Saturday, July 31, 2010

Crewing Tevis: Part III - "Gawd I Love That Horse!"

Friday July 22 2010

...And now we wait. Our riders are out at 8:30 PM onto the California loop, from Foresthill heading to Auburn. In between are 32 miles of switchbacks, cliffs (slip-and-fall-and-you-die cliff trails), pitch darkness, moonlight, rocks, dust, maybe some hallucinations, that godawful forever-long never-ending 17-mile stretch to Francisco's, the American River crossing, and just maybe that last magical 4-mile stretch to the lights of Auburn and the finish line by 5:15 AM.

Our riders won't be in for approximately 8 hours. We pack up and leave Foresthill, and by the time we are pulling into the Auburn fairgrounds 20 miles away after 10 PM, I get a tweet saying the finishers will be in any minute. The finishers!

Bruce drops me off and I hoof it with effort (it's still warm and muggy in Auburn at night) to the finish line. I've already missed the finish, but I make it to the vets to watch John Crandell trot out Heraldic, and Shannon Constanti trot out LR Bold Greyson - and we have the first and second place finishers of the 55th running of the Tevis Cup - a feat Heraldic and John duplicated in 2006. Our riders, Nance and Steph and the Yosts will be over six hours behind the winners - a fact I found astounding when I rode it last year, because the whole 100 miles I felt we were riding so fast the entire ride. Any horse that finishes Tevis blows me away, so there really aren't words for winning horses like this. The next riders were nearly 2 hours behind them.

I went to our camping spot in one of the parking lots to help Bruce set up the pens. Bruce and Nance had tried keeping Quinn in a stall after they finished Tevis in 2007, but, not being used to a stall, Quinn spent the whole next day rather traumatized, stuck to the door of his stall with his head out looking worried, and not eating or drinking. Last year and this year we went for the parking lot. That's the only complaint I have about the Auburn fairgrounds - if you want to stake your horse out or high-tie him to a trailer, he's going to be on a cement parking lot, with no comfortable place to lie down. There are the sand arenas, but they are for sharing, and briefly turning horses into, not camping in. I felt bad for our horses because I was sure they'd have chosen to lay down at some point over the next 24 hours we'd be camped there... but the hard lot was better than a stall for our horses.

It was hell trying to pound holes in the cement to put up our stakes for the pens, and even more-so because I was starting to not think too clearly. The craving for sleep was starting to gnaw at my bones, fuzz the edges of my brain. After getting the pens set up haphazardly (mostly done by Bruce), I set up my tent (which seemed to take a long time) and crawled in for a couple of hours, though a sleep never came, and the dozing made me more muddled than ever. I so wanted to stay in my tent for several hours, but I had to be at the finish line to witness Nick Warhol and Forever Dawn, and The Raven come in.

I crawled back to my feet and staggered to the finish line around 2:30 AM to wait. There, those crews in the know had brought chairs, blankets, and sleeping bags to snooze and doze in until their riders came in. A couple of volunteers were manning the computers, keeping track of riders; everybody would come check on the status of their riders as the morning ticked away. Here I heard 12 horses had pulled at Francisco's, including front runners Melissa Ribley and Heather Reynolds. Nicole Chappell and her Golden Knight had also pulled here - they didn't finish Tevis this year, but Nicole had made it safely past those tens of miles of cliffs in Tevis that had haunted her the past several years. Victoria Saiita and her mustang Lakota had made it to the Lower Quarry - 94 miles - in their first Tevis and were pulled. Sue Hedgecock and Alburuke had made it to Chickenhawk at 64 miles before being pulled. Carla Richardson and SS Kharady Khid were pulled at Red Star Ridge at 28 miles when Khid mildly colicked the first time ever in his life, but Carla still expressed gratitude for the wonderful ride her wonderful horse had given her.

People waiting at the finish line snored, or murmured to each other with gravelly tired voices while playing the Waiting Game. I was looking around for Nick's wife Judy, to ask her when she expected Nick, but I couldn't find her... though I probably walked right past her. What I did see was Nance laying in a sleeping bag. What!? I almost yelled at her, but instead hovered over her, staring at her wondering what the heck happened. Was I sure that was Nance? Yes! That was Nance's face, that was her haircut and her blond/brown hair... and just short of shrieking at her "NANCE WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE SLEEPING!?" a kid sitting near Nance in a chair said, "Umm... that's my mom!" I looked up at him - huh? I didn't recognize him, and Nance didn't have a kid who had come with us... I mumbled my apologies and stumbled away to lay down, still trying to figure out how that woman could look exactly like Nance. I still to this day don't know if that was a hallucination or what...

Every once in a while the Finish Line volunteer hollered, "Horse Coming In!" Some people jumped up, some of us laid there and clapped and whistled, or continued dozing. It was getting painful to stay awake, but sleeping again at this point wouldn't make it any better, so I stayed up to cheer for those riders coming in (and nobody was pulled at the finish this year, Yeahoo!).

There was Mr Hasumi, coming in at 3 AM - achieving his 7th Tevis finish in a row! Three minutes later two big strong brown and chestnut horses and smiling riders - Jennifer Neihaus and her mom Joyce Sousa! Forty minutes later another big cheer for the gal wearing the biggest smile on the planet despite her aching un-healed bandaged leg - Melissa Margetts! "It wasn't ME who really had the huge challenge. It was 100% Cabo!" she said later. "Cabo didn't dump my butt right there [on Cougar Rock] and high-tail it back to Auburn. He 'chose' to take care of me. GAWD I LOVE THAT HORSE!"

Five minutes later, at 3:48 AM - here came Nick Warhol and Forever Dawn - and THE RAVEN! That made TWO Tevis finishes for The Raven! (still happily strapped, tied, and taped in Nick's water bottle holder staring up at the sky.) In fact, that now puts The Raven five miles ahead of ME in AERC miles! I'll never catch up with him now!

At 4:03 AM - big cheers for Canadian Brook - carrying Barbara White to her thirtieth Tevis finish! I got choked up on that one, both when she crossed the line, and when I heard the cheers at the trot out a few minutes later.

The Yost family finished at 4:16, giving Gentry his first Tevis finish, junior Chandler her second in a row, and mom Laura her third finish.

And Steph and Nance were somewhere behind therm... so Bruce and I waited... and waited.

We cheered for Connie Creech (her 9th Tevis finish) and Dave Rabe (his 10th finish), and Wyoming rider Jack Evers and Baraka Musandi, who'd gone just overtime last year. And as the clock ticked toward 4:50 AM, we started to look at our watches. 4:53, 4:54, 4:55 AM... not here yet. The finish line crowd was starting to dwindle. Those of us remaining looked at each other... who was left? Who was going to make it?

"We finished last year at 4:56 AM. I bet they'll come in then!" I said. They didn't.

"Rider coming in!" We'd jump up... but it was a gray horse. "Riders coming in!" but it was two gray horses. Gray horses kept arriving. What were the odds that they were all gray?? Where were our riders??

4:58 - "Riders coming in!" A bay and a chestnut - Steph and Nance! Rhett and Jazzbo trotted across the line as Bruce and I cheered and ran up to them. A big long drink for the boys and we headed to the vets and thought... this is it...

Rhett trotted out - sound - the vet said Congratulations, and Steph burst into tears. And when Jazzbo trotted out sound we laughed and cried and hugged and just about worshipped our horses. "He was amazing!" Steph said "He never ever didn't give!" Rhett had that look in his eye like - Wow, what a ride.

This challenging sport we do, this crazy ride called Tevis, and these amazing, extraordinary, wonderful, giving horses - they'd done it and done it well. Bravo!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Crewing Tevis: Part II

Friday July 22 2010

Packing up and leaving the chaos of Robinson Fat vet check behind us, we had a somewhat leisurely 8 or so hours to set up at Foresthill (45 minutes by road, 32 miles by trail) for the second and last hour-vet check... and to wait.

After we found a sweet crewing spot for our 5 riders (a tucked-away corner shaded by trees, with room for both vehicles and all the gear!) - we drove off for a treat - the real reason, I'd told Nance, that I was crewing for her: In N Out Burger in Auburn! The closest In N Out Burger to Idaho is Reno. No way I was passing up this opportunity! Fortunately the Yost crew I was riding with (Chris, Kara, granddaughters Burkleigh and Kennedy) wanted it as bad as I did. Did we really deserve such a heavenly treat after our crewing-challenged Robinson Flat affair? Sure we did. We hadn't had anything to eat since 8 AM. We picked up a burger for Bruce, who had shuttled John and Susan Favro to Auburn to get their own pickup.

Back at Foresthill, we'd just missed the top two riders going out - John Crandell and Heraldic, and Shannon Constanti and LR Bold Greyson (owned by Crandell), who were 40 minutes ahead of the next rider, Rachel Shackelford and BR Cody De Soi. (Rachel ended up getting pulled here.) The next riders were an hour and 15 minutes behind them.

it was hot. And humid. I was coated in a constant sheen of sweat - unless it was replaced with water I poured down my back and front. I could only think of (and worry a bit about) Steph and Rhett, Nance and Jazzbo, and the Yost family, probably heading for that second killer canyon right about now - the cloying heat, dust, very rocky trail downhill for miles, the long line of riders they might be in; the killer climb back out of the canyon - miles long, steep, and hard - the horses huffing and puffing, drenched in sweat from head to toe, heartrates soaring as they fought that uphill climb. It was the trail where we passed the dead horse last year. (This year, that part of the trail was lined with flowers. And later I heard another horse fell off the trail at the same place... the rider said the horse acted like she saw something.... the ghost of last year's horse, and backed off the trail... the horse was later rescued and unhurt. You never really know, do you?).

We waited around Foresthill, visited, watched other crews getting ready for their faster riders to come in, lining the long uphill road through the forest that led into Foresthill.

A wave of riders began coming in at 5:40 PM, with groups of crews jumping on the horses to unsaddle, strip boots, and sponge them down. Yellow shirted Tevis volunteers were everywhere - men, women, young, old - they filled water troughs and buckets, sprayed horses with water hoses, and handed out carrots; and residents whose houses lined the road sat in their back yards and watched. We all clapped and cheered for those horses and riders coming in - some riders had
happy tears, some got hugs of encouragement and congratulations. It lifts your spirits after that long slog of 68 rough miles to have people cheering for you as you come into the oasis of Foresthill.

Fourth to arrive was Kassandra DiMaggio. Four weeks ago she was successfully riding TS Diamond Chip in the West Selection Trails - 80 miles at a canter - aiming for a slot on the World Endurance Championship. She decided to come to Tevis instead. They'd finished 13th in the Tevis last year and they were looking strong coming into Foresthill.

Coming in 7th was Melissa Ribley, her Robinson Flat-stitched cheek now swollen under the bandages, but looking as unperturbed, and willing to go on as her horse Monique who passed the vet check.

Ann Hall was waiting to crew for her husband Hal and Dreamm On (in 15th place, looking for his 27th buckle) and Mr Hasumii on SMR Zoltaan (in 20th place). She'd gotten word that Mr Hasumii had been pulled, but it turned out his number (#22) had been confused with Jeremy Reynolds (#32) who had been pulled at Last Chance at 50 miles (Jeremy's horse had fallen and cut his knee - he was okay, but was pulled). So Mr Hasumii was still in the hunt for his 7th consecutive Tevis buckle. When his horse trotted out sound for the vets, he gave the OK sign and got a cheer from the watching spectators.

Kristine Hartman and Klassy Sam arrived in 19th place. I'd met Kristine at the Virginia City 100 last November when her horse suddenly colicked at 77 miles. Kristine was in near shock as Sam was hauled off to a vet clinic. He spent several weeks in the hospital, and Kristine was wondering if she'd ever want to do endurance again. But Sam returned to endurance this year with a few 50 mile rides, winning one, indicating Sam might be back to his old self. Kristine was having a good time with a big smile on her face with a tired, but happy horse.

Probably nobody happier to arrive at Forest Hill (and just to be riding the Tevis) was Melissa Margetts, grinning ear to ear on a strong looking Cabo. Melissa unfolded her packed cane and prepared to dismount and hobble around on her brace as her Paso Fino vetted in - and passed.

We'd arrived last year at Foresthill around 8:30. This year cut off in-time was 8:30. The Yost gang arrived at 7:43, and we expected Nance and Steph soon after. But we waited... and waited... and started looking at our watches...

Finally at 8:02 they came walking up the road, grinning, dirty; we stripped the horses' tack and sponged and hosed them down while Susan cleaned the riders' filthy faces. After all that climbing and descending, after those hot hot canyons (Nance said they were hotter this year than in 2009 and 2007), Rhett's pulse rate was down in a few minutes - wow. They just get stronger as the day goes on. They pulsed down at 8:07, passed the vet check, and were set to conquer the final third of the Tevis trails!

Our riders and horses were treated like a kings and queens at this Foresthill vet check, where we had everything anybody wanted. Food? Cold Starbucks? Oats? Beet pulp? Senior? A mix of the three with a dash of water? Sandwich? Frozen fruit smoothies? (Yes, Susan Favro brought a blender and made fruit/protein/energy smoothies for everybody!) Hay? Alfalfa? Cold water and gatorade for your saddle packs? Chairs? Massage? Cooler air with the sunset? (OK, we didn't have anything to do with that.) Fresh saddlepads? Glowsticks taped on breastcollars? I even had Steph's headlamp for her helmet in my pocket ready to hand her when she asked for it. We had it all here, and we had more, and we had it all ready.

After sitting down Steph realized how tired she was, and when we started saddling the horses back up, they stopped eating and thought about how tired they were. But we got our riders and horses ready to go out on time, and they all had that Let's Get Down The Trail look in their eye. "Let's get it done!"

I saw Barbara White during her hour hold - Barbara going for her 30th Tevis buckle, and gave her a good luck hug, as well as her mom Julie Suhr, who was waiting with her. They all had 32 more miles to go to the finish. We sent them all away with a cheer and the good luck refrain:

"See you in Auburn!"

(The Raven and Nick Warhol and Don continue on from Foresthill too!)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crewing Tevis: Part I

Thursday July 21 2010

...And I came to crew.

It all seemed so easy. I'd crewed for endurance riders before. I crewed for international rider Charisse Glenn at the West Selection Trials in June. Heck, I'd crewed for myself before. I know how to crew. Everybody says it's hard, but how hard could crewing Tevis really be?

6 crew people for 5 Idaho riders. Only 2 vet checks, at Robinson Flat and Forest Hill, 1 hour each. Two bags each for Nance and Steph, one for each vet check, and a 'go everywhere' pile; one bag and a small ice chest for the three Yosts to both vet checks (the bag was big enough and heavy enough to carry an extra horse!).

We had set out the gear in the correct piles the night before. All set, ready to load in a car and a pickup in the morning.

It all went to pot from there.

In the too-early hours of the morning our 5 riders - Steph and Nance, and Gentry, Laura and (junior) Chandler Yost - (and somewhere out there with Nick Warhol on Forever Dawn was The Raven!) - headed to the starting line. Their hoofbeats disappeared into the dark forest, Tevis excitement animating Rhett and following them out of our camp.
Darn, I wish I were riding!

For some reason, in camp we crew started moving piles of bags back and forth, between the car and truck, and then forth and back again, until they were totally mixed up (all except the Yosts' One Big Bag and ice chest). That's OK, the car that Kara and I and her two granddaughters were riding in would get to Robinson before the truck, and we'd have the essential items just in case the truck didn't make it. But it would all get there.

Finally packed up and loaded up and ready to leave Robie Park, we waited till exactly 5:30 AM as instructed by the Tevis Cup Committee to start our engines (though many were already driving out). We joined the line of trucks and trailers flooding out the back road to Truckee as dawn crept over the mountains.

The fine Sierra Nevada dust - the dust that horses and riders would breathe for 100 miles and at least 18 hours - was rising like a film in the air as our vehicles snaked down the logging road.
I'm glad I'm not riding!

To get to Robinson Flat, which is 36 miles by trail for the riders, we had to drive west almost all the way to Auburn (the final destination of the ride, and where the men dropped off the trucks and horse trailers) before turning back east to drive back to Robinson - a total of around 150 miles. The good thing about that was we had time for breakfast - a Starbucks stop to start the day!
I'm glad I'm not riding!

As we wound our way along a long ridge-top toward Robinson Flat, the deep canyons and granite cliffs of the Sierra Nevadas lined with pine and fir forests flanked our sides, and I thought, Darn, I wish I were riding!

There was already a line of parked cars at Robinson Flat lining the single-lane road, and the volunteer traffic director had us wait in line for a while before we could drive in to the vet check and drop our things off. Kara dropped me and the two kids and our gear, then went to park the car down the road. The heat was already getting to me (in the 80's in the sun, at 9 AM) as we three girls struggled to get the silly aluminum cart together so we could roll our gear to a crewing spot.

We never did get the cart completely unfolded; we stuffed what we could into the thing, and Burkleigh helped me pull the cart while Kennedy steadied the load and carried an armful of things on her shoulders.

Other crews were already set up, staking out spots, filling water buckets and heading to the in-trail, mixing feed and setting out hay for their riders. More trucks were dropping off crews and gear. It was starting to get busy. The girls and I struggled with the cart - for some reason we picked an uphill spot - until some nice young savior man came and helped pull the cart up the thick dirt trail while I pushed. Hmm, a lower spot would have been better, but, here we were.

We unloaded our gear (the men would bring the rest when they arrived), and boy was I already hot and soaked with sweat.

I could picture Steph and, Nance, cruising on their mighty steeds Rhett and Jazzbo, trotting along the ridge to Elephant's Trunk with that stunning view off both sides of the trail...
Darn, I wish I were riding!
I also pictured the very unforgiving rocky, slippery, boggy trail through the Granite Chief Wilderness they were passing through, and all that choking dust... And it might be even hotter out on that trail...
I'm glad I'm not riding!

I ran to the in-timers with my camera, camera, camera, notepad, recorder, and iPhone camera. I can't ever just do one thing at once (like crewing), I had to be reporting too, for and the live Tevis webcast.

Some of us who were waiting could get cell reception, so we could check the tweets going out, but the "follow your rider" and vet stop results on the Live Webcast page were inaccessible by iPhone, so most of us had to rely on swirling rumors that this horse or that horse was pulled at Red Star, or Lyon Ridge; that a record number of horses were already pulled (! hopefully not our riders!); that it was so hot the riders were an hour behind last year's time coming into Robinson; that a horse fell in the bogs and was wedged upside down...

One of the sucky parts of waiting as a crew at Robinson is that you really don't know what's going on out on the trail.

John Crandell and Heraldic, Shannon Constanti and LR Bold Greyson (owned by Crandell), and Rachel Shackelford and BR Cody De Soi are the first ones into Robinson. The horses vet through fine. Melissa Ribley and Monique (second, and the Haggin Cup winner last year) are next - and Melissa's face and shirt are covered in blood. Her face was attacked by a tree on the trail. She vets her horse through and makes sure everything is ready to go out before she's stitched up by someone during the vet check (30 stitches was the rumor).

I catch other riders coming in, watch some cooling off, pulsing down, and trotting out, then go check on our crewing spot. The men have arrived, and our gear has been moved to 2 different spots. I pack my cameras away, and go to join the rest of our crew waiting for our riders.

That's the thing: waiting. You wait, cheer for other riders coming in, look in vain for your own riders... and wait. Look at your watch. Jump up when you see a chestnut and bay horse at the far end of the road... and sit back down when you see it's not Nance and Steph. Wait some more. Look at your watch some more and... not start to worry yet, but look at your watch again and again and try to slow down the big hand. Suggested in-time for Robinson was 11 AM; cut off in-time was Noon. We arrived last year around 11:30. The 3 Yosts came in around 11:15 - and they'd been about 10 minutes behind Steph and Nance leaving Robie Park. "They had trouble coming down at one of the checks" was the rumor... "They're about 15 minutes behind, we think." Coming down - what, the trail? Horse pulse rates? What?

OK, no reason to worry just yet, but more riders came in... and no Nance and Steph. Finally, about 11:30, here they came, giving each other a high five as we cheered them in.

But there was a little reason to worry. Pulse criteria here was 60 bpm. And I must say I eyed my watch anxiously as it took Rhett a long time to come down (and it worried me about the hot canyons coming up for him.) We poured copious amounts of water on him, then brought him and Jazzbo into the shade to... wait. Jazzbo's pulse was down, but if he went to vet through without Rhett, they'd both be screaming (by now they were total Bondo Boys) and their pulses would shoot up to over a hundred. And we waited some more for that pulse to drop down, as we kept our eyes on the heart rate monitor - 78, 76, 74, 80, 83, 80, 78, 78, come ON, DROP!, 76, 72, 72, 72... and the clock kept ticking. Finally his pulse hit 64 - good enough to walk into the pulse box with Jazzbo - (must have taken a good 20 minutes... which now put Steph and Nance at 10 minutes ahead of cut off time...) and the horses vetted on through.

Which left only 40 minutes or so of 'rest.'

And then, things went downhill fast as we climbed uphill to our crew area.

Rider: "Where's the food?"
Crew: "Uh....."
Rider: "Where's my coffee? (cold canned Starbucks)"
Crew: "Uh...."
Rider: "Where's my cool vest?"
Crew: "I KNOW that's here somewhere, I pulled them out to soak in water!"
Rider: "Where's Rhett's food?"
Crew: "Uh...."
Rider: "There's no people food or horse food?"
Crew: "Uh...."
Rider: "There's nothing cold to drink?"
Crew: "Uh...."
Rider: "Is there any water?"
Crew: "Uh...."
Riders: A bit of laughter, bordering on hysteria.
Crew: "Uh.... whose brushing boots are these?"
Rider: "Not mine."
Rider: "Not mine."
Crew: "Uh oh..."
Rider: "So where are those vests??"
Rider: "Where are the snacks I had for the trail??"
Crew: "Uhhh..."
Rider: "Where's my bridle?"
Crew: "Uhhh..."

Dang, I wish I were riding!.

You get the picture.

It was determined that the food and drinks for Steph and Nance, and Rhett's grain, never made it up from the truck - which was parked waaaaaaaaay down that hill. The men left to go get the food and water. Which was hot when it arrived.
I hate crewing, I so wish I were riding!
I filled Steph's water bottles with hot water, for those hot canyons coming up.
But I'm soooooo glad I'm not riding!

There's probably much more to the sordid Robinson Flat Crewing hour hold that I've forgotten now, and anyway, after the worst most inglorious crewing job ever, we did manage to get our riders off on time for the second 32 mile segment of the Tevis trail to Forest Hill. Nick Warhol and The Raven were out right after them. Go Nance and Steph and Nick and The Raven!

The next vet check would be easier and better.

It would, right??

(You can see Steph's rendering of the first 2/3 of the trail - including the aforementioned Robinson Flat Vet Check-From-Hell - here!)

Best of Tevis - Slide Show

Thursday July 29 2010

I only carried my good camera(s) around Robie Park before the ride, and just briefly around the Robinson Flat vet check before I put them away to crew for our riders. Here are a few from that.

Many more in the photo galleries at

More stories coming from me...

And you MUST check out Steph's Part I recap of the Tevis - I can't stop laughing!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

2010 Tevis: Mark the Trail and They Will Come

Tuesday July 27 2010

There's nothing easy about the Tevis trail. It's a hundred miles of rock, dust, elevation, uphill, downhill, (approximately 19,000 feet of climbing and 22,000 feet of descending), tall mountains, plunging canyons, rivers, wilderness, heat, humidity, effort, and luck - good or bad. You can never relax or let up. You have to keep on the move, and fast, for 100 miles, despite the rocks and boulders and bogs and cliffs and weather and fatigue. It's an arduous ride for a horse and rider.

They come for many reasons: for fun, for the challenge, for the beauty; to test their horse or themselves; to finish, to win, just to try; to party, to conquer fear, to conquer the trail.

Joyce Sousa and her daughter Jennifer Neihaus came for the challenge. 17-year-old LV Integrity (Ritzy) and Joyce finished the Tevis in 2001 (19th place) and 2006 (6th place); 15-year-old MC Gallantly (Gallo) and Joyce were pulled from the Tevis in 2005.

These are a couple of iron horses. Ritzy has over 6000 miles in 12 seasons. Only 3 pulls in 103 starts. 25 hundred-mile completions (24 in the top ten, 6 wins). Gallo has 4700 miles, 81 completions in 90 starts over 9 seasons. (Between the four of them, they have over 38,000 AERC endurance miles!) Always, Joyce rides Ritzy according to his ability for the day, and she knows how to pace Gallo by watching him move beside her.

Several hundred-milers - including Tevis - were the goals for the Sousas this year, until both horses were pulled for lameness at the April Git R Done ride - a very unusual occurrence. Ritzy had fallen down in his pasture in March; after Git R Done, a chiropractor found him way out of whack in the hind end, and adjusted him. Jennifer thought Gallo might need more rest between rides, after Joyce had mentioned that Gallo uses a lot more of himself out on the trails - he's not as an efficient mover as Ritzy. And that's how they came into Tevis this year, by accident and by choice, with more rested horses. "Maybe that's the key," Joyce said. "I feel really good about this ride."

The more time off for the horses agreed with Jennifer, since she broke her tailbone 2 months ago, and she'd only ridden 4 times since then, including Friday's warm up ride on the Tevis trail. "We are so blessed to be here," Joyce said. "These horses are gifts." Husband and father Dennis, crew extraordinaire, would, as usual, be crewing for the two of them.

"It's a blessing to be here," echoed Sue Hedgecock of Park City, Utah. "Every ride is a blessing." Sue would know, since she was out of the saddle for some 8 years battling nonhodgkins lymphoma. (See Sue's profile.) "My horse (Alburuke) was ready, and I just decided last week to come."

Carla Richardson and SS Kharady Khid came to ride Tevis, "because you only live once." She really couldn't afford it, "but I decided what the hell." When she pulled into Robie Park on Thursday, she had a little panic attack. "What am I doing here - I don't belong here!" she thought. She was able to calm her nerves on and off, concentrating on what Christoph Schork - who was trimming her horse's feet - said: "It's just a trail!" It is... but then it's not. This will be the first 100 for both of them.

Jack Evers and Baraka Musaadi of Wyoming were back to beat the trail that beat them last year. They took a wrong turn near the finish - so near - but by the time they found their way back onto the correct trail in the dark, and across the finish line, it was just after 5:15 AM - cut off time.

Barbara White describes what it is about the Tevis that keeps her coming back year after year - as in 39 years. "It's an honor to ride it. I really really love the ride. It's a spectacular trail; I love the bond you have with your horse after a hundred miles; I love the people, the history; and the volunteers are beyond compare - you get spoiled at this ride." Barbara would be going for her 3000 mile buckle - that's 30 Tevis finishes this year, on Canadian Brook - his first 100 mile ride. Her dad Bob and mom Julie Suhr (22 Tevis buckles) - the 'First Lady of Endurance' - would be there rooting for her.

John Crandell, of Star Tanney, Virginia, was back on the Tevis trail because he has a phenomenal horse in Heraldic. John calls Heraldic "A freak of nature" - and not just because of his record, which is impressive enough. The 12-year-old horse has finished 8 of 9 100-mile rides, winning 7 of them, including the Tevis in 2006 (and the Haggin Cup - Best Condition), and the AERC National championships in 2006 and 2007. What makes him a freak is that he has come back from a serious injury. He fell in his paddock in the fall of 2008, skinning his stifle to the bone. He spent several months non-weight bearing, and 1 1/2 years of rehabbing. When Heraldic won the Old Dominion last month, after almost 3 years off from endurance rides, John knew he had his old horse back.

Heraldic is not an easy horse to ride. He's hot, and he uses so much energy, John has to continuously work on him to keep his head down and not up in the air. "You have to ride him for 100 miles. You can't be a passenger."

Watching Heraldic trot out at the vet-in on Friday took my breath away, and several other people around me.

Melissa Margetts was back to ride the Tevis for the third time because she was highly motivated: she was told she might not ever walk again, and she certainly wouldn't ride. After getting bucked off a horse in an arena last fall, then getting unceremoniously jumped on, her leg was broken in enough pieces that the news was grim, even after a couple of surgeries. To keep herself from getting too depressed, she signed herself up for an unfathomable goal: Tevis. (I'm pretty sure she didn't tell her doctor.) She'd be wearing a leg brace and packing a collapsible cane; she had her horse taught to lay down if she had trouble getting off or on. And her horse Cabo? Only the first Paso Fino to finish Tevis, and he was going for his third buckle, too.

20-year-old Victoria Saiita of Ranch Palos Verdes, California, and her 10-year-old mustang Lakota were there for their first Tevis try. "I'm so excited - every once in a while it hits me!" Vicky got Lakota when she was 5 - "She was a bit of a handful at first, but once we bonded, I could do anything with her."

Nicole Chappell was here to conquer some demons. In 2006 she was pre-riding her talented horse Rebel Fire Bask on the Tevis trail when the horse was spooked and both of them went off a cliff. "I watched him slide down... that's the last I saw of him..." This is her first Tevis since then - she just has to get past those cliffs (and there are a lot of cliffs in this ride.) This year she is riding a beautiful golden part Arabian/Quarter horse/Friesian named Golden Knight - who is blind in his left eye. She's pre-ridden him on the Tevis trail, "He knows the cliffs are there." Nicole's mom Pat is also riding - for her 18th buckle. She rode the horse Thunders Lightning Bar (a Quarter horse!) who holds the record for most finishes - 13!

When Japanese businessman Seiichi Hasumi saw a documentary in Japan on the Tevis Cup in 2002, he decided that he wanted to ride the Tevis Cup himself. Nevermind that Mr Hasumi was 59 and had never ridden a horse before. Ann and Hal Hall of Auburn, California, got Mr Hasumi started down the endurance trail; and a year later, Mr Hasumi had ridden in and finished his first Tevis. Mr Hasumi has in fact finished Tevis six times in a row and would be going for his 7th buckle, despite the fact he had a cold and wasn't feeling too good.

For Hal Hall, it all started with the Tevis. "I grew up with it; it was the center of my universe for some time." It's still the center: Hal will be riding for his 27th buckle. He and his mount Dreamm On made it just past the river crossing last year, 3/4 of the way through the ride, before Dreamm On was pulled for lameness.

And then there's Steph Teeter. She first rode Tevis back in 1997, on her big hulking black Orlov Trotter, Nature's Khruschev - a most unlikely looking 100-mile horse. Krusty was 6 and it was his first 100. They finished - and Krusty went on to finish 7 of 10 100's, including a World Championship in France in 2002. Since then, Steph has never had a hankering to do Tevis again, and in fact, we'd just talked about that two weeks before Tevis, when Nance offered me her horse Quinn to ride again. "I'm pretty proud of my 1 for 1 record, and Julie Suhr handing me my silver buckle - that will do me for a while," I said, and Steph agreed.

Until the week before Tevis, when it suddenly popped in her head that she wanted to ride Tevis on Rhett. 19-year-old Rhett was at 4975 endurance miles, and if he finished he'd reach his 5000 miles in Tevis; he was in fine physical shape; he was well rested; he'd do the ride in Easyboot glue-ons (if you finished, the ride entry was paid for by Easyboot if you wore their boots; and Rhett moved well in the glue-ons); she could get a trailer ride from Nance and Bruce; and she had me and Bruce to help crew... it all just felt right.

And so they came to the Tevis trail again, 182 of them, for different reasons, but with the same goal: reaching Auburn, California with a sound horse by 5:15 AM Sunday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2010 Tevis: All Heart

Tuesday July 27 2010

Tevis: there's a bit of magic in the air, if you're lucky enough to grasp it. Sometimes it all just comes together perfectly: the timing is right, you suddenly have a horse ready, you suddenly know Now's The Time.

With the Tevis Magic, the trail doesn't intimidate you, the mountains don't defeat you, and that silver buckle doesn't elude you. Your amazing horse has carried you for a hundred difficult, challenging miles across that finish line in Auburn for the first time, the second time, or the thirtieth time. And somewhere along the way, you get the feeling, the knowing that you're going to finish with a sound, healthy horse.

That happened to me last year - everything fell into place on a Wednesday (when I never expected I'd ever ride the Tevis), and I was crossing the finish line in the wee hours of Sunday, and Julie Suhr was handing me my silver Tevis buckle Sunday afternoon.

It happened to Steph this year. She was writing an email on Tuesday when it just popped into her head, "I want to do Tevis on Rhett on Saturday!" and it all fell into place - the timing, the condition of the horse, the trailer ride there with friends, the ride with glued-on Easyboots, the 5000 endurance miles for 19-year-old Rhett if he completed.

He did. It was one of the many Weepy Moments at this year's Tevis, when Rhett trotted out sound at the finish, and the veterinarian said those magic words to Steph: "Congratulations."

If you don't come out of this ride thinking it's a hard one, maybe the hardest ride your horse has ever done, you should try to do it on foot. If you don't come out of this ride thinking horses are amazing and incredible animals, you shouldn't be riding it. It is a very tough ride, and your horse is absolutely phenomenal to willingly carry you through it, whether you get all the way down the trail or not.

Carla Richardson who put a lot on the line to come here, only made it 28 miles on her horse Khid, and she had this to say, which says it all: " I didn't make it far down the trail. I was not riding fast at all, but had to pull at Red Star when my horse acted colicky after he drank there.  He gave me an absolutely wonderful ride, an absolutely dream of a horse I was on, my Khid. All heart."

That's what the Tevis is all about: All heart.

Many photos at:

and more stories to come!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Next Stop: Tevis!

Tuesday July 20 2010

But I'm crewing! I didn't change my mind, even though Nance double checked, and triple checked with me to see if I wanted to ride Quinn again. I must admit I slightly waffled... it would be fun to ride with Nance and Steph..... but no, I am crewing. I figure I owe that to Nance after last year, and besides, it's such a responsibility riding someone else's horse. Plus the late entry fee is $415, which is no small amount. And I already have that silver Tevis buckle, handed to me the next morning by my hero Julie Suhr. It would take something HUGE to top that.
(See my August 2009 blog entries for a recap.)

So... I will be crewing! For Nance and Jazzbo, Steph and Rhett, and the Yost family, and whoever else needs help when I'm available. It will be great to see some wonderful friends I haven't seen in a while.

Of course The Raven is coming. He may or may not ride with Nance or Steph. He is undecided at this point. I hear Traveling Wee Horse is riding with Melissa Ribley (who finished second and got the Haggin Cup last year)!

I'll also be helping with the live Webcast during the ride, so stay tuned to either, or - where you'll be able to follow your rider on the course as the holds are updated. (Some old data on there that will be updated Friday or Saturday.) This is the Twitter page:, and this is the current entry list, with 182 riders:

Meanwhile, it's 11:20 PM, Steph finally got to bed. We're leaving early in the morning - neighbor is hauling us to Nampa, where we're meeting Bruce and Nance, and loading Rhett and our gear into their trailer, and riding with them to Tevis. I haven't even packed yet. Piles of things yet to do.

Let the Tevis journey begin!

(Dogs are worried by the packing.)