Sep 09 2012
Well, it’s been a month since the Tevis Cup. I don’t quite know what has taken me so long to write about my experience at the event that is known as the world’s most difficult endurance ride. What I do know is that as Gary and I were driving home after we saw Alyssa Stalley and her horse take their well deserved victory lap, my mind was spinning. I had been up for 24 hours straight and I was overwhelmed with all that I had seen, heard, and learned over the course of the day.
Our day began very early on August 3rd. We loaded up the car with our camping gear and headed for the Foresthill vet check, where we dropped off 5 bales of alfalfa hay that was generously donated by Vanella Farm in Durham. From there, we headed to Robinson Flat, about 30 miles down the road. As the scenery became more remote, Gary, the boys, and I were amazed by the beauty surrounding us. Declan was a little scared to look out the window as we ascended around the curves because the road seemed to disappear into the canyon below.
When we arrived at Robinson Flat, we took the time to enjoy our surroundings. We had lunch under a big tree and then set up our tents before joining hands with the other volunteers to get the vet check ready. The boys kept busy making signs for the vet check and we had time for a quick hike before sharing in a pot luck dinner.
On Saturday, we were up before the sun. Gary was assigned to help with parking and getting the crews into the vet check in an organized fashion. The boys ran around doing odd jobs while I helped with P & R. (P & R stands for pulse and respirations; as the horses enter the vet check, P & R personnel make sure the horses have pulsed down to criteria, usually 60 beats per minute, before they are allowed to proceed to the veterinarian for the vet check.)
There was an air of excitement as the first riders arrived at Robinson Flat. I tried intently to watch each of the horse and rider teams as they came in to the vet check. I wanted to make mental notes as I watched the riders take care of their horses. I also wanted to watch the crews to see how they assisted their horse and rider teams. But, once the riders started coming in, it was chaos – controlled chaos, but still chaos. All of a sudden, the vet check got quiet and I realized it was over. The teams were back out on the trail, conquering the Sierra Nevadas, hoping to make it to Foresthill. It was time for us to clean up and move on.
After we had fulfilled our volunteer duties at Robinson Flat, my husband, the boys, and I jumped in and helped crew for Peggy (the endurance friend I had met at Wild West last year and rode with at the American River Classic this year) and her husband, Sam. Crewing was fun and a valuable learning experience. Gary and I had the opportunity to talk about strategies and what I was hoping for in my crew when I ride Tevis next year. The two things we decided were crucial to a successful team: a great attitude and organization. Crewing is most fruitful when everyone knows their jobs or at least what is expected of them. And when everyone is having fun, the stress level is low – a good thing for both horse and rider!
As horses and riders left Foresthill, Jakob and I watched them ride away, the glowsticks hanging from the tack disappearing into the night. Jake began, excitingly, talking about riding Tevis himself, and made me promise I would sponsor him one day. I proudly responded “yes,” and my mind filled with images of Jakob and I riding through the Sierra Nevadas together, enjoying the beauty, the company of our horses, and crossing the finish line with memories to last a lifetime.
Peggy and Sam did not finish Tevis this year. Sam got really sick on the trail and they both took rider options. After we helped them take care of their horses, we went to Auburn to watch the Top Ten riders take their victory laps. We then drove home, and as I was putting my head on my pillow at 5 am, I was filled with anticipation and excitement for next year’s Tevis, the year when I hope to cross the finish line on my beloved mare to receive the coveted 100-mile, one-day buckle.