Horse Network picked up this story on December 11, 2019.
On a hectic Monday morning just three days before the EQUUS Film Fest, I received an email from Bernice Ende, author of Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback, informing her followers that she’d be attending the event. I was struck with disappointment. How would I be able to get a plan into place so quickly and put off work deadlines to get there?
Reading about Bernice’s adventures and her gumption to cover thousands upon thousands of miles riding by her lonesome through the wilds and cities in the U.S., Canada and Europe on horseback had made a lasting impression on me. This was a woman I wanted to meet.
My fiancé walked in the room and found me staring into space. “What’s up?” he asked.
“I’m going to meet Bernice,” I answered in a trance. “In Lexington.”
The travel plans came together seamlessly. Within minutes upon arrival to the Kentucky Horse Park, I bumped into Bernice. I was going into the Visitor’s Building; she was heading to the International Horse Museum to meet and greet and sell her books. I was overwhelmed with happiness at meeting this woman who I deeply revere.
Bernice took my hand in hers and we walked over to two mounted policewomen and as we stood there talking to them, EQUUS Film Fest founder Lisa Diersen snapped a photo.
Bernice and I became fast friends. She signed my book; we unpacked things for her display; I served as her ambassador when attendees inquired about Lady Long Rider. After a long day at the Fest, we enjoyed a cocktail and fabulous dinner at Malone’s—just her and me—and we talked and talked. About her next ride, about my own memoir, about the universe granting my wish to meet her, about people and horses and dogs we’ve loved.
Why are we drawn to certain people? Do we see a bit of ourselves in their demeanors and ambitions? Is it reverence? Admiration for those who have courage and resilience to overcome real hardship? An incredible feat we wish we could accomplish but cannot?On Sunday afternoon, Diersen discreetly informed us that Bernice would be winning the Fest’s literary contest that evening for Long Lady Rider. Bernice had a flight to catch and would not be attending the awards ceremony. She asked me to accept the award on her behalf! What a thrill!
I immediately began preparing a speech in my head for the crowd, saying how honored I was to meet Bernice in person and the big magic that brought us together. But there would be no time for speeches, no matter how short.
Bernice and I shared one last meal together at Red State Barbeque before catching an Uber to the airport. In between making her laugh, she told me that although she would beginning short rides in March, she had been thinking about laying down roots in New Mexico—where she currently resided in her trailer with her horses. That the cabin she’s loved for years in Montana no longer held appeal for her. And I shared with her that I too was seeking a transformation or breakthrough.
I walked with Bernice into the American Airways terminal, helping her with two suitcases and the padded western saddle in which she long-rides. We embraced and as I walked away, I’d already begun to miss her. Her smile, the way she laughs, the way she became quiet when she talked about the beings that mean the world to her.
When I had returned to my hotel room, I called my fiancé and the excitement of sharing time with Bernice poured out of me like Thunder Snow bolts out of the start gate. And as I paused for a breath of air, my fiancé said to me, “I’m proud of you.”
“You wanted to meet Bernice, someone you deeply admire, and you made it happen. You followed through and didn’t let anything get in the way.”
“Yeah, but, Dennis,” I said. “It’s Lady Long Rider.”
A hearty thanks to Lisa Diersen and her team for all the hard work in preparing for this year’s EQUUS Film Fest. It was truly a very special event, showcasing the many, many talents of equine filmmakers and writers, people with huge hearts who rescue abused and terribly neglected horses, and organizations facilitating the healing power of horses with veterans, the disabled, elderly and more.
Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-Station, HuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is pitching her memoir, “Calamity Becomes Her: Love, Loss and a Healthy Dose of Overcoming Adversity” to agents and at work on the sequel.