By Linda Benson
The Tevis Cup, the 100 mile/one day ride through the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, was recently completed. Held in July or August on a weekend nearest the full moon, I did this ride many years ago, and I always get nostalgic this time of year just thinking about it.
I rode it on my good horse Daniel. Although the vast majority of endurance riders prefer Arabs, Daniel was a half-mustang, half-quarter horse gelding that I had bought as a green broke 8-year-old. He was dark palomino with a lot of dun factor, including a salt-and-pepper mane, a line-back, and even some faint zebra-striping on his legs. I'm sure his coloring, as well as his toughness and surefootedness was inherited from his mustang mother.
Actually, my girlfriend and I had completed this trail a couple of weeks earlier in three days, riding about 30-35 miles a day, carrying all of our needs on horseback and camping out. We not only had a blast, but Daniel had carried me right up this rock like the trooper that he was. He was sure-footed, I totally trusted him, and he had never refused to go anywhere that I pointed him. Which explains the look on my face in this picture. Do I look determined? No, actually, I was totally pissed at my horse right here, and calling him many names that I cannot print.
After a mad dash out of camp at 5:15 in the morning, and long-trotting up the slopes of Squaw Valley, followed by a narrow trail that winds around and over creeks and timber, there was a bottle-neck of horses at about the 27 mile marker, waiting to climb Cougar Rock. Unlike earlier, when our forward motion carried us right on up, Daniel had time to think about it while we waited our turn. Perhaps he remembered how steep it was, or maybe he knew how many more miles (73) there were on the other side of it. At any rate, when we approached the rock, my darn horse spun around about ten times and refused to go up it.
Now of course anyone with half a brain would have bailed off and just led their horse up, got to the top safely, remounted and proceeded. But no. Puffed up with cowgirl pride, I walloped old Daniel a few good ones, not wanting him to get away with anything. I could hear the titters and sighs of the other riders around me, waiting for their turn, while I took this moment to school my horse. In just a few minutes, Daniel decided to charge up the rock, just like he had brilliantly a couple of weeks ago. With a smug look on my face, I leaned forward and grabbed his mane to help him balance. But when he got about 2/3 of the way up, at the steepest, scariest, most treacherous spot, my horse spun around again, and started back down the rock. Eeecckkk.
With youthful agility that I don't possess today, I jumped off him, amazingly didn't fall, grabbed the reins, and led him on up, narrowly averting a huge disaster captured for all time by the professional photographer sitting above us to our right. At the top of the rock, I jumped back on my horse, and it took about ten minutes (and a lot of bad words) to get my emotions under control. I decided that since we still had so far to go, I could not mentally be mad at my horse for all that time. So I collected myself, with difficulty, and continued. Whatever happened on that rock was in the past, and we had a lot of trail in front of us. And Daniel did perfectly during the entire rest of the ride.
Did we finish the entire 100 miles? Well, yes we did. Did we receive the coveted silver buckle for finishers? To find out, you can read the post I wrote about it right here.
Training for, and riding the Tevis Cup was one of the most exciting times in my life. Endurance riding is a lot of fun, not only because of all the beautiful country you get to see, but because it's really rewarding to get your horse very fit and tough. I totally had a blast doing it, but wanted to share with you the real story behind this picture.
For more about the Tevis, visit their official site right here.
Are any of you endurance riders? Tell us about the rides that you've been on.