Equestrians and mountain bikers team up on the central coast
By Lindsay Overton
Paradigm shift. More than a corporate phrase that would garner a few points on buzzword bingo, this is an accurate description of what is happening as mountain bikers and equestrians come together to support one another and to address common issues.
“Watch for ears flicking and tails swishing,” advised long-time equine endurance rider Debbie Boscoe from atop her mountain bike as a pair of cyclists approached the back of a group of horses and asked if they could pass. Invited by Monterey Bay Equestrians (MBE) to join one of their monthly rides, Debbie and a trio of mountain bikers accompanied 12 horses and their riders through Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz on a beautiful winter day.
The brainchild of PJ Myatt, this concept took root when PJ wanted to help her young horse Wiley become accustomed to bikes on the trail. She and her cycling friend Donna Stidolph paired up at Fort Ord, with Donna riding her mountain bike behind PJ and Wiley on the downhills so that Wiley’s flight response wouldn’t be triggered by another cyclist swooping up behind quickly. Riding side by side convinced Wiley that the bike was more a member of his herd than a contraption to be feared. Pleased with the success, PJ extended the concept to the monthly MBE club rides.
The Fireworks Endurance ride, hosted annually by the Santa Cruz County Horseman’s Association (SCCHA), provided another opportunity for cooperation between the mountain biking tribe and equestrians. Ride Manager Debbie Boscoe and her intrepid team of volunteers managed a plethora of details to stage two spectacular rides – a 30 mile course and a 50 mile course. Over 80 teams of horse and rider walked/trotted/cantered through state park and private land in pursuit of finishing in the shortest amount of time with the horse that was in the fittest condition. Endurance athletes come in all shapes and sizes, but regardless of their sport of choice, the common bonds of determination, fitness, and yes, suffering, evoke empathy and respect from one athlete to another. This respect was evident in abundance during the 2015 Fireworks Endurance Ride.
Several weeks prior to the event, Debbie reached out to Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBoSC) with a request for volunteer spotters. The locations where course marshaling was necessary were ideally accessed by a person on a bike. Several club members graciously offered their time to help and MBoSC helped spread the word about the event within the mountain biking community. The result was phenomenal. Debbie notes, “There were lots of great parts of the Fireworks ride this year, but the best is how wonderfully the bike community supported us; that’s what I’m most proud of this year.” Another rider recounted how the bike riders she encountered went out of their way (standing in poison oak) to alleviate the fears of her young horse. A more experienced rider thought it was awesome that a pack of mountain bikers cheered her on past a check point. At the post ride awards celebration, the loudest applause was for the support of the mountain biking community.
In appreciation for this incredible support and to contribute materially toward common goals, SCCHA recently sponsored one of MBoSC’s volunteer trail building days. “Mountain bikers and equestrians are natural allies – they just ride different steeds,” says Robin Musitelli, SCCHA President. MBoSC’s Trail and Business Manager Matt De Young adds, “MBoSC is excited to partner with the equestrian community to advocate for more trail access in our community. Our voices are much stronger when we speak up together.”
Ever since she was a little girl, Lindsay Overton wished she were like Dr. Dolittle and could speak with the animals. Now that she is chronologically an adult, she derives endless pleasure from the things (she imagines) her naughty Airedale pup and silly Tennessee Walking Horse say. Lindsay is an equestrian and mountain biker who passionately pursues both addictions. On the weekends she can be found in the Santa Cruz mountains, usually wearing some form of protective head gear.