A Postcard from Old Selam

Submitted by Karen Bumgarner

The Old Selam endurance ride near Centerville, ID, just North of Idaho City, is one of my all time favorite rides. The ride always delivers good footing, hills, scenery and creeks. Plus I love Idaho City, another old mining boomtown with many historic buildings. It’s always fun to take some time and check it out. I usually see something I haven’t paid attention to like the pictured jail, or as the sign calls it “Pest House”. Hard to believe these little towns had populations of around 3,000 in their prime during the gold rush.

The ridecamp is on Oscar Baumhoff’s property on the banks of Henry Creek, a mining hot bed in the 1860’s. This has been home to the ride since 1996. The ride was first held in 1976, when camp was near one of the old barns at the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, which closed in 1973. I first rode it in 1979, and we took a tour of the old prison which is now a museum and all the houses have since been restored.

“What an odd place for a ride?” is perhaps what you are pondering, and you might be thinking that I misspelled the name too. The ride name, Old Selam, is no mistake. Selam was a cart horse used at the prison. In his day he was a fine carriage and riding horse. But in 1901 the aging grey gelding was used as an escape vehicle; not once but twice!

On Christmas Eve in 1901, "Bob" Meeks, a member of the Butch Cassidy gang, was working around the hog pens in the prison complex when he unhitched Selam from the wagon and literally headed for the hills! Trackers found the harness Meeks cut from Selam and also where Meeks had gotten off Selam and walked alongside him as they climbed the steep hillsides. Meeks was re-captured on Christmas Day, and both he and Selam were returned to the prison.



The second escape was on December 30, 1901. As the lights in the prison began to dim that morning, an investigation showed that trustee Sam Bruner was not at his duty station in the power plant. A check of the prison revealed that Old Selam, as well as a saddle and bridle, were missing. The sheriff’s posse never caught Sam or Selam, who together made a rare and successful escape from the penitentiary.

Over the years I have ridden this ride about ten times on several different horses, usually a 50 miler but also as a 2-day 100 in 1980 on Sunny Spots R. The ride was darn tough as we left the old prison and traveled up the Boise Front, and it was easy to see why it was a 2-day 100 and not a one-day. The first day we had gorgeous warm weather and the next it was cold and raining! This is the old logo, on a completion award from 1980 that I still have.

Two day rides have gained popularity here in Idaho. The last few years the club that puts on the ride, Southwest Trail and Distance Rides (SWIT&DR), has taken advantage of the holiday weekend and provided riders with two days of trails! I had planned on riding the second day, just like last year, so I didn’t have to take any time off work or fight holiday traffic on Labor Day weekend. I tripped upon the post on Facebook to enter Easyboots free entry contest, and I was fortunate to be chosen. Thank-you Easyboot.

I drove up the winding mountain road to ride camp Saturday morning so I could volunteer and help with pulsing or whatever was needed. I arrived, set up camp, and then 50 mile horses were coming in off of loop 2. Taking pulses in vet checks is always a great learning experience and a good way to meet new riders. Awards and a tasty potluck dinner took place after the ride, followed by the ride meeting of all these many colored ribbons and loops which always confuses me! There would be a big reader board at the timers to help everyone know which loop was what combination of colors. 

Sunday morning, Sept 5, it was MY turn to ride. I was so excited. Yes I still get excited after all these years and miles because I just love to ride. I had my chestnut, Z Summer Thunder ready to go. Amanda Washington was riding my other horse, Z Blue Lightening. It isn’t often I get both horses out at once and I was thankful Amanda had wanted a horse to ride. She loves Blue and he was long overdue for a ride! Both horses were outfitted in Easyboot Gloves on all four barefoot hooves.

The first loop started uphill, which was a great way to settle the boys down and make them work. They needed to get their minds off tricks and spooks. The 20 mile loop traveled around the hills, through the woods with beautiful open vistas of the vast countryside. Lots of ups and downs, some over 5,000 feet elevation and camp was near 4100 feet. The footing was fantastic over old soft logging roads and pine needle covered trails.  Back in camp for a vet check and a 45 minute hold. Thunder had a 52 pulse and Blue had a 48 so yeah, we were riding hard! HAHA! I kept saying, I’m saving it for Steph’s 5 day ride.

Photo by Darlene Anderson.

The second loop was harder but we had many crossings of Grimes, Clear and Henry Creeks. The banks of which had piles of rock from dredging out gold ore in the old days. But the water was so perfectly clear! I looked but didn’t see any gold nuggets.


The horses had many opportunities to drink and soak their Glove covered hooves in the cold mountain creeks! This loop seemed endless as we’d climb up, drop down to a creek, then climb up again. But it was so beautiful that it was pretty hard to complain. The dirt roads sparkled with “fools gold” or micah, aka pyrite, which must have driven the miners absolutely nuts! A pristine view of Grimes Creek.

Z Blue Lightening and Amanda Washington climb up the heavily treed hill.

The last loop was 10 miles that was described as “Just some hill at first then flat.” Well I had to chuckle about that because I know that flat ground in this country is pretty rare. The little roller coaster loop also had some motorcycle moguls that slowed us down some. But like the other two loops, it was challenging and gorgeous.

I’m not sure where we finished, it didn’t matter because we had FUN! The boys looked great and our time was 6:50. The Gloves hadn’t given us any trouble at all, they never do. There were several other “booters” out there on both days. Easyboot had donated several pairs of Gloves that were awarded for Best Condition or High Vet Score both days.


One of the finer things about this ride was not one single horse needed to be treated. Everyone took good care of their horses and the veterinarians did a wonderful job. To say a great time was had by all is a huge understatement. I guess you just have to come ride it for yourself and experience Old Selam!

Karen Bumgarner


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