Riding, racing the Santa Fe Trail

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

Team Liberty had it much easier than their forefathers when they crossed the Santa Fe Trail.

Participants in the Great Santa Fe Trail Race, Dawson Higgins and Shawn Davis, had six horses, a motor coach, a truck with a sleeper and hot meals. The 13-day race covered 800 miles, from Santa Fe to Franklin, Mo. Of that about 515 were on horseback.

“It was a good great experience,” said Davis, the team captain. “It was good to be in the first one.”

Each of the men gave up vacation time to participate and had to bank on sponsors to help them with the costs which they estimated were between $8,000 and $10,000.

Not all the results are in yet, but Higgins and Davis estimate that they are in the top five finishers. About 60 teams started out the race from Santa Fe, but only about half completed the race, they said.

Each day’s riding was 50 or miles, Davis said. And even though some riders did run or walk beside with their horses, Higgins and Dawson said they stayed in the saddle until it was time for the vet checks. At that time, they’d get off and walk up to the check point to let their horses rest.

While the endurance riders mainly rely on Arabian horses, Team Liberty depended on quarter horses, which are known for their bursts of speed. They were surprised at the horses performances and evoked comments from experienced endurance races.

The horses performed well and only once were there problems when one of the horses had a minor limp, which was probably from a small rock.

“It was gone almost before it started,” Higgins said.

Meals were often shared with other riders and friends. And family and friends from Tucumcari visited the riders on their journey.

“We couldn’t have done it without our sponsors,” Higgins said. And there was also the support team, who drove the horse trailers, support trucks and kept the equipment in shape, Davis said.

Would they do it again?

“Not tomorrow,” Davis said.