Friends in High Places: The People of Tevis

A week from tonight, I will have trouble falling asleep.

I don’t have a guilty conscience, I am not an insomniac (usually). I will have trouble because I will be completely excited, ready to put “us” to the test.

In my mind, I will be going over check lists I have already gone over. I will be thinking about “what did I forget?” I will be entranced in a wakeful dream–I’m will be in Robie Park, after all and ready make our 2nd attempt at 100 miles on one of the world’s most difficult endurance rides.

Why would anyone put themselves and their horses through up to 24 hours of harsh riding through rugged country? Why, magic, of course.

Maybe you don’t believe in magic. You might call it malarkey!

I’m here to tell you it’s real—and it has many things that contribute to it.

The first person to fire up this magic began 63 years ago with a challenge. His name? Wendell Robie. He is an inspiration to many, and in the middle of summer on a weekend most closely timed with a full moon, close to 200 people help to keep his spirit alive by engaging our horses to travel 100 miles. This sport, the sport of endurance, revolves around our beloved horses, but one of the things that brings us closer to these animals is our community.

The people of endurance are tough. Many have ridden their horses battling personal illnesses, cancer even. Some ride with broken bones, when they feel sick, exhausted. They are motivated, intelligent, caring. They are a tribe.

The trip to Auburn has brought me to meet a select few of our tribe that have been lucky enough to compete and steadfast enough to complete the Tevis Cup. A person might recognize a Tevis rider by the silver glint of a buckle on their midsection, decorated by the image of a Pony Express rider and the saying 100 miles-One Day. I can’t quote the exact source, but I’ve heard that fewer people than have climbed to the summit of Mount Everest have finished this ride. Each person I have met in this small group has been a marvel to me—and exemplary of those qualities I mentioned about endurance riders. They are my heroes, and one part of the magic that I speak of. I can’t wait to see them.

Another part of the tribe are those coming out to compete. One of the aspects that is so neat about this ride is the draw from foreign countries. Riders from Australia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, and Spain will be joining us this year. I love meeting people from other countries and sharing our common experiences and love for our horses.

We also have several riders coming from the Central Region of AERC and Regions 6 and 4 of NATRC From AERC, we have Carrie Merson, Dale and Elizabeth Keen, Melanie Martin (all great folks I have had the chance to meet through endurance!) and Christina Martin(whom I have not yet met). From NATRC we have Sarah Rinne from Nebraska riding for her first time. I will be wording this next sentence very funnily so as not to set off any angry deities on her behalf, but this rider from Texas named Jonni will be riding some miles on this vague trail somewhere in California.

It’s like bringing part of home with me—in addition to seeing so many people I got to meet last year, it will be great to see everyone and cheer all of us forward in our quest.

Speaking of bringing home with me, I have these wonderful people coming along and flying out to help Rio and I out and I have to give a lot of credit to the part they play in the magic. These folks do all of the hard work for the team—meeting us at vet checks and taking care of the logistics of the ride. I will miss last year’s crew, they did a phenomenal job and I couldn’t have been happier with all of them–this year’s team will be just as great, I know. Steve Lindsey and Monicka Remboldt will be driving out with me. Flying out at later times will be Todd Hezeau, Kira Everhart-Valentin and Kay Stich. It will be a lot of hard work, but I have utter faith and confidence in these guys.

Crew people are fantastic support. Volunteers for the ride are immensely important too! The spell would not take place without them. They help ride management, scribe for vets (love our vets!!!), help take pulses and a multitude of other jobs essential to the event. My dear friend Laura is flying out to volunteer this year–she’s another of my tribe I can’t wait to see.

Another part of the enchantment is the travel it takes to get out there. We start out for the West tomorrow afternoon: internet access willing, I will try to chronicle the trip out and touch on some other aspects of preparation in the next few days.

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