Pushing the envelope of equine athletic prowess, 37-year-old half-Arabian Elmer Bandit is gearing up to start yet another competitive trail ride season.

In 2007 Elmer’s certified lifetime competitive miles stood at 20,240, nearing the national record of Saddlebred Wing Tempo’s 20,710 miles.

Elmer’s lifelong owner and rider, Mary Anna Wood of Independence, Mo., said she plans to enter Elmer in eight rides this year, depending on her schedule and Elmer’s health, but she said she isn’t chasing any records.

“I don’t have a goal,” Wood commented. “If it happens, it happens.”

Elmer Bandit, pictured at age 35

Elmer in 2005 at the Three Barns Competitive Trail Ride.

Horses in the open division of competitive trail events cover around 60 miles over the course of two days. Veterinarians evaluate horses several times a day and allow the animals to continue only if heart and respiration rates are within set parameters. Soundness and metabolic criteria must also be met.

Jerry Weil, DVM, has vetted Elmer through numerous events, starting in the 1980s.

“I have never seen a horse his age complete like he does,” Weil observed. Weil attributed the horse’s success to the fact that he, “is structurally correct, a gentleman, and smart.”

Rhonda Gregory, DVM, vetted Elmer during his most recent completed ride in October 2007.

“Even at 36, Elmer was a highly competitive horse, and I could see he just didn’t want to be left behind,” Gregory observed.

Both Gregory and Weil noted arthritis could eventually compromise his trail career, but they still consider him sound to compete.

Elmer is entered to