Earlier this year, Joan Harris of Jarvie, Alberta, was named the recipient of the Endurance Canada Hall Of Fame Award. With her lifetime mileage closeaStranger_head_sm to 6800 competitive miles, the award is greatly deserved. However, she is quick to give credit to her horses.

“I received this award for all I have done in Endurance, but it was my horses that kept me going,” Joan comments.

It was Stranger, a beautiful bay horse, who introduced Joan to the international scene of endurance riding. Joan says, “He is the reason I have such a love of this sport.”

 

Stranger was born near Barrhead, Alberta, in 1981. He is sired by a registered Polish Arabian and is out of a grade Morgan mare.

When Joan bought him at an auction in October of 1981, she thought she was purchasing a mate for a driving team. After training Stranger to drive and finding out that he did not enjoy it, she started him in endurance riding, which she has been hooked on since 1982.

In 1985, Joan started Stranger in Limited Distance Competitions and he was her go-to competition horse until 1993. In 1987, Joan entered Stranger in his first 100 mile race.

“We had done 50 miles rides at the same location, so knew what to expect,” Joan says. “He just flew, I was up against a seasoned 100 horse, but Stranger was in his element that ride. The two of us did the whole event until the last mile. We had picked a spot where we would start to race for the finish and after a couple of strides we were already a length ahead. We just kept going. Stranger still had a lot of gas and the other horse, though fast, was too tired to keep up.”

They finished the race in 8 hours, 55 minutes, and 18 seconds. A feat, which, according to Joan, is the fastest time for a Canadian horse on Canadian soil.
Stranger and Joan did another 100 miles at the same place and finished in 9 hours and 20 minutes, which was two hours ahead of his nearest competition. He was the top horse and Joan was the top rider for two years in a row with the Endurance Riders of Alberta.

aRecieving_silver__medal_smAt the first Worlds Endurance Competition, held in Virginia in 1988, Joan and Stranger were nominated to enter and helped to bring home a silver medal.
Now retired, Stranger is 31 years old and still keeps Joan on her toes. Not only is he versatile, athletic and has a great mind, he is also incredibly smart. Joan calls him an “escape artist.” He doesn’t run away; he just seems to like the challenge.

Joan remembers, “When we had first built our barn at our new farm, I would go out in the AM to do chores and all four horses were in their pens, but not the ones I left them in the night before. This went on for a few days, all gates closed but not latched, so I got up early the next AM and quietly went up to the barn and slowly opened the door. Stranger heard me and flew into the empty stall and nudged the gate closed behind himself. He's 31 and still will escape if he can.”

While still healthy and bright-eyed, Joan recognizes that Stranger is getting up there in age. “There will be a deep void in my life when Stranger passes. It will be tough to lose my best companion of 30 plus years. We were truly a team!”

Good luck to Joan, who is competing in more rides this summer so she will have her 7000 mile award buckle in time for her 70th birthday.

 

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