Long Rider Raises Funds on Horseback

Robert Collins is a rough rider: He takes rides that last more than a month and involve back roads and a lot of stamina. And the rides are entirely on horseback.

One 450-mile ride from Lake Tahoe to Oregon's Crater Lake took 56 days.

His latest, all the way from southern Idaho to Topanga Canyon, took three horses, 58 days and a lot of stamina.

But all Collins' miles benefit charity. Through sponsors' contributions, he has raised $32,000 over the past few years for the Reno chapter of Ride America Foundation, which uses horseback riding instead of the bike rides and walkathons used today by many charities.

Now he would like to start a chapter of the foundation in Southern California to raise money for needy children.

"I've gotten so much out of living on a ranch working the land," Collins said. "I wanted to give a little back."

With a Winchester .45-70-caliber rifle in his saddlebag ("a gift from a friend"), Collins, 60, has been working on ranches in Reno for the last 40 years.

He began working with the foundation there after doing charity work with Oscar-winning actor Ben Johnson, a cowboy-turned-actor in westerns such as "Shane," "Rio Grande" and "The Wild Bunch."

"We both enjoyed just helping children and wanted to do what we could," Collins said.

Collins has moved to the Topanga Canyon area to start the new chapter and take advantage of year-round fair weather.

In Reno, once winter started, "Fund-raising season was over until April," he said.

To find out more about the foundation, call (702) 352-4380.

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