Horses I Have Known

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?As mentioned before, to date I've ridden six different horses in my seven attempts at Tevis.? They were all gems in their own rights, so I wanted to give them their due.? I'm also really keen on Arabian bloodlines, so if you're not, please excuse the references I couldn't resist including.

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In 2002 I had been riding at Peter Rich's Bay Laurel Arabians for nearly a year and had a couple of endurance rides under my belt when Lila Abdul-Rahim asked me to help her get her gelding, Clancey (Aladdinn Echo and Khemosabi grandson), into condition for Tevis that year.? I jumped at the chance because riding Clancey was a blast.? He was a slight little chestnut gelding with a tiny star and the cutest ears you have ever seen.? Clancey and I covered many miles together that spring and about six weeks before Tevis, Lila offered to let me ride him in the race.? I was amazed and honoured and, frankly, a little freaked.? My level of freakage increased exponentially when Peter told me two days before the ride that he wanted me to ride with a Japanese rider - Kanako Hayashi - that he'd leased one of his best horses (Bey Cinel BL, a Bey Elation daughter) to.? And he thought we could come in top ten.? My first Tevis, ah, the memories.

The ride itself was a blur; keeping up with the highly competitive Kanako (she was ranked #1 in Japan at the time) was a herculean task, but we left Foresthill running in the top ten.? Sadly, Kanako and Cinel were pulled for lameness at Francisco's, leaving me alone.? I bummed a ride with Jazon Wonders who came into the check close behind us and he and I headed down the trail while I peppered the veteran top-ten finisher with questions about what it all meant.? Finishing 8th that year was an amazing and wonderful experience I will never forget, but I'm still sad when I remember the stink eye Clancey gave me that next morning.?

In 2003, I was supposed to ride a mare of Peter's named Fame's Baydal (Fame daughter, shockingly) who was an amazing athlete, but she fell in pasture and tore both her knees open.? So I took her full brother - Peter's personal horse - Bey Shadow BL instead.? Shadow was a beast - a big, strong grey with an assortment of odd gaits that always required explanation to the vets.? Because he was used to carrying Peter (a heavyweight), Shadow was in great condition to carry me (a featherweight).? We rode the whole ride with my good friend Madeleine Kirsch on?Desha BL (another BA Bey Elation daughter) - a team that had finished 10th the previous year.??

Climbing Squaw Peak on Shadow in 2003

Climbing Squaw Peak on Shadow in 2003

We had a relatively easy and uneventful ride and the Bay Laurel team did amazingly well that year.? Lila rode Clancey to a 5th place finish, Madeleine and Desha were 7th, Shadow and I right behind them in 8th (again!) and Jennifer Radar's horse Abd Al Latif (a Bey Shah grandson) insisted that they catch up with us on the California Loop (for a time Jennifer was chasing him on foot) so she came in 9th.? That was a good post-Tevis party.?

2004 found me again planning to ride Baydal until?she was leased to another Japanese rider - Seiichi Hasumi.? So instead Peter asked me to ride a young horse I'd been working with for a few years, Tosca BL (Bey Shah and Aladdin Echo are her grandfathers).?? Madeleine took Tosca's half brother, Fausto BL and off we went.? Because the horses were young and inexperienced, we went slowly and took good care of them.? By Francisco's we both had all kinds of horse left so as the sun went down we let them fly and passed quite a few slow and tentative riders in the dark.? Those little ponies were game.? We swept up on Baydal and Hasumi-san at Francisco's and towed them in with us, finishing at a quarter to three in the morning in 35th (Hasumi-san), 36th (Tosca and me) and 37th (Madeleine and Fausto) positions.?

Cougar Rock on Tosca in 2004

Cougar Rock on Tosca in 2004

2005 was a year of mixed blessings.? I started the race with a wonderful friend, Ute Frey.? Ute was riding Fiora Elation BL (another BA Bey Elation daughter and Tosca's half sister) and we were looking forward to a fun adventure together.? Sadly Fiora was pulled at Deadwood for lameness.? I had to wave goodbye to Ute, casually lead Tosca a little ways away, swing up and urge her out of the rest stop before she realized she was ditching her sister.?

Tosca will always be a very special horse for me because she was the biggest investment in time and training I've made in any horse to date and I love her personality.? The rest of that ride sealed our bond forever.? She and I went on to do the remaining 50-ish miles almost completely alone.? We did catch and ride with a few groups for a while, but it was never a good enough fit to stay with them - we were running a good consistent pace and enjoying each other's company.? Tosca has always been okay by herself, which is extremely valuable in an endurance horse.?

Riding at night and alone was really amazing.? We left behind a few other riders who were afraid to trot speedily down the dark trails.? Tosca was supremely confident and she just motored into the finish.? I remember thinking it was like riding Space Mountain at Disneyland.? You're moving really fast and you can't see if you're going to turn right, turn?left, go up or drop down next.? My dream goal for Tosca that year was that we might finish top-20.? She's no speed demon, but she could definitely be the poster child for ?slow and steady wins the race'.? We originally placed 21st at the finish, but someone's horse didn't pass the final vet check and we got jumped up one spot.? Hooray!?

In 2006 I was again supposed to ride Tosca until Peter needed her to replace a horse that he'd leased that went lame.? So I ended up on another young horse named Bartali BL (Bey Shah and Baskhemo breeding).? Bartali was the least-prepared horse I have attempted Tevis on and I finished with him at about 4:30 AM.? It was pure torture, that last couple of hours, and I still think that I should have asked him to go faster and sacrificed a little of his physical health for his mental health.?

In 2007 I crewed for the Bay Laurel team and in 2008 Tevis was historically cancelled due to fires in the Sierra.?

I started Tevis in 2009 on Lakota Dancer (and yet another Bey Shah grandson), who belongs to my excellent friend Julienne Buxton.? Julie has a herd of great endurance horses (ranging from 31 years old to 13 years old) that all descend from?one ? Arabian, ? Quarter Horse mare she got when she was sixteen.? Her history with endurance is one of those great stories that I love to tell people.?

I'd been racing Lakota for more than a year and consistently finishing in the top ten at 50-mile events.? He's is a compact little gray with big dark eyes,?plenty of chutzpah and a dozen nicknames.? I could do a? whole post just on his? nicknames.? And you can definitely see the Quarter Horse influence when you look at his rump.??

Stupidly, I didn't think about the water that year.? The horses were given water to drink from a brand-new tank that I knew was out-gassing and leaving a flavour behind.? I don't' think they drank a drop the night before the race.? Lakota's half sister Kahera (Kharatay daughter, called ?Kiera' at home) was pulled at Red Star (28 mile mark).? And although he came into Robinson Flat?(first major vet check at 36 miles) with me like a house a-fire - spectators shouting "Wow!? Your horse looks great!"- at the vet check Lakota showed signs of an electrolyte imbalance and it was determined that he was too dehydrated to continue.?

Lakota in the Granite Chief Wilderness in 2009

Lakota in the Granite Chief Wilderness in 2009

In 2010 Lakota was out of the running with a hoof injury so I took his half sister.? Kiera is a joy to ride and the best downhill horse I've ever been on.? She ought to be a real weapon at Tevis but she's gets very anxious around large numbers of horses - as many mares do - and it can be very challenging to get her heart rate down enough to satisfy a busy vet.? Unfortunately I failed at the task and she was again pulled at Red Star.?

So that brings me to this year - 2011.? Tevis has been postponed due to excessive snow pack in the Sierra - a first for the historic event - and will be run on October 8th.? I'm slated to ride an amazing creature named BA Bearcat (The Minstril grandson).? Bear is a freight train disguised as a horse.? He has a classically beautiful Egyptian Arabian head with delicately sculpted ears stapled onto a stocky, muscular body.? Imagine Jude Law's head on Arnold Schwarzenegger's body.?

Bear is being lent to me by a very excellent pair of friends - Barry Waite (his owner) and Jennifer Nice (his usual rider).? Jennifer is going to ride one of a pair of extremely nice race-bred mares she owns who are just seven this year and showing great promise.? Bear and me and M Dash Stellar (Sam Tiki daughter, she goes by ?Stella') and Jenn are hoping to smoke up the trails in a few weeks.? Wish us luck!