A Northwest Montana woman who has spent more than a decade riding around the U.S. on horseback shared stories from her travels in Helena.
Bernice Ende gave a presentation Saturday at the Lewis and Clark Library. She is the author of the book “Lady Long Rider,” about her experiences on her long journeys.
In 2005, Ende first decided to ride from her home near Trego to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“When I first started, I rode into a nightmare,” she said. “It was awful. I was so totally unprepared for what I encountered. I think it was simply my ego and my inability to turn around and say I was defeated by something that keeps me going.”
Despite the difficulties, she says she fell in love with the experience. Since then, she and her horses have covered more than 30,000 miles.
“I’m doing back roads, small towns, I’m riding in and out of rural America – and it’s not like I’m traveling by car,” she said. “You ride, you’re open, you’re exposed to everybody. Everybody smiles and everybody’s welcoming, and you share the stories and you pass on the goodness and you keep going.”
In her Helena presentation, Ende focused on her most recent long-distance ride: about 8,000 miles between 2014 and 2016, from Montana to the East Coast, then back across to the West Coast.
“The Northeast, they were just delighted to see a horse and rider on the road, from Montana of all places,” she said.
Ende says she also hopes to raise awareness of issues like the importance of public lands during her rides. Her 2014 journey coincided with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Montana, and she plans to be riding again in 2020, 100 years after women nationwide won the right to vote.
This year, Ende has done shorter rides in France and along the U.S.-Mexico border. Later this year, she will take her horses for a seven-month speaking tour by truck and trailer. She says her next rides will be about 1,000 miles each along the East Coast and the West Coast.
She says she hopes her story can provide inspiration to those who hear it.
“I hope, if something calls to them, that they don’t let fear stop them from going and doing and reaching for, not so much a dream, but the curiosity of life,” she said. “Get out there and do, explore.”
You can find more information about Ende and her rides on her website.