Hashknife Pony Express rider gives thumbs up

Hashknife Pony Express rider John Veenendaal riding Odie, gives a thumbs up to the crowd during a practice run at the Heber-Overgaard Chamber of Commerce in 2019. This year’s ride dates will be April 14-16, 2021.

HOLBROOK — This year will mark the 63rd ride of the Sheriff’s Posse — Hashknife Pony Express. The 200-mile route typically takes place every February but was moved to April this year due to the pandemic.

The historical ride began in the late 1950s. Today, the cowboys and culture keepers ride their seasoned horses on the shoulder of the highway. This year’s ride begins with an official swearing in of the riders on Tuesday, April 13 at the Holbrook Courthouse.

The actual trek from Holbrook to Scottsdale begins Wednesday, April 14 and continues to Friday, April 16.

The Hashknife Pony Express riders’ journey begins at the Holbrook post office at 8 a.m., Wednesday, April 14. There are approximately 30 local riders that participate, working as a coordinated team as they carry and hand off the mail from section to section.

There are also about 30 support crew members who organize, coordinate and assist with every aspect of the ride, according to Ride Captain Mark Reynolds.

“We could not do this year after year without their amazing talents,” said Reynolds. “Navajo County Sheriff’s Office provides security, medical assistance and dispatching for emergencies. We also have a specialized mail crew, a cooking crew and multiple vehicles that drive in front of, and behind the riders, for added safety. We have people to open and close gates as the riders enter and exit.”

In addition, there are two farriers that ride in the Hashknife posse. If a horse throws a shoe, they can fix it on site.

“The posse also has a truck and horse trailer that follow along to transport any horse that sustains an injury — no matter how minor,” said Reynolds. “Several riders bring two or three horses so they can switch out as needed.”

They trot and gallop over the route as safety dictates, covering each mile in 7 to 10 minutes. Each rider goes a mile and then hands off to the next rider. This method makes the ride go faster and keeps everyone from stress and overexertion said Reynolds.

“Our horses are conditioned for the ride and we make sure everyone stays fresh and alert,” said Reynolds. “The ride itself is done at a trot or leisurely gallop — it’s not a full out run as depicted in some pictures. But, the riders are skilled and generally hand-off the mail bags at a full gallop which takes practice.”

2021 Rider scheduleTheir prerequisite swearing in of the riders takes place at the Holbrook Old Courthouse on Tuesday, April 13 at 12 p.m. or “high noon,” says Reynolds.

The first leg of the ride will be Wednesday, April 14 at 8 a.m., sharp. It leaves from Holbrook post office and travels to the Overgaard post office where the riders will pick up the mail bags. Then they ride to the Heber post office and pick up more mail.

From Heber, the riders travel to the Creekside Steakhouse. This is also on April 14. Some will have lunch there while others will depart and head to the post office in Pine. They are expected to arrive about 1:30 p.m.

From the Pine post office, they will travel to Payson and stop at Stage retail store parking lot at approximately 4:30 p.m. From that area, they will be escorted by the local police all the way to the Payson post office.

Thursday, April 15, the riders will leave the Payson post office at 9 a.m. and head to the Fountain Hills post office. They are expected to arrive about 3 p.m.

They will camp out overnight in the Verde River area of Fort McDowell to prepare for the final leg of the route on Friday, April 16. They will leave the river area at 9 a.m. to deliver the mail into Scottsdale.

The riders should arrive 12 p.m., high noon, at the San Francisco Giants Stadium at the corner of Osborne and Drinkwater in Scottsdale.

A preliminary “meet and greet” event is tentatively planned to happen April 10 in Heber/Overgaard. More information will be provided as the event nears. If you need additional information, contact Mark Reynolds at 928-587-5742 or hashknifecaptain@yahoo.com.

Note: If you come to the swearing in or any of the stops along the ride, please practice social distancing and wear a mask to protect yourself and the riders. This applies to all Hashknife Pony Express events.

Send a letter

via Pony ExpressSpecial Hashknife mail barrels will be outside post offices along the route by March 1, 2021. Look for them at the Holbrook, Heber, Overgaard, Pine, Creekside, Payson and Fountain Hills post offices.

Merchandise, posters and mailers will be sold (as available) at the following locations: Old Courthouse/Chamber of Commerce in Holbrook, Heber/Overgaard Chamber of Commerce, Creekside Steakhouse, Payson post office, Pine post office, Fountain Hills post office and the San Francisco Giants Stadium in Scottsdale.

Bob’s Western Wear in Payson and The Museum of the West on 1st Street and Marhsall Way in Scottsdale will sell Hashknife Pony Express memorabilia.

Support Hashknife historyTo commemorate and memorialize the western history, a life-size, bronze statue of a mounted Hashknife Pony Express rider will be built in downtown Holbrook. The monument will cost $88,000 and the goal is to have it completed in two years. Donations of any amount, no matter how small, are welcomed. To donate or to reserve a paver, call Ophelia Lange at 928-814-2372 or Mildred Foutz at 928-241-0495.

Reach the reporter at lsingleton@wmicentral.com

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