DANSVILLE — Imagine embarking on a personal quest across the nation on horseback, and being able to see the human spirit in a very unique way.
Bernice Ende, of Montana, did just that when she began her 15 year journey in 2005 as Lady Long Rider. Ende has traveled all across America and parts of Canada in a 30,000 mile adventure on horseback. This is a historic accomplishment no other has done in recent times. Last year she did hundreds of miles in France as well. However, in all of her travels she feels the northeast is her favorite.
“I had ridden the southwest quite a bit, I had crossed the plains, and been through the rocky mountains. At that time I had crossed the rocky mountains about eight times,” Ende said. “I had ridden through the Sahara desert and little red desert a few times. I had never been out northeast, and I kept wondering what those people were like. I had never had enough money to haul over there. I never had a truck or trailer until this book tour.”
Ende said she had no money on this trip after the first year, and had to rely completely on the kindness of others. It wasn’t until 2014 that her ride took her to this part of the country. It was here that she met fellow travelers like John Adamski.
“I originally thought I was going to ride across Canada, that was my original destination as I came to New York,” she said. ”I was told I was the first person to ever attempt riding coast to coast round trip. There had been a lot of one rides from east to west or west to east, but no round trips before.”
The Dansville Public Library hosted “Lady Long Rider” author Ende on Monday night as she spoke of her journey across the nation, the inspiration she found, and why she continues to ride.
Ende grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm riding horses, and helping her father any chance she could get with the chores on the farm.
“I wanted to share what I have learned on this course of long riding, which I never expected I would ever do. I am a Minnesota Dairy Farm girl, and I came from a very poor dirt farm. My father could scarcely read or write My mother had an education. She graduated from the University of Minnesota. My mother knew very well to do people who brought culture and music into our world of a very poor dirt farm,” she said. “I only mention that because my mother gave me the love of the horizon. She brought books into the house, and we all had musical instruments to play. My father gave me can do-ness. I was never held and told I was loved, it wasn’t part of the agenda. He was a German-Catholic. I shadowed my father all over the farm. My father never told me to leave.”
Ende dedicates all of her rides to her mother, and she learned how to be strong from her father.
“My mother brought the whole bright world into our poor home. She is my guardian angel on all of my rides. Whenever I am in danger she is with me,” she said. “I never rode for any causes or had any agenda with what I was doing. I just rode for the love of it. In 2020 I will be riding for the 100th Anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. If it wasn’t for what those women did I wouldn’t of been able to do this.”
Ende has lived the last 30 years of her life in a small cabin in the middle of Montana. At the age of 50 she began her quest to her sisters house in Albuquerque in hopes she would go on this ride with her. When that didn’t happen she kept going alone. Along the way she has saved the lives of horses like Honor who were left in such inhumane conditions to die. She found healing in her journey, and took along her sweet dog Claire, who she saved in the freezing snow of Montana.
Ende would find herself in need of food, water, supplies, and human connection. She would have to be brave and ask strangers for help. That was one of the hardest parts of the whole journey. Once she figured that there was more goodness in the world, and that people were mostly kind at heart the journey was less frightening.
“I have felt such a profound change over the last few years. I found I was riding like I did when I was a little girl. I felt free again,” she said. “I found lessons in stepping down. I found a major lesson in asking for help. The hardest part was I thought people were going to laugh at me. People were very kind, and I found they would share their stories with me.”
Ende found that so many people wanted that same kind of connection, but they would dream and hope of doing something like that. Once Ende realized she was taking thousands of people with her through spirit on this journey she realized she was not alone, but she had found an entire community of people within this nation.
“The most profound and iconic image to present to the world is riding into town on my horse. We live in a horse culture. This is what we all grew up with. People are so moved by what I am doing, and they want to share their stories with me. I have thousands of people riding in this saddle with me, and I need to respect that,” she said. “I learned a great deal about unity. I didn’t understand how much I needed people until I took this ride. I am more dependent on people than any of you. I listen to the sounds of the town, and how we all share our stories on this river of humanity. I am united with the world.”
Ende has seen America the way it is meant to be seen, and has found that there is goodness in all kinds of people.
“We are all on a long ride called life, and this life long process of becoming,” she said. “We all live with uncertainty. Everyday I had to find food, water and shelter. I had to find peace with the unknown. I had to discover home, and carry that with me everyday.”
Janna Pekaar, Ende’s assistant and friend, said she has supported her friend for many years, and is always amazed by her stories. Pekaar is from Seattle,Washington.
“I would throw the kids in the car and we would go find her in whatever state she was in at the time,” she said. “We would find her in Wyoming, Kansas, or Oregon. It was easy to spot her as the solo rider in the distance. She has watched my kids grow up, and they all love her.”
Ende has touched so many lives over many years, and this all started before she was Lady Long Rider. She moved to Seattle, Washington and lived with the Pekaar Family in 1992. She would move to Montana, and be a Ballerina teacher.
“Bernice always follows her heart, and is a very interesting person to talk to,” Pekaar said. “She has gone the backroads of America, and has seen it in a way none of the rest of us have. She has met a lot of interesting people.”
Harvey and Sue Lacy and Chelsea Bouffard of Canaseraga met Ende in 2014 when she was stopping to check out the depot museum on their property. They are all mentioned in her Lady Long Rider book as an inspiration and friend.
“When I had a chance to read her book it came to me at a really good time in my life,” Bouffard said. “I am still working hard on the dairy farm.”
Harvey Lacy said he has never forgotten the day Ende came to their farm, and they are still inspired by what she does.
“I have photos of her going down the road on her horses. She has touched my life in a way no one else ever has,” he said. “She really is amazing.”