US endurance rider, official, and advocate Anne Ayala died late last month at the age of 72 after suffering from cancer for eight years.
Ayala rode over 3700 miles in her remarkable partnership with Overlook Nuryev, better known as Beau. The pair were the recipients of the 2000 AERC Pard’ners Award given annually to a horse and rider team that best exemplifies the unique bond between horse and rider.
She was the visionary and driving force behind bringing the trail system at the Biltmore Estate up to the par that one rider regarded as an endurance rider’s DisneyWorld. Those trails have been the underpinning for the 3-day Western North Carolina 3-day 100, for multiple NATRC rides, for Mountin’ Hopes Fall Fling, and for the Biltmore Challenge endurance ride. Not only was Ayla a rider and trail master, she was a respected organizer, bringing the National Championship ride to Biltmore in the fall of 2012.
Ayala supported the endurance community in other ways – advocating international endurance competition, becoming a judge, technical delegate and steward in multiple countries. She used her recognized organizational and people skills to bring smooth operations in multiple venues – and it certainly helped that she spoke English, French, and Spanish.
After being stricken with cancer in 2004 just before the spring Biltmore Challenge, Ayala saw the ride through as ride manager, and came back the following year, in 2005, vowing that would be her final year managing the ride.
Ayala’s cancer was in remission from 2005 to 2011. During that period, in addition to her officiating at endurance events and helping organize those at Biltmore, she help found, and became treasurer of A Partnership for Endurance Xcellence (APEX). She did all the 501C3 paperwork to ensure that it would be a recognized not-for-profit entity, and did all the tax returns required each year. Ayala identified clinicians who would be effective in the endurance community – and to the sport horse community at large. She was instrumental in bringing Centered Riding clinics with Susan Harris to Biltmore Equestrian Center.
After more than five years of operation, the Board of Directors of APEX decided to close down the organization, and transfer the assets to the Southeast Endurance Riders Association (SERA). Despite being ill with the resurgence of the cancer, Ayala honchoed all the required paperwork to make the transfer of the assets to SERA fully successful.
Anne Ayala (October 16, 1940 – December 27, 2012) is survived by her husband of 50 years, Ken.