This year - in addition to conditioning for Tevis - Jenn and I have been working to qualify ourselves and the mares to compete at the international level.
In order to qualify for consideration for the US Endurance team, a horse and rider needs to complete a prescribed series of competitions of increasing distance culminating with a 100-mile distance in less than 12 hours as the final step.
We began this journey with a "one-star" FEI (stands for Federation Equestre Internationale) 50-mile race near Yosemite last year.
It went really well - Jenn and Czoe won, me and Stella right behind them - and we aimed ourselves at the next challenge.? We did a "two-star" 75-mile ride at the Twenty Mule Team endurance event in Ridgecrest last February (a February ride in the Southern California desert can actually be quite nice).? Then we did another two-star 75-miler in mid-April at Joseph Grant Park near San Jose, California.? We will do that same ride again this weekend, which means the mares will go to Tevis with three 75-mile distances in 2013 under their belts.? This is good.
We are somewhat unique in our approach here - generally you wouldn't risk a viable international-level horse on Tevis.? But Tevis was and continues to be our primary goal, riding at the FEI level is a bit of a (spendy - entry fees are steep for these rides) sidebar.? It's also true that a horse that's a good Tevis mount might not be an ideal FEI horse and vice versa.? We are asking these two mares for a pretty high level of versatility that they have - so far - shown themselves capable of.
Riding an FEI race is typically very different from riding the Tevis.? The latter is characterized by highly technical trail which, for the most part, cannot be covered at high speed.? It's also point to point - starting near Truckee, California and ending in Auburn, California.? FEI rides are usually pretty flat and fast (the ride at Joseph Grant is somewhat atypical due to serious elevation changes), designed as tests of speed and endurance.? In addition, FEI rides are characterized by a series of loops into one central vet check area.
The final FEI-qualifying hurdle - which we'll try to tackle after Tevis - is that fast 100-miler.? As you might imagine, such speed requires a pretty flat, easy course.? Jenn and I are waiting for someone to schedule just such a ride within trailer range.