SMITHVILLE — With a straw hat tucked under her riding helmet, MaryAnna Wood of Independence continued her hold on the most trail miles of any rider who is part of the North American Trail Ride Conference while on the Jesse James Rideout trail ride Saturday, Aug. 24, at Smithville Lake. She added another 30 or so miles to her already impressive 24,070 trail miles.

“I’ve been riding since 1976,” she said before the Saturday morning start. “I ride because I get to see the country and see my friends. I remember when Smithville had no lake and we rode the trails that were barely trails back then.”

She passes a lot of ride time talking to her horse, Romi, classified as a Hungarian.

Fellow rider Margaret Reynolds rode her Arabian named Caradelle during the event. She’s been participating in NATRC rides for about six years.

The riders and some of the volunteers camped in the Crow’s Creek recreational vehicle camp area, which has a stable. They were at the campground from Friday to Sunday, Aug. 23 to 25.

“I come to the Smithville ride because there are amazing trails and it’s a lot of fun,” Reynolds said. “These folks are my extended family.”

Ride co-manager John Zeliff said riders took out on Sunday under gray skies and ended the ride in the rain. The Smithville Lake horse trails feature a mix of rolling and flat terrain with many creek crossings.

NATRC is a nonprofit organization that provides distance competitive trail rides for riders of all equine breeds and from all disciplines. A NATRC competitive trail ride covers a measured and marked distance within a specified window of time.

The riders are judged during a preliminary examination such as the health of the horse, mounting the horse and how they sit in the saddle.

“The judging begins at the preliminary examination and ends at the final examination one or two days later. Judges evaluate the horses on condition, soundness and trail manners. They evaluate the riders on horsemanship as it applies to trail riding,” Zeliff said. “The obstacles are natural such as how the horse steps over a fallen log or sidesteps a large rock. It might be backing up between two trees. It’s about proper horsemanship and etiquette.”

Zeliff said there was a vet on hand who examined the health of the horse. He said the veterinarian’s presence has been reassuring. There were also four safety riders as well. Bud Wackerle from Liberty has been volunteering for three years, serving on the horse ambulance.

Ruth Mesimer serves as the ride secretary, making sure all the paperwork is filled out.

“I can tell you that we have riders from Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Iowa,” she said.

Mike Wallis served as the timer. He made sure all the riders got out onto the trail.

The novice and competitive pleasure classes compete about 15 to 18 miles per day, which is about 4 to 5 hours of riding at an average pace of roughly 4 miles per hour.

The open classes ride about 27 to 31 miles per day at an average pace of around 5 miles per hour. This year’s Jesse James Rideout also included a new leisure division class which will be a one-day nine-mile ride.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at or 389-6630.

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