MAARS and the KSUARC (with a lot of help from other hams) had a unique opportunity to show the world how Amateur Radio can provide emergency field communication under adverse conditions. We provided communication support and data management for two nonprofit 100-MILE ENDURANCE HORSE RACES. The first (regional) race was held on October 14, 1995, and about 50 hams from many parts of Kansas had a good time and learned a lot about field communication. The second (international) race was held on September 21, 1996, with 86 horses from 16 countries, and about 80 hams.

The track for both races meanders around Geary county in a 16-mile by 16-mile area south of I-70. All horses start at the same time early in the morning, with only one rider per horse permitted for the entire race. The horses are required to stop at six Veterinary Check Points and rest along the way until their heart rate drops to 64 beats per second and then rest an additional 30 minutes. (This reduces the chance of a horse being injured.)

Our jobs were to:

  1. Send results from the Vet Check Points to the headquarters at Rock Springs 4-H Camp Ground by a 440 MHz repeater. [We passed and processed 1,117 messages with the official times, locations, etc.]

  2. Keep all officials in touch with all points of the race track and headquarters with a 2-meter repeater.

  3. Provide health/welfare communication from road crossings and some of the pasture gates along the track.

  4. Process all of the official data and distribute it by hard copy, packet radio, ATV and world-wide by the Internet. The first two horses finished in about 9-1/2 hours. They were a mother and daughter on the USA team; but that's another story all by itself. About 40% of the horses were not able to finish the race. We installed three portable towers, two repeaters, many antennas, and we all are better prepared for emergency communication.


We all had a once in a lifetime experience and I think most of us would do it again; even though we gave more than we ever expected to. I think we showed the world that a bunch of amateur radio volunteers from the middle of the USA can do an excellent job; more than they expected and even more than we expected thanks to a some really dedicated people. There are so many special experiences that I noticed and I'm sure you have more to add:

  1. health and welfare communicators getting a Hungarian translator to help the first rider out of the race;

  2. getting the data (when it was available) to the HQ computer in just a matter of minutes;

  3. many emergencies that we resolved;

  4. crowds gathered around computer printouts sent by packet to the finish line; and

  5. a thank you message from someone in Sweden because they were able to follow their relative in the race via our data on the internet. Yes, there were some problems and some disappointments but we learned from them and they were kind of exciting, too. There were about 80 of us working communications during the race. I've had a chance to thank many of you personally but others got away before I could even say hello or goodbye. You should all know that your work was really appreciated. I wish I had time to call you all or stop by and say thanks but I think you know how important everyone was to the success of our job. Many of you started long before the 1995 race; putting up towers, making field tests and getting ready for that race. We learned a lot from each event and would probably keep learning more if we did it every year.

I can think of a dozen people who made more than a dozen trips each to Geary county to prepare for the race and take down equipment. The prize for driving the farthest for the race goes to Mike Pope, KB6NIZ from Sherman, Texas. His wife is the one really interested in horses but when she couldn't come to the race he came anyway, and was always there to help. Ken Thompson, NØITL probably drove the most total miles. I lost track of the number of times he drove from Wichita to make GPS maps of the track and work on the packet software and hardware.

The youngest ham was 13-year-old Daniel Soldan, KBØOTV, followed closely by 14-year-old Joey Brown, KBØYKG. They both worked long and hard. The oldest ham was Steve Schultz, WØCHJ. We won't say how old Steve is, but he was 72 when Daniel was born. In my opinion the Ham who made the biggest total impact on the race was Farren Constable, KBØAZJ. He spent MANY, MANY hours developing the software and hardware for the data management system. And most of you didn't even get to see the computer-based ATV system he developed that we could only run closed-circuit because the transmitter interfered with the 440 MHz voice reception.

A special thanks to three guys from "Pot" county; Kermit Fairbanks, KBØEEF, Frances Sable, WØEVJ and Fred Stueve, KØTCS and all of the others who spent many days before and after both races working in Geary county. The Kaw Valley Club of Topeka furnished a dozen operators for each race. We couldn't have done it without them. Don't forget the 2-meter repeater loaned to us by the Colorado Repeater Association. Finally, a special thanks to my XYL Phyllis, NØMJB who was always there and knew where to find everything. I think she had as much fun as I did. Well, it's all over now, but we have some good memories and experiences. Thank you all for your time, your knowledge and your equipment. I (and many people you'll never meet) really appreciate everything you did. Send me any written or recorded comments that you'd like to share about the race to put into a file for future reference.

Roger Medlin, WØHLU, is sending an article to QST about the race. Watch for it. Best regards until the next "com" job comes our way. We can handle it!

Thanks to Norm Dillman, NØJCC for this great article.