Endurance Riding

Jun 10 2013

3 Days of (INTENSE) Tevis Training

Published by under Endurance Riding

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On Friday afternoon, the 31st of May, I found myself in Foresthill, camping off Bath Road, in the place that would turn into a busy vet check come the day of the Tevis Cup 100-Mile-One-Day-Ride. I parked next to my hoof trimmer and friend, Dianna, who was there with her Arabian gelding, Launi. Once I got camp set up, I decided to head out for a warm-up ride with another friend, April. I threw on a bareback pad and a pair of shorts and set out on foot, leading Asali down into Volcano Canyon. We went down into the canyon, back up the other side, and then turned back for camp, in order to return in time for the seminars hosted by the Western States Trail Foundation.

At 7:30 am the next morning, I was headed out to meet the California Loop. I jogged through downtown Foresthill with Asali, on our way to the trailhead. Once on the narrow dirt trail, I mounted Asali and our ride began. We were surrounded by trees on either side of us and, except for some riders’ voices heard up ahead in the distance, it was silent. We were alone in the wilderness and it was both peaceful and intimidating.
By the time Asali and I reached Fransisco’s, it was incredibly warm out. I dunked my cooling vest in the water trough and scooped water over my head using my helmet. I sponged Asali off and allowed her to drink her fill before heading back down the trail.

Not far from Fransisco’s we ended up on this cool sandy trail that bordered the American River. I had picked up a rider who asked to tag along with me through the river crossing. Her horse had never crossed a river before and she was nervous how he’d react to the water. So, Phyllis and I rode together, sharing horse stories along the way.

The river crossing was, in a word, amazing. A large group of us reached the edge of the water at the same time and we all laughed our way across the river, as the horses drank, splashed, and made their way through. Many of us sponged our horses off from their backs before receiving our own relief from the cold water. I tried to imagine what the river would look like on the night of Tevis, when it will be lit up with glow sticks, and we’ll make our way in the dark.


After the river crossing, we headed to Lower Quarry, the stop that will mark the final check point before the finish, on the night we ride the real ride. Phyllis and I took it slow with our horses, hiking quite a ways on foot next to them. Right before Lower Quarry, we received some much needed air conditioning from the entryway to a dark cave. We stood in front of the cave, enjoying the cold breeze that touched our backs.

From Lower Quarry, Phyllis and I parted ways. I went on ahead of her, as my horse was ready to move out. Asali galloped across No Hands Bridge, almost running away with me. She knew she was almost to Auburn and there was no stopping her!

Sunday morning found us up early, at 4 am. I loaded Asali in Dianna’s trailer and we headed from our campground at the Foresthill Mill Site to Robinson Flat. Robinson Flat marks the first one hour hold vet check the day of Tevis. The plan this day was to ride from Robinson Flat to Foresthill, which is the second third of the Tevis trail. We started out on Cavanaugh Ridge, Dianna and I, with Launi and Asali matching pace well. Unfortunately, we missed the cut-off to the Pucker’s Point trail and ended up riding the long, boring, gravel road until it reconnected to where we were supposed to be.

Our first stop of the day was at Last Chance, a shady spot tucked away in the woods. At first, it surprised me because it didn’t remind me of a typical vet check. It had an eerie mystery about it. I could almost hear the stories from history lingering there in the trees. Not far off, old mining camps and dated, rusted equipment lay around, as if we were in a museum.

Last Chance

From Last Chance, Dianna and I disappeared past a hazardous trail warning, descending down a narrow, rocky trail that would lead us into our first canyon. Both Dianna and I got off and hand-walked our horses down the precarious trail. Once in the bottom of the canyon, the heat of the day started to wear on us. We crossed the swinging bridge and headed up out of the canyon. I stayed on the ground, behind my horse, tailing-up each steep switchback. Every now and then, I would glance on up ahead, only to see another switchback. Little did I know, I would see 42 switchbacks before reaching the top. Two-thirds of the way, I stopped, out of breath, tired, hungry, thirsty, and discouraged. I knew Dianna and her horse, Launi, would be leaving us at Deadwood, after this canyon. The thought of traversing two more canyons by myself left me with an overwhelming anxiety. I looked at Dianna saying, “If this is just a training ride, how am I going to feel on the day of Tevis?” I was flooded with doubt, feeling completely lost. Dianna half-laughed, saying we were almost there, reminding me that near the top, I’d see Devil’s Thumb, the unusual rock formation that protrudes from the side of the mountain, as if keeping watch.

Several more switchbacks and we did make it to the site of the Devil’s Thumb. At first, I didn’t care to see it, but the breeze that suddenly whipped through my shirt left me feeling rejuvenated and when I did look, I smiled. It was just a rock. But it was Devil’s Thumb and now I could say I’d seen it. I felt something spiritual at that moment, realizing I had just climbed the toughest canyon of my life in order to see this interesting formation that was, well, yes, a rock, but a damn interesting one.

Devils Thumb

Once we reached Deadwood, I was again flooded with the anxiety that I’d be continuing on alone. Laurie, Dianna’s friend, was waiting for Dianna at Deadwood with her horse trailer. She crewed for us, helping feed both the horses and getting Dianna and me food and drinks. Laurie picked up on my anxiety and right away, looked at me in earnest and assured me that Asali and I were ready for Tevis. I remember her saying, “Dianna and I would not send you and your horse back down into another canyon if we didn’t think you could do it. Look at your horse! She looks great. And you – if you just did that entire canyon on foot, you are fit enough to go on.” Her pep talk had me convinced and I made the commitment to keep on going.

I ended up trailing behind my friend April and experienced Tevis rider, Nicole Chappell, into El Dorado Canyon, but once at the bottom of the canyon, I hung around to cool myself and my horse in the water. I climbed out alone, with just my horse, and at the top, I was filled with a confidence that I knew would keep me going all the way to Foresthill.

In Michigan Bluff, we ran into a group of riders who were visiting with a few residents of the small town. Asali and I rode with our friends for a short ways before galloping off on our way to Chicken Hawk, another check point. At Chicken Hawk, I let Asali eat quite a bit of hay and after I had some watermelon and two chocolate chip cookies, we were on our way to conquer Volcano Canyon, the last canyon before Foresthill. Right before our descent into the canyon, I dismounted. I jogged down to the bottom, and then tailed up out of the canyon. I never remounted. I walked my horse up Bath Road and into the Foresthill Mill Site. While climbing up Bath Road, it was quiet, just me and Asali and the sound of our feet, all 6 of them, on the pavement. A banner that read “Welcome to Foresthill” almost brought tears to my eyes. We had done it. And in less than 6 weeks, we’ll do it all over again, on the 58th Annual Tevis Cup “100 Miles One Day” Ride.

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “3 Days of (INTENSE) Tevis Training”

  1. Diana Hiiesaluon 12 Jun 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Good job JayaMae! You are tough to tail up those canyons. Devil’s Thumb is my favorite, but I do have my horse take me up. I train a lot of hills and will get off and jog down, but almost always get on going up. I had my leg fractured in 2 spots from a horse kick 7 weeks before last year’s Tevis and was only off of crutches 3 weeks when I did the ride. I still got off and jogged down. I think if you can save your horse by tailing up AND you aren’t going to exhaust yourself AND you can go faster doing that, it can work. If not, you might consider getting on Asali ~ just sayin’. Time is a huge factor in this ride and minutes count. Getting into the vet checks as fast as you can is so important. The most time I spent was after Devil’s Thumb, at the water stop at the top. I was there about 15 minutes, then walked about a mile feeding my horse, then mounted right before the vet check at Deadwood. His gut sounds were an “A” because I had taken some time before, but that is the only spot I wasn’t in and out in 10 minutes, for the most part. Also, when you get to Fransisco’s and Lower Quarry, really don’t dilly dally because the horses can get stiff after that many miles especially in cool night air. So get in and get out. It’s just so much fun!!!!
    Diana Hiiesalu recently posted..The Winner Of The Anniversary Blog Contest Is……….

  2. Oliviaon 12 Jun 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Congratulations! That looks insane but I know you will do great! Have an awesome time and be safe!

  3. Sheilaon 12 Jun 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Hey Jaya,
    Your dedication and determination brought a tear to my eye. I am praying and rooting for you to have a smashing fabulous Tevis ride this year. Let me know if you need any help last minute.

  4. Nicole Chappellon 12 Jun 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Your Blogs are awesome! Well written – love the candid parts and you sharing your thoughts.

  5. Forrest and Tracy Blisson 13 Jun 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Best of luck my friend, I know this is a long time dream about to be a reality. I am so happy and proud of you. I know actors say break a leg for good luck, what do endurance riders say? LOL In any case, lots of love, prayers & positive vibes for a very successful conclusion!

  6. Elizabeth Darrow Joneson 03 Jul 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Brilliant ! I applaud you & will be cheering you on this incredible feat ! Bravo !
    A very inspiring & well-written journal.
    All the Best !

  7. Lindaon 05 Jul 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Wow, I am amazed. I have had three horses but don’t ride anymore since I reached age 70. I ride a motorcycle instead for now. But, your blog is so very well written and I felt as though I was riding along. Best of luck on your Tevis ride! I will be looking for additional stories. You should think about writing a book. You make the reader feel as though she/he is right there along with you. Superb!

  8. Sandy Sickelson 09 Jul 2013 at 5:43 pm

    From a fellow endurance rider, quilter and mom, Best of luck! I have really enjoyed following along with your You tube videos and blogs. I am so excited for you and hope you have a fabulous Tevis ride!!!!

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