Dubois memorial pack race sees increasing interest through third year
Dubois – On May 29-30 the Third Annual Don Scheer Memorial Pack Horse Race was held at the Dubois Town Park, an event held in memoriam of Don Scheer, who coordinated the race for 20 consecutive years.
“The race has run a little bit better each time we’ve done it,” says Dave Brant of Dubois, who organizes the memorial race with his wife Connie. “We had a good crowd this year even with the graupel and cold wind on Saturday. We also had more teams enter, which is great.”
The Brants continue to use the same race format developed by Scheer. The community-sponsored race has three divisions: open, old-timers and ladies. Teams consist of two people and three horses. Each open division team (men and/or women) starts with their camp set up and must then break down their camp, throw their load on a packhorse, saddle their two riding horses and trot a seven-mile course. When they return they unpack the horse, have a 15-minute break, resaddle and again trot the seven-mile loop. Once they return for the second time, they set up the complete camp to finish.
“I competed in the open and old-timers’ divisions,” Brant says. “I placed third in the open, and first in the old-timers’. The old-timers’ division is made of teams that have combined contestant ages of 100 years or more.”
Judges and timekeepers keep an equipment list and diagrams of camp layout.
“The teams need to use a recognizable hitch for their pack horse,” explains Hugh Livingston, a volunteer judge from Dubois. “It can be the box, diamond, Wind River or any other standard hitch.
“We have a list of the equipment the teams need to have. They must use hard-sided box panniers and standard packsaddles. The contestants provide all their own camp gear except for the six tent poles and one ridge poll for the eight-foot by 10-foot wall tent.”
On the course and during the 15-minute break horses are checked for soundness and health. Judges on the course ensure that horses do not break out of a trot and that contestants do not interfere with each other. Packhorses are allowed to gallop, but ride horses are only allowed a few loping strides before the rider loses points for not slowing them to a trot.
“There are three timers assigned to each team to limit discrepancies,” Livingston continues. “Also sometimes slow and steady teams win, as there are deductions for missed details. For instance, one team had crossed tent poles where they stacked them after taking their tent down. They gained two points, and each point is negative 10 seconds. Each point deduction is taken from the team’s total time from start to finish. This year the open division was close, and it came down to the deductions to determine the winner.”
Rules stipulate that the rider who leads the packhorses may leave earlier than their teammate to start the course, but final time cannot be called until both have returned to camp, even if the first partner has finished unsaddling and/or setting up camp.
The second day of competition the team combinations changed. For both the old-timers’ and the ladies’ races the routine is similar, but the camp consists of a teepee instead of a wall tent and the teams only complete the seven-mile course once.
Sara Lowe of Riverton competed in both the open and ladies’ divisions this year.
“In 2009 I only competed in the women’s race,” Lowe explains. “But this year I wanted to be with the big boys. For the last month and a half my teammate Justin Wilson and I have conditioned the horses and practiced who would do what in the camp set-up and take-down process.”
The Wilson Fencing team was serious about the race aspect, which kept them in the lead.
“Being in front provided a good view,” Lowe laughs. “It seemed to go pretty smooth, except that Justin’s horse was injured and that threw us off a bit. Even with having the fastest time, the details got us and we went into second place.”
Even contestants that can saddle a horse and throw a load in their sleep, and who have competed in the pack horse race for years, can have things go awry in a race against a clock.
“My teammate and I were slowed down in the open division,” Brant says. “We lost our load on the pack horse during the first seven-mile loop. I thought I knew how to throw a hitch, but apparently I forgot.”