Legendary endurance star rescues marathon runners from mountain

  • A horse who is a legend in US endurance, is in the news again after rescuing two distressed runners during the Santa Barbara 100-mile marathon earlier this month.

    Remington, a 27-year-old 13.3hh Icelandic and his owner John Parke have annually patrolled the last 30 miles of the Santa Barbara 100-mile marathon through remote and rocky parts of the Santa Ynez mountains, looking for lost athletes, without major incident.

    Yet this year Remington had to rescue two casualties during the long night of Saturday 11 July.

    John found the first at the 75-mile mark.

    “I told him to just hang onto the mane and the horse would continually rebalance underneath him to keep him on,” said John. He delivered him to safety four miles away.

    After a brief food stop, they set off again, and at 3am found a dehydrated and hallucinating runner at mile 85.

    “I asked him if he could walk,” John added. “He did not make it 10 feet. We were nowhere near where a vehicle or helicopter could get to him.

    “So I asked if he had ever ridden a horse. He said no. I told him, then this is your lucky day. I wrapped the space blanket and formed a tent over Remington’s back. The idea was that the considerable heat Remington was generating would funnel up the space blanket. It worked like a charm.

    “Five miles later, we walked into the aid station while it was still dark.”

    In sport, Remington has only had one top 10 finish, but he was inducted into the American Endurance Ride Conference’s Hall of Fame last year for longevity, having accumulated 11,300 career endurance miles. He has completed 10 rides of 100-miles length.

    Parke, previously a keen mountain biker, bought Remington as a Christmas present for his family in 1994, but the breeder encouraged him to try endurance, to promote Icelandics. His first ride was memorable for the vet at the midway check stating his trot “did not look right.” He was unfamiliar with the Icelandics’ tolting gait.

    Remington is notoriously cantankerous, his bossiness extending to cattle and dogs. This proved an advantage when John once encountered a full-grown black bear in the Upper Oso forest.

    “All I could think about was what the bear would do to me if I fell while my horse spun to run away. Instead, Remington pinned his ears back, arched his neck and charged. The bear, at least, had the good sense to turn away down the mountain,” said John

    “Some folks in the endurance community may think he is too old, too slow and too small to be worth much of anything. But to a small group of runners in the wee hours of Sunday morning, he was a god.

    “At least this helps answer any question about what an endurance horse is good for,” added John.

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