By Joseph Robertia
“Endurance sport” plus “animals” in Alaska usually means dog mushing. And that’s true for Iditarod veteran Jane Adkins. But for the past five years, it’s also meant horse riding.
While there is no shortage of rodeo events for horse enthusiasts around the state, Adkins has instead spent her mushing “offseason” participating in endurance-themed equestrian challenges that hold a similar appeal as covering 1,000 miles by dog team.
“I’m drawn to endurance, I think, because I’m not fast. I’m slow, but I can complete things,” she said.
But she’s not a huge fan of having to travel long distances to participate in long-distance races. So she organized the Midnight Sun Challenge endurance ride in Nikiski on Saturday.
Seeing others participate in competitive trail-riding events around the state, such as the Challenge of the North in Fairbanks and the Bald Mountain Butt Buster in the Wasilla area, Adkins decided to provide an opportunity to saddle up on the Kenai Peninsula.
The Midnight Sun Challenge covered 30 miles in a series of loops through the woods off of the Escape Route Road, and there was a 12-mile event for those not quite trained up to the full distance. There was a maximum time limit of six hours to finish, which Adkins said should be more than enough time for teams trotting at an average speed of 5 miles per hour.
“The horses had to be in good condition, but this being our first year, we wanted to keep things small, simple and low key so we could evaluate everything along the way. We tried to make it easy on the riders and horses, so it’s mostly flat trail and we’ve done what we could to avoid mud,” she said.