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NEDA Drives me Wild! - Cliff Lewis

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NEDA Drives me Wild!
by Cliff Lewis

In 1965, I entered my first endurance ride. Even before this, when I first heard of the sport and went on a training ride with some experienced endurance ridres, I was hooked. I knew instantly what it was that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. This has indeed proved to be the case.

In 1971, a few other Nevada riders and I put on one of the first 50-mile endurance rides in the nation. It was and is still called the Derby Ditch 50, and is still going strong. The trail of the Derby Ditch consists mostly of jeep roads, and is primarily flat. It was at this endurance ride in 1971 that someone said, "You could probably drive a sulky on this trail." This statement got many of us talking about what fun that would be.


Cliff Lewis and Rajwa Nita 1990

It was not until November 1989 that the idea came to fruition. On the third day of a three-day 150-mile endurance ride, I put on the first endurance drive. It created so much excitement that some of the riders withdrew from the day's ride in order to witness the event. This first race was 23 miles in length. I was unable to participate myself due to a dislocated shoulder, but my son, Tom Lewis, drove my mare Tanglewood's Luck (a ½ Arab & ½ Quarter Horse). This first race was won by Virl Norton of San Jose, California. Vilr was the winner of the famous 1976 Great American Horse Race in which he rode mules. On the drive, Virl drove his chestnut Arabian gelding, Rodney. The total driving time for the race was less than 2 hours, rivaling the speed of th endurance race.

We now knew we had started something with this unique twist on an old discipline. We continued to have endurance drives on a casual basis for th enext few months, more or less to work the bugs out. On the 4th of July 1990, we had a drive and a meeting near Grass Valley, California, and the National Endurance Driving Association was born. Our goal was to sanction endruance drives with a minimum of rules, just enough to have consistent organized competitions.


Tom Lewis driving Shiko's Shalimar

At this time it was decided that any vehicle with at least one wheel or runner, and any draught animal would be acceptable. If more than one animal was used, there must be at least one passenger for each, including the driver. In order for the drive to be sanctioned by NEDA, it must be at least 20 miles in length and have the required pulse and respiration checks. Points would be kept for the drivers and mileage for the animals only. NEDA would keep track of all the data. There was to be no minimum or maximum times, allowing the driver to set his own pace, keeping in mind the strict recovery criteria at the mandatory stops.

During our formative years, the only prevalent casualty was broken vehicles. There did not seem to be anything commercially produced that would hold up to the terrain and the pace. We began to make our own vehicles. One of our charter members, Vince Shearer of Lovelock, Nevada, designed and made the first model of carts that worked great. Vince no longer makes them, but many are still being used today. His original design has proved to be of lasting usefulness. My wife Kathy has one she has driven on nearly every event, and it has never needed any but the most minor repairs.


Kathy Lewis driving Nabil's Fanci

You would be amazed at the speeds at which some of the endurance horses entered can negotiate the course while pulling a light cart. Drivers were allowed to enter a fifty-mile endurance ride, and four of them finished with faster times than the first rider in.

NEDA was active from 1990 to 1994, and then went into hiatus. It has however, never left the hearts of those who love this exciting sport, consequently, NEDA has been revived. Its first official drive of 2001 was held on January 1st. To answer the question, "Who can go?": EVERYONE!

We have also had entries consisting of miniature horses, donkeys, mules, draft horses and just about every breed of horse and pony. We now have a schedule of events for the year, and are in for keeps this time. NEDA has already received requests for information from as far away as South Africa. Endurance Driving's time has come!

Join us!
Cliff Lewis, NEDA founder
Click here to email Cliff



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