Riders and horses will compete in the Moab Canyons Endurance Ride over three days in the desert north of Moab this week. (Courtesy Moab Canyons Endurance Ride)

Sheri Griffith has had horses since she was a 12-year-old girl. She had to put her beloved companions on the back burner during her years in the adventure business and establishing Sheri Griffith Expeditions.

But, she has to no longer.

“They are my passion now,” Griffith said. “Endurance is a passion.”

She had competed in endurance races across the country for year when a friend asked, “When are you going to do one in Moab?”

She then established the Moab Canyons Endurance Ride. One hundred fifty riders and their horses will meet in the desert north of Moab this week for three days of 25 or 50-mile horse rides each day. This is the sixth annual race.

“What is great about endurance is taking a passion for horses and back country and putting them together,” Griffith said.

Much like marathons, endurance rides pulls both professional and amateur athletes.

“Some want to win, but others are there for a personal best and beat their own time,” Griffith said. “There are a few racing at the front, but the rest are enjoying the outdoors with their horses.”

Each horse is examined by a veterinarian before the race and then again in the middle of the race each day. They look for dehydration, fatigue, exhaustion, digestive issues, lack of luster or lameness.

“It’s completely controlled by veterinarians,” Griffith said. “It’s all about soundness. Any health issues with the horse and you’re disqualified.”

Endurance riders get a map and a flagged course. To earn points riders doing the 25-mile race have six hours to complete the course, riders on the 50-mile race have 12 hours.

“If you don’t want to earn points, just get in before sundown,” Griffith said.

Riders can choose to ride just one day, or all three. Each day’s ride must be accomplished on one horse, but riders may change horses each day.

“Some people will ride the same horse all three days,” Griffth said.

Griffith rides Arabians or Arabian/crosses. She said that a variety of horses are on the course, but there is one requirement.

“The horses must be fit,” Griffith said. “These horses are athletes.”

The same backcountry rules for other sportsman apply for endurance riders: Know where you’re going. Know where your water sources are.

“In this case, you have to take care of yourself and your horse,” she said.

And finally be prepared for the weather.

“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing,” she said. “If you’re prepared for the weather, you’re good.”