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Jan. 21, 2022

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Idaho girl hailed for riding horse 290 miles in 9 days

11-year-old earns local recognition and national ranking for endurance

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BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho girl earned local recognition and a national ranking after riding hundreds of miles on her horse over just a few days in a series of equestrian endurance competitions known as the Idaho IronHorse.

Eleven-year-old Olivia Valtierra, of Eagle, began endurance riding this year. The sport involves riding long distances on horseback in organized events, sometimes covering as much as 50 miles in one day. It’s a sport Olivia’s mother and grandmother did, and Olivia, along with her 19-year-old Arabian gelding Tai Juan, followed in their footsteps this summer and fall.

Olivia completed three events last three days each, known as Pioneer rides, across Idaho, covering 25 to 35 miles each day as part of the “limited distance” category. The sixth grader is one of only a few juniors, or riders ages 15 and younger, to compete in the Idaho IronHorse.

This year, she was one of only two riders — including adults — to complete the Limited Distance IronHorse, finishing three of the four IronHorse Pioneer rides on the same horse.

Her accomplishment also saw her nationally ranked — Olivia was No. 2 in the American Endurance Ride Conference’s limited-distance championship for juniors. Together, she and Tai Juan covered 290 miles in nine days.

“My favorite part was getting places people can’t walk to and four-wheelers and bikes and cars can’t go,” Olivia said in a phone interview.

Jessica Huber, founder of the Idaho IronHorse and ride manager for the final event in the challenge, said there are several factors that make Olivia’s accomplishment so impressive. Huber said that in the three years the IronHorse has been running, only three juniors have completed a category. Olivia is the first Idaho resident to do so, while the other two junior completers were from Oregon.

“She’s definitely our youngest one to complete,” Huber said. “To do what she did is not easy for an adult, much less a kiddo her age.”

According to Huber, only a fraction of riders complete the IronHorse each year.

“Usually at the end (of the first event), we have 40 people in contention,” she said. “This year, we had four complete in different divisions. It’s not easy. It takes some forethought, some planning. You gotta go out and condition your horse.”

Huber and Olivia’s mother, Jessica Valtierra, said each ride involves multiple vet checks, as well as excellent horse care from each rider.

“Those horses get taken care of pretty well, and Olivia’s out there rubbing ointment (on her horse) after each ride,” Jessica Valtierra said.

Olivia said she first heard about the IronHorse from friends she met at a horseback-riding camp. After completing the first ride in the series, a three-day ride through City of Rocks in June, she decided to try to finish the limited-distance category.

Olivia also rode in the Top o’ the World event in July, which follows the Continental Divide along the Idaho-Montana border.

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