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32-Year-Old Half-Arabian Wins AHA High-Point Distance Award

Elmer Bandit (DJS Jameel Junaid), a 32-year-old Half-Arabian, was one of 16 Arabians, Half-Arabians and Anglo-Arabians that won a 2002 Distance High-Point Award and blue satin cooler from the Arabian Horse AssociationSM (AHASM). Elmer, who is owned by Mary Anna Wood of Independence, Missouri, was the highest scoring Half-Arabian ridden by an AHA member in the North American Trail Ride Conference (NATRC), one of the organizations that governs competitive trail ride competition.

In Elmer Bandit's illustrious career, he has earned 21 NATRC championships and a Diamond Medallion for competing in more than 15,000 competitive miles. In 2001 he was the nation's second-placing horse in the NATRC open lightweight division, and first place regionally. In 2002, Elmer was in fifth place regionally.

Elmer's career as a competitive trail horse has been as distinguished as it has been long. As a "youngster" of 15, he became the first of seven horses ever inducted into the NATRC Hall of Fame. In 1980, he won the Bev Tibbitts Grand Champion Award for having the highest average score in the nation.

In 1998, Elmer won three rides, including two NATRC Sweepstakes awards as the highest-scoring horse in the open division. That October, in a 60-mile NATRC Ride, Elmer almost tied with a horse 23 years his junior, missing his fourth perfect score by a single point.

In more than 27 years of competitive trail riding, Elmer has developed a unique collection of skills. He pickets anywhere-on the foot or on a line-and rolls and urinates on command. An equine botanist, Elmer has perfected selective grazing at the trot, Wood reports. He divides plants into three categories-edible (raspberry and mulberry), inedible (sassafras) and "will-do-in-a-pinch" (dogwood).

Elmer even mentors younger horses. "Several horse owners call him 'Uncle Elmer' because he's good at leading an inexperienced horse into a trailer or baby-sitting a new horse down the trail," says Wood. One of the horses he mentored, Winchester Charm (Los-Sham-Roc x Ella Charm), a Half-Arabian owned by Wood's friend Lucy Hirsch, is being inducted into the NATRC Hall of Fame.

Wood has also schooled Elmer in western pleasure (he hates to slow jog) and hunt seat (he still does a bit of jumping, up to two feet). Since he was 4, the pair has taken dressage lessons to learn rhythm and balance, and Elmer can deftly perform leg yields, shoulder-in, haunches-in and flying changes.

One of his biggest strengths on the trail is his trot. Elmer can clip along at 12 mph and easily sustain a pace of 6 to 8 mph. "When you think Elmer is maxed, Mary Anna gives him a little nudge, and he goes into 'turbo' and leaves you in the dust," says Hirsch. "He has one of the fastest trots of any horse I've known."

Endurance and strength are in Elmer's breeding. The 15.1-hand gray is the offspring of Wood's Appendix Quarter Horse mare, Dandy Lain, and an Arabian stallion, DIS Jameel Junaid. Elmer inherited his color, endurance and longevity from his sire, who descends from *Raffles and Witez II. From his dam, who mixes Hancock Quarter Horse blood with a little Percheron, he inherited his good-size feet, bone, a bit of feathering and, says Wood, an "optimistic view of the world."

Exceptionally good health must also be in Elmer's genes, since Wood says he's almost never lame or sick. Their teamwork is another factor in Elmer's amazing health. After taking a short course, Wood even began shoeing the gelding herself. More important, she listens. A confirmed extrovert, Elmer loves to chatter, especially when he wants attention. "When I'm mounted, he'll talk to me all day with body language," says Wood.

For Wood and Elmer, riding the trail in 2003 will be no different than it was on their first competitive ride in 1976. Wood always has to make him walk the first mile. "I have to warm up his brain," says Wood. "If I just trot out of camp on Saturday, he will trot all day. But if we walk that first mile, it's a loose rein for the rest of the day."

If Elmer has a say in the matter, he will be performing for many years to come. "I don't think he wants to retire," says Wood. Just point Elmer toward Wood's trailer and watch how eagerly he steps in.

AHASM is a 40,000 member breed association that registers Arabians, Half-Arabian and Anglo-Arabian horses, administers more than $4 million in prize money annually, produces national events, maintains official event records, recognizes more than 400 Arabian horse shows and distance rides and provides activities and programs that promote Arabian horse breeding and ownership. For information about Arabian, Half-Arabian and Anglo-Arabian horses, call 303-696-4500, e-mail or visit