Riding The Pony Express: Part 1

May 24, 2011


The Pony Express was the Fedex of the late 1800’s.  The trail became the nation’s most direct route for mail between Missouri and California.  The ten day trip crossed the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains.  Today, an Idaho man sets out from Kansas on that route with his horses.

Most of us have a bucket list – the things you’ve always wanted to do.  Tom Noll is no exception.   He’s in his fifties and his light blue eyes give way to one defining feature…

Noll is a runner.  He’s completed ultra-distance marathons in Utah and Colorado.  It was during one of these foot races that he discovered endurance horseback riding.

Noll has his chance this summer and he’s taking it with two of his best friends.

He introduces a red horse he found as an orphan on the range.  Blended Whiskey, or Whiskey for short is a mustang.

Noll says he’s got a lot of nicknames for this horse.  “Sometimes, Mister Knucklehead,” he laughs.

“He’s got his own way of doing things and, uh he’s been a problem child.  I think it’s a Willy Dixon song and it goes something like ‘Gypsy woman told my mama before I was born, woman you got a boy child comin,’ and he’s gonna be a son of a gun.’  I think that’s the story of my mustang.  He’s a son of a gun.  He’s not been an easy horse, but he’s tough, he’s not fast, but he’s a strong and he’ll wanna get the job done.”

Frank is Noll’s other horse, a mahogany colored Arabian from Wyoming.

” His name is Frank he’s real polite, real unassuming, and he’s been a phenomenal endurance horse.  You can see it in his eye.  He gets what some people call the look of eagles and he’s unstoppable,” says Noll.

Thirty-five years ago a group of riders set out on the Pony Express Trail to try and complete what was supposed to be the greatest and longest horse race in America.  It fell apart somewhere along the three-thousand mile route between Frankfort, New York and Sacramento.

“People decided there were two choices.  And they actually split up. One group followed the original route along I-80 and the other group said ‘let’s check out the pony express trail,’” says Noll.  “…and I don’t know how they came to that idea of let’s check out the pony express trail, so they went west and it was rough through Kansas and Nebraska.  But by the time they got to Wyoming they said the trail was left like had been 100 years ago, by then they said they were caught up in an experience that would change their lives.”

Noll says he’s pretty sure this adventure will change is life. 

“I think a lot of people would like to do something epic in their life and is two and half months epic enough?  Well, I don’t know but I think it will change my life and I don’t know how.”

Noll and 30 other endurance riders started the journey in Kansas.  They have a crew to help them resupply along the trail.  He says he doesn’t anticipate any problems, but he does have an appointment to get his horses re-shod half way through the trip.