Barnyard Basics: A super endurance horse

Courtesy of Linda Sherrill
Mike Maul on an endurance ride with Rroc, the ex-packhorse from Idaho.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of two parts about an endurance horse’s recovery.

Mike Maul has been competing on endurance rides for 22 years, and for most of those years, he has been riding a very special horse named Rroco-My-Sol, fondly known as Rroc.

The horse was sidelined for awhile in 2004 to recover from colic surgery, then made an amazing recovery.

At the time of his colic surgery, Rroc was 16 years old. He’s 29 now, and he and Maul were still doing 1,000 miles a year together a few years ago. Rroc didn’t start endurance competition until he was 11. Maul and his horse both started late in the game.

“I didn’t learn to ride until I was 50,” Maul says. “I began doing competitive trail riding in the East, then moved to Texas and started endurance riding in 1995. I got Rroc in 2001.”

He was at the Fort Shelbourne Ride that year, and saw a rider with a flea-bitten gray that was acting up, rearing and bucking and impossible to control for the first 25 miles. His owner was just starting him in endurance; he’d been a pack horse in Idaho.

“She’d done 500 miles of endurance rides on the horse and hated him because he was so hard to handle,” Maul says. “I asked friends what they thought about the horse, because I was looking for a good-sized horse. Rroc was 15.3 hands — half Arab and half standardbred. Some of my friends liked the way he moved, even though he was difficult to handle.”

Maul bought the horse on the spot, and the ride vet, Dr. Barney Fleming, from South Dakota, did the prepurchase examination. After Fleming observed him all week at that ride, he privately thought that Rroc and Maul wouldn’t last 6 months together.

“He told me about that, years later,” Maul says.

It took Maul six months to get Rroc over his bad behavior.

“At the rides I took him on, people usually gave us a 20-foot radius of open space. Rroc finally learned to trust me, and I also figured out that if he’d bond with a buddy who traveled a reasonable pace at the start of the ride he’d be a lot more comfortable and calm,” Maul says.

“We became a better team. He became so mellow that people asked if they could ride with me because their horse was green and just starting in endurance — and Rroc was such a model of good behavior,” Maul says.

He rides Rroc in just a noseband or a halter with reins attached.

Maul and Rroc won the Pard’ners award at AERC conference in early March 2013. The inscription on the award says: “Rider and horse perform together as a mutually bonded team. Rider and horse engender a spirit of friendship, enthusiasm and championship that makes those around them glad to have attended the ride. However competitive they may be, good sportsmanship remains their first priority. Horse and rider take care of each other. Together the horse and rider personify the prevailing and abiding goal of the AERC — to finish is to win.”

This award was established in honor of the late Mae Schlegel, whose endurance horse was named Pard.

Rroc’s breeding (Arabian and standardbred) makes him an exceptionally good traveler. He has a fast trot, but Maul takes him fairly slow.

“We have a certain window of speed in which we are comfortable. It takes us 7 to 8½ hours to do a 50-mile ride.”

He’s been a very consistent horse, staying sound for all these years.

It probably helped that this horse was fully mature before he began endurance riding. He also had a lot of room at pasture, to travel around and keep himself fit. When he was 25 years old, he ranked 12th in the number of career miles traveled, out of all the horses throughout the AERC’s history — which is an enviable record.

Heather Smith Thomas and her husband raise beef cattle and horses on a ranch in the mountains near Salmon. To contact her or order her books — which include “Horse Tales,” “Cow Tales” and “Ranch Tales” — call 756-2841 or email