lets them cool down.
The next day, I spent an hour with Bernice in the shade of an abandoned farmhouse in Avon where she was resting her horses. After giving each of them an apple and letting them graze, she set up a quick campsite and boiled some tea and honey on a portable propane stove. When the hour was over, she repacked, saddled up, and hit the trail once again. And that’s the way it went for Bernice and me for the next four days.
Unlike the 19th-century mountain men who depended on gunfire and smoke signals for long-distance communications, Bernice carries a laptop computer and whenever she’s near an Internet connection, she checks her email and updates her website. That’s how she provided me with last-minute changes to her plans. She does not carry a cell phone.
Those plans included a morning visit to the grave of Susan B. Anthony in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester and a presentation later that afternoon at the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum on Madison Street. From there, she planned to ride to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls. The day before her cemetery visit, she emailed to ask if I could be there.
I arrived a bit early and joined a gathering of people who had learned of Bernice’s quest, including newspaper columnist Leo Roth from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. She rode in shortly after 11 a.m., escorted by Sgt. Gary Cicoria of the Livingston County Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol. They were both surprised by the turnout and everyone present was thrilled when they rode into view.
Finally arriving at Susan B. Anthony’s grave was an emotional moment for Bernice, who rode more than 2,000 miles on horseback to be there, and she wanted me to see that. Among those who were there to greet her was Debra Hughes, president and CEO of the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum, who held one of Bernice’s horses while she dismounted and knelt at the gravestone.
Roth said it best when he wrote in his column, “Bernice knelt at Anthony’s headstone and expressed with great emotion and eloquence what it meant to her to be in this ‘bed of women’, who fought so long for their liberty, a gift to every female generation that followed.” When Bernice finished her soliloquy, everyone in attendance applauded her words.
From the cemetery, Bernice went to the Susan B. Anthony House on Madison Street in downtown Rochester, and she herself was amazed to have actually made it there. Her ride from Montana to New York was her own personal quest. She did not represent any other cause, group or movement. But she made it and that’s what counted most.
While in Rochester, the Lady Long Rider continued to be escorted by Livingston County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Cicoria and was joined by two members of the Rochester Police Department’s Mounted Patrol. The entire neighborhood was abuzz at the sight of four mounted riders and a packhorse, and Bernice was humbled by the attention, which she hadn’t anticipated. But that’s what happens when someone does something out of the ordinary.
A few days later, I caught up with Bernice for the last time at the Women’s Rights National Historic Park and Museum in Seneca Falls. I brought my son, daughter-in-law, and 14-year-old granddaughter to meet her and she was surprised because she didn’t expect us to be there. National Park Service rangers gave us all a tour of the museum and she was impressed with what she saw and heard. Her visit here highlighted the purpose of her ride.
I asked Bernice to pose among the First Wave Statue Exhibit, which features life-size bronze statues of the five women who organized the First Women’s Rights Convention and a few of the men who came in support of social, political and religious equality for women. She fit right in. We parted trails in Seneca Falls. From there, she rode on toward Syracuse to continue her epic ride across the country.
The Lady Long Rider emails me from time to time to give me updates on her progress. She finally reached another goal on October 10, when she made it to the Atlantic Ocean and rode along the beach at Wells, Maine. I can only imagine how thrilling it must be to see America from coast to coast at
4 miles per hour.
To follow Bernice’s ride, visit her website at endeofthetrail.com.
The Long Riders’ Guild
Bernice Ende is a member of The Long Riders’ Guild, an international association of equestrian explorers that was formed in 1994. The organization represents hundreds of members worldwide who have ridden horseback more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey. Membership in the guild is by invitation only.
Its website – thelongridersguild.com – professes to be part museum, bookstore, tack room and guild hall, and to contain the world’s largest collection of equestrian travel information. Indeed, one can spend an hour or more browsing the site and not completely see it all. It’s a reference for everything from the history of equestrian travel to modern-day horse care.
story and photos by John Adamski