Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Tevis Cup Fever

Wednesday August 2 2006

Coming up this weekend: the 100-mile Tevis Cup endurance ride – “100 MILES – ONE DAY” is what your silver belt buckle will say if you complete it. It may be the best known 100-mile endurance ride in the world; that belt buckle is one of the most coveted ride awards, and the ride itself is undeniably one of the most challenging. Started in 1955 by Wendell Robie, the Tevis Cup, also known as the Western States Trail Ride, is the oldest modern day endurance ride. It follows a rugged wilderness trail over mountains and canyons and rivers, starting near Truckee, CA and ending in Auburn, CA, 24 hours later.

It is the ultimate challenge for a horse and rider team: riding in the dark, and daylight, and likely dark again, intense heat, hazardous trails, 19,000 feet of climbing and 22,000 feet of descending. And you’re in the Sierras: temperatures can range from 40* F to 120* F. Much of the trail passes through inaccessible and rugged wilderness, reached only by foot or horseback or helicopter, so for much of the ride, if anything unexpected happens, you are on your own. You and your horse need to be fit, and you need to know each other. Even so, your chance of completing the ride is just over 50%. Despite these odds, one horse won the ride 5 times (with the same rider). Five riders have completed the Tevis Cup at least 20 times (20 times!!). One horse who won the ride twice is blind in one eye. The most number of finishes by one horse is 13 times – and that was a quarter horse mare!

Vet checks are stationed along the way to check the horses and determine if they are “fit to continue” down the trail. If not, the horse is pulled from the ride. The horses must rest an hour at 2 stops; they may stop for water and food at any of the other 10 stops along the way.

I’ve never been to the Tevis Cup, but I’m going this weekend to cover it for I am not (yet) obsessed with riding Tevis – and that is because my chances are slim to do it: I don’t have my own endurance horse, and I couldn’t afford to lease one – but of course I would unquestionably not turn down the chance if it arose, on a well-conditioned horse that I knew. We’ll see if I catch the fever watching it.

Several friends will be attempting the ride, and I’ll be following their progress throughout the day. Jane (a two-time finisher) will be there riding Scamp, his first try at Tevis. Quenby is making her 3rd try, this time on Buzz (his first time). Either she has nerves of steel, or she is as crazy as her horse is. Buzz is a nutcase, a spaz, can’t stand to have another horse in front of him. I shudder to think about some of those narrow, steep cliff trails they will be on, with Buzz thinking only of catching the horse in front of him, and not where his feet are falling…

My endurance hero, Julie Suhr, who has finished Tevis 22 times, will not be riding this year, but she will be crewing for her daughter Barbara, who was finished Tevis a record 27 times!

Nick is riding his beloved gelding Forever Dawn (aka Don, or Princess). Nick has completed Tevis twice before, and it will be Don’s first 100.

There are 204 entries as of August 1 – including 2 riders from the UK, 1 from Canada, 1 from Australia, and 2 from Japan.

Good luck to all horse and rider teams – may they return home fit to continue with silver belt buckles and buckets of carrots!

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