Elmer Bandit Tribute Planned, Condolences Shared

The North American Trail Ride Conference, the group that sanctioned and tracked Elmer Bandit's lifetime record 20,780 official Competitive Trail miles, will honor the horse at its annual banquet, which begins Friday.

Elmer was euthanized Sunday at the age of 38. When word of his passing reached executive director Laurie DeNatale, she immediately began arranging for a special presentation during the convention banquet.

Elmer's significance in the NATRC community is enormous. He was the first horse inducted into the NATRC Hall of Fame and was awarded the designation of National Champion numerous times during his 34-year career.

As word of his death spread, Competitive Trail chat groups were filled with remembrances of Elmer and heartfelt condolences to his lifelong owner Mary Anna Wood, from both personal friends of Elmer and others who only followed his career from afar. (Leave a message for Wood.)

Many messages began with: "Although I've never met you and Elmer, your story has meant so much to me because..." The stories that followed showed how Elmer's story continually inspired people to care for their horses, use their horses, and cherish the times spent together.

Tributes from friends and competitors were specific and most included the phrases, "Elmer taught me," "Elmer taught my horse," and "I will never forget."

"Losing a horse you've had all of its life is tough," wrote NATRC competitor Paula Riley to Wood. "Losing a legend is heartbreaking."

Vet examines Elmer

Mary Anna Wood holds Elmer Bandit as he's examined by Pat Regier, DVM, at a ride in 2008.

Florence Blanks, NATRC Region 6 Board Member representing Wood's state of Missouri, recalled his first meeting with Elmer, which occurred in 1989. Blanks often camped in a tent when he attended rides as the Chairman of the Pulse and Respiration crew, one component of the system charged with verifying the horses' fitness to continue. On his first night in camp, Blanks recalled, "I was awakened by this loud snoring and I looked around and saw Elmer, stretched out flat, snoring away."

Blanks recalled being amazed by Elmer when he was "young," only 18.

"Elmer's heart and respiration rates were just awesome," Blanks said. "He could come down to six and two so fast." (Referring to six heartbeats and two breaths in 15 seconds. Horses are allowed up to 12 and nine without losing conditioning points. )

Blanks recalled Elmer would actually go to sleep at the checkpoints to conserve energy.

"Elmer knew how to rest," he recalled. "Actually Elmer knew how to do a lot of things most horses don't know. He could urinate on command, he could jump in and out of a pick-up bed, and I swear, he could hold his breath until the 15-second check was done. He would just look at me, like, 'Hey, dude, it's been 15 seconds.'"

Read more: Competitive Trail Horse Elmer Bandit, 38, Euthanized

About the Author

Marsha Hayes

Marsha Hayes has been covering endurance, trail, and other equine topics since 2005. She believes every horse has a story.

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