Endurance Riding

Nov 22 2014

The Tevis Cup

Published by under Endurance Riding

Click The Title Of The Post To Comment And Don't Forget To "Subscribe to Endurance Riding" To Stay Updated On My Journey Towards The Tevis Cup!

Last night, I received a text message from one of the juniors who crewed for me at Tevis. It read: “I know it’s not Thanksgiving yet, but I am very thankful to have you in my life. I know it was meant to be when we parked next to each other at Whiskeytown Chaser that day. You’re so brave and inspiring, and motivated my mom and me to believe in ourselves enough to attempt Tevis! I consider you and your family as family. I could go on, but I hope you know you’re an amazing friend.” She also wrote: “I’m so happy I got to crew for you at Tevis. That was one of the best life experiences so far.”


I have flashbacks sometimes. And I never know when it’s going to happen. I could be driving on a long, windy road, seeing open fields on either side. I could be riding, on top of any one of my horses, through the woods, surrounded by the red barked manzanitas. Or I could just be sitting with my family, at dinner, and the silence of everyone eating quietly, or the chatter amongst the boys, will trigger my memory. Suddenly, I am transported within my mind to that moment of crossing the finish line. I am hand walking Asali; she’s by my side, under the lights of the stadium in Auburn. The cheers around me are muffled and I am walking as slow as possible, in hopes of stopping time. As soon as we cross under the banner, I stop, lay a kiss on Asali’s cheek, and in the distance, I spot a friend — a member of my endurance family, a woman who helped carry me and Asali across the finish line of our first 100 mile ride. My feet begin dancing, my entire body moving in pure merriment, and the tears begin to flow. I have just experienced the most amazing journey of my life, and in the last 24 hours, I have discovered more about myself and my partner, the beautiful mare who shared the journey with me, who carried me just because I asked.


To those that have never experienced the Tevis Cup, it is a journey that is difficult to describe. For me, it was a journey that spanned more than 3 years of preparation. I had to come to terms with the fact that I would be riding outside the comfort of my fenced arena and the well-known trails near my house, which I could ride almost blind-folded. I had to overcome the fear of knowing that I would be out in the back country, on unknown trail, for miles and miles, with no cell phone service, no access to the comforts of home, and for many miles, I would be alone, with just my equine mount, and I would need to be competent enough to make sound decisions that would keep both myself and my mare safe. I knew I would be riding on somewhat treacherous terrain, and some of that trail would be covered in the blackness of night. I had to learn to trust not only my horse, but myself.


Asali and I set out on August 9th, just before dawn, headed towards Robinson Flat, on the first 36 miles of the famous Western States Trail. We rode alone, through the Granite Chief Wilderness area of Tahoe. It was some of the most gorgeous country I had ever seen — the stillness of every shade of green spanned generations in front of us, behind us, and around us, losing itself in a sky of blue I could almost reach out and grab. Two loose horses and a couple of riders falling from their mounts shook me up a bit, but I continued on, enjoying my ride. Right before Cougar Rock, a gust of wind sent a tree cracking, bursting into flames as its great trunk hit the ground. I was riding with a gentleman and his mare at the time. Both horses stopped dead in their tracks, but no one spooked. We carried on.


Cougar Rock stopped my heart. We had ridden it without incident the year before, but the sheer size and steepness of the rough gray-white granite had me forgetting to breathe again this year. Still, I signaled Asali to move forward. She lunged, hesitated, I encouraged, and up we went, my heart pounding and my hands shaking. At the top, I felt a thrill — the kind of adrenaline that you can feel pumping through each vein. Suddenly, I became more aware of my aliveness than ever before. I took a deep breath in, filling my lungs with a chill, and I was higher than I’ve ever been on any manmade drug.


Cougar Rock 2

Diana Hiiesalu ~ Gore/Baylor Photography


We made it to Robinson Flat. My crew greeted me with smiles and cheers, a welcoming sight. We vetted, rested, ate, and drank. With each tick of the clock during our hour-hold, I became more and more anxious about the three canyons ahead of us, in the hottest part of the day. My husband had encouraging words for me, however, and so, I looked at him and said, “I’m going to put my big girl panties on.” And so I did.


Asali and I made it through the first canyon, the one that had kicked our bums the year before. I did most of it on foot. And this year, Asali let me tail. We reached the top and her heart rate was 44, proving her fitness. We vetted through, once again, and I mounted, once again, and we carried on.


We hit El Dorado Canyon, my shoes filled with river water from crossing Devil’s Thumb on foot. I was not chilled, however, but rejuvenated. We were heading towards Foresthill, further than we had made it on our first Tevis Cup attempt. At the Chicken Hawk vet check, I stuffed brownies and every other sugar filled treat in my mouth. I high-fived some familiar faces, remounted, and once again, we were on our way. As we climbed out of Volcano Canyon and up Bath Road in the little town of Foresthill, I began feeling emotional.


The sun was setting as I vetted Asali at Foresthill, and once again, she had great vet scores. We were fit to continue. I handed my vet card to a crew member, and the tears came, in gobs and gobs that stung my face, altered my voice, and almost blinded me. I sat down as Asali ate at the horse trailer and cried into the sandwich my dad handed me. The junior members on my crew taped glow bars to Asali’s breast collar and placed a head lamp on my helmet. I continued to cry, saying simply, “I love my horse.” It was in that moment, when we passed the vet check at Foresthill, that I knew we were going to finish. My little mare, a Missouri Fox Trotter, the underdog, was a Tevis horse.


Riding at night was a thrill. It was pitch black under the tree cover and each green glow stick that marked the trail cast an eerie hue. At one point, a rider became disoriented in the canyon, pulling her horse off the trail and down the mountain. That was when Asali and I took the lead. I led a group of more than a dozen riders through that first night canyon. I rode on a loose rein, letting Asali choose the way, knowing she knew where her feet were. She picked up her pace, and I let her go, never thinking to slow her down.


We reached the river crossing in good time. I threw Asali’s rump rug over her hindquarters, and as we approached the water, a volunteer put her hand on my thigh. She said something about admiring us all, being in awe of our horses, and of course, a good luck was somewhere in her words. As I rode away, I wished I had grabbed her hand and squeezed it. Her words had touched me deeply, but in the excitement of it all — the volunteers cheering, the music blaring, the glow sticks strung in the water, drifting slowly side to side by the light of the moon – I was frozen in that moment. That river crossing, in the dead of night, with the water reaching up to the horse’s belly, was my favorite part of Tevis. You are so close to the finish line, you can taste that buckle in the water, as you lift your feet to stay dry.


Six miles from the finish, at the Lower Quarry vet check, I left with a huge smile across my face, as once again, tears flowed down. Asali and I rode the entire last six miles alone. When the trees parted and I could see the moon, in all its fullness, I tipped my face to the sky in gratitude.


When we reached the turn that shot upwards and out of the canyon to the Auburn Overlook, the official finish line, I couldn’t keep quiet. The excitement that had been building over the last 24 hours reached my throat with a force I could not hold back. “HEEELLLLOOOOOOO, AUBURN!” I repeated it over and over again. We crossed underneath the colored lights, the arch that congratulated us, as my family and friends cheered and yelled along with me.


The moments between the Auburn Overlook and walking to the Fairgrounds, where we took our victory lap, are a complete blur. My body moved in slow motion, with my muscles working on a sort of autopilot. My family was with me, and all but three members of my crew (the others were waiting at the fairgrounds to take care of Asali) walked with me, but I do not remember what was said in that darkness. I do not remember what I was thinking or feeling. I don’t remember anything, until I made a conscience decision not to remount, but rather, hand walk my mare under the banner. At that moment, I wanted to savor the feeling, that feeling of accomplishment that comes only when you’ve overcome every doubt and fear you have ever had about yourself. I had been a girl who had grown up feeling as if I was good at a lot of things, but I was never great at anything. It was in that moment, as we stood under the finish line banner, together, the two of us, that I felt I was maybe, just maybe, finally great at something.


Madison blankets Asali in ride camp, a couple days before the start of Tevis.

Madison blankets Asali in ride camp, a couple days before the start of Tevis.

Ready to vet-in at Robie Equestrian Park!

Ready to vet-in at Robie Equestrian Park!

Just arrived at Robinson Flat!

Just arrived at Robinson Flat!

Ashley tightens my girth, before we head out of Robinson Flat.

Ashley tightens Asali’s girth, before we head out of Robinson Flat.

Leaving Robinson Flat - got my big girl panties on!

Leaving Robinson Flat – got my big girl panties on!

Crew waits at Foresthill.

Crew waits at Foresthill.

My son, Jakob, has encouraging words for Asali, before we leave Foresthill.

My son, Jakob, has encouraging words for Asali, before we leave Foresthill.

The Tevis moon, during our last six mile stretch. Moments after finishing, this moon became a spectacular Super Moon.

The Tevis moon, during our last six mile stretch. Moments after finishing, this moon became a spectacular Super Moon.

Does this need a caption?

Does this need a caption?

Hours after crossing the finish line, I received my legacy buckle from Barbara White.

Hours after crossing the finish line, I received my legacy buckle from Barbara White.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I would like to thank my amazing crew: my good, good friends Ashley Law & Heidi Martindale; Madison MacPhail, a very special junior rider & young woman I love; my husband & confidant, Gary Gregory; my son & inspiration, Jakob Gregory; and sweet Bella Martindale. You each helped me, in your own way, to get to the finish line, and fulfill a dream in a moment. Thank you.

And to my father, who cherishes his poster size photo of Asali and me climbing Cougar Rock: Thank you for supporting me financially, so that Tevis could become a reality. And thank you for always cheering me on, even though you worry about my safety at times.

And to my little D-man, my youngest son: Thanks for waking up to be at the finish line. Thank you for your jokes, encouraging words, and brilliant insight. I need you everyday.

And to Asali: the little Missouri Fox Trotter mare who stole my heart, keeps me sane, and broke a record with her 2014 Tevis Cup Finish. Thank you for the ride of my life.

A and me

Lisa Chadwick ~ Boots ‘N Bloomers Photography

13 responses so far

13 Responses to “The Tevis Cup”

  1. Madison MacPhailon 22 Nov 2014 at 6:19 pm

    So, I just finished reading this. You made me cry this time. That was the best blog ever. It really made me feel something. And I’m so proud of you and Asali.

  2. Karen Lang Rileyon 22 Nov 2014 at 7:17 pm

    After being with you at the first Tevis, this brought tears to my eyes by the time I finished reading it. Yes, you have greatness in you, girl!

  3. Katherine Isabell Harrellon 22 Nov 2014 at 8:07 pm

    This inspiring story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much, JayaMae Gregory and the great little Missouri Fox Trotter mare, Asali!

  4. Diana Hiiesalu Bainon 22 Nov 2014 at 11:54 pm

    “I love my horse”…..sobbing when I read that. I say it still for what Ali’i did for me. Wonderful writing!! Thank you FINALLY!!! Oxoxoxox!! Diana

  5. Lisa Chadwickon 23 Nov 2014 at 1:06 am

    Oh Jaya you did it again! I’m sitting here reading this and crying. Seeing names I recognize and going along the journey with you through your words just like when I stumbled upon your first Whiskeytown endurance ride blog and thought “Man I admire this woman!” And then I get to the end and I see the photo I got to take of you and your beautiful Asali and THAT BUCKLE!!!! I am so thankful my endurance journey led me to a friendship with you. You and your family and our endurance family…. WOW how blessed we all are!!!!!

    When I grow up I wanna be just like you!!!!!!

    Thank you for everything! 🙂

  6. Noelle Jahnon 23 Nov 2014 at 8:12 am


    I know we have only had the opportunity to get to know each other over the weekend of the Kristina Chesterman Memorial ride, but I wanted you to know that this, your Tevis story, the love you have for Asali, and your words explaining how you felt are all so moving. I was in tears reading this just imagining the array of emotions you must have been feeling the whole time. This story is inspiring!!!! And not just to those who love horses, but to those who love adventure and life and working with other creatures in this beautiful world. The part that hit home the most for me, as a young woman who is new to adulthood, being a nurse, and finding what I am “good at”, was the part where you explained how you finally felt like you might be great at something. Reading that, I felt hopeful that one day I, too, may finally feel really great at something that I love. Moreover, I may not be a horse riding expert but it’s clear to me that you are indeed great at endurance riding. For if to finish is to win, then certainly finishing with such grace, gratitude, and admiration for your Asali makes you a champion.

    Thanks for sharing,


  7. Brenon 23 Nov 2014 at 9:15 am

    Love it, thank you for sharing more pictures!

  8. Suzanne Kennedy Fillmoreon 23 Nov 2014 at 10:05 am

    Wow! You did a marvelous story! I felt like I was there with you!

  9. cate crismanion 09 Jan 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Hi, consider submitting a story/pix to us at trueCOWBOYmagazine
    would love to include your voice.

    for more details email me at calamity@truecowboymagazine.com

    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Gracias & besos
    Cate Crismani
    Equine Angle Mktg & PR

  10. Laurie Durbinon 05 Jul 2015 at 2:21 am

    I cried again, eleven months after this ride! You well written account is exactly what I felt too! I was about a 1/4 mile behind you when the tree fell, it scared me too! I hope to return to Tevis some day, but I did full fill a life long dream. Thank you for this beautiful story.

  11. Becky Ivetton 12 Aug 2015 at 8:04 pm

    This has got to be one of the best Blogs I’ve read! 🙂 . I would so love to attempt this, make this ride some day.. Congrats on all you had to do to get you through this ride.. I love the way you crossed the finish line.. I’ve thought about my cross (someday) to basically give my thanks to my horse who carried, dragged, whatever may be, across the finish line…:) :)..
    Thank you again for sharing your story..

  12. Jenny Darton 11 Jul 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this blog again as I would never have seen it otherwise. This is an inspiration for me. I cried as I read your blog, especially this part, ” I had been a girl who had grown up feeling as if I was good at a lot of things, but I was never great at anything. It was in that moment, as we stood under the finish line banner, together, the two of us, that I felt I was maybe, just maybe, finally great at something.” Through your blog, I got a little taste of the magnitude of Tevis. One day I hope to go through that experience myself. And good luck this year!

  13. Pam Ashetonon 11 Jul 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Great writing, get a book out there!

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge