The swinging, long reaching stride of the Arabian mare, covers the California countryside, not unlike her ancestors traverse the deserts of Arabia. Her ears and eyes alert to every change in scenery, her rider watching for the signal of a change in the mare’s focus to alert them to a new obstacle or change in footing. There were 100 miles to cover before this time the next day and the reward would be to finish the race.
More than 50% of the starting contestants in the Tevis Ride, do not finish the race. Horses are pulled by veterinarians for assorted reasons and rider’s bodies and minds fail. Everyone has trained for what is billed the hardest endurance race in the world. Only those who have participated can give their opinion…100 miles over the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California in a minimum of 24 hours.
For a couple of days prior, I will get to know the Arabian mare, Cali. She was purchased by her owner, Tracy Stewart, for this race. It has been a dream of Tracy’s to complete The Tevis and she knows Cali is her chance to do it. They have trained, studied, practiced and been schooled. The day is fast approaching and I will be there to witness and assist. My responsibility is the mare. There will be places along the Tevis Trail where the contestants are required to stop and have their horses checked to make sure they are still in good health and soundness. As they approach these stops, I will hold Cali while Tracy dismounts and then pull off the saddle, clean the horse’s legs, check for cuts and scratches, doctor those and help Cali cool off and become comfortable before I present her to the veterinarian for a wellness check. I will also offer her food and water, although she will be encouraged to drink and grab bites of moisture providing grass along the way.
Four days and counting to become acquainted with Cali and for her to feel comfortable with me. To do this, I will feed and groom her, clean her hooves, saddle and unsaddle…all of the activities I will do for her during the race. That way, when she sees me reach for her halter at the first vet stop, it will be a familiar experience and not one that sends her heart rate up because of its strangeness. The energy of the contestants and horses will be high and anything I can do to keep her calm and relaxed will assist in a good check and a continuance of her race.
The amount of planning and preparation for this event has been extensive. Tracy and Cali live in Texas so the travel and training has involved two-day trips to drive to California and return to Texas. The final trip out to California began at 4am on the 13th. Loaded to its limit with gear, the Dodge truck carrying Tracy and her daughter rolled down a quiet Texas back road headed west to join the horses that were already there. An hour and a half into the drive, a cow appeared in the center of the road and was broadsided by the Dodge, rendering the truck unable to continue but miraculously Tracy and her daughter were unhurt. Through a series of kind-hearted Samaritans, they got a ride into a nearby town, secured a van to load their gear and left the Dodge to be hauled home. Intent on continuing, they arrived in California on schedule, just a little worse for wear and the adventure continues…poor cow.
I am in California and slowly making my way to the race site, enjoying the scenery as I go. I will spend the night in San Fransisco tonight and drive to the mountains tomorrow. The line of horse trailers into Auburn will show me the way…