The lessons in Elmer Bandit’s life

Elmer Bandit and Mary Anna Wood
Elmer Bandit with Mary Anna Wood during a trail ride in October, 2006, in the Kansas Flint Hills. © Olivia Huddleson

Those who have followed the exploits of Elmer Bandit will no doubt see the important truths that this fine horse and his owner, Mary Anna Wood, have shown us.

Elmer died on Sunday in Missouri, only two months short of his 39th birthday.

Horsetalk has followed the exploits of Elmer and Mary Anna for several years, as they racked up their competitive trail-riding miles and, in 2008, claimed the US national record for total miles, previously held by Wing Tempo.

His career tally at his death stood at 20,780 miles.

Elmer owed his long life to good genes, good conformation, a positive outlook on life, and the care and attention of Mary Anna.

Mary Anna spent 30 minutes talking to Horsetalk following his death.

Who wouldn’t be saddened by the death of a horse you bred and owned for 38 years?

But Mary Anna recognised that the life of Elmer Bandit was one to be celebrated. It was a privilege to know him, and Mary Anna well knows that.

It has always been a pleasure to report on his exploits, whether it was the completion of another trail-ride or one of his regular dressage lessons.

So what has this pair taught us?

Few horses will be destined for the great age achieved by Elmer, and even fewer will come close to matching his durability.

But life is more about the journey than the destination. The real story of Elmer Bandit is not about a record mileage. It is about a horse and his owner who enjoyed countless hours together on the wilderness trails of the United States.

It is about a pair who journeyed through life together for nearly four decades and enjoyed that unique relationship formed between a horse and rider.

Horses are little different to people. There is no substitute for experience.

Mary Anna recognised that and saw no point in bringing in a “young gun” when Elmer was still on his game.

Elmer Bandit was an inspiration to horse owners around the world. He showed us all that age is no barrier, that horses are there to be ridden, and shows us just what can be achieved.

That, I think, will be his greatest legacy.

One thought on “The lessons in Elmer Bandit’s life

  • February 17, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    In an era when horses are often seen as disposable cash cows it has been a pleasure to follow Elmer and Mary Anna’s adventures.
    I do hope Mary Anna has the desire to start again with another partner.


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