Tevis: Education in Endurance

By June 1, 2011

The 4th annual Tevis Cup Educational Ride takes place in June. (Photo by Ron Osborn)

The 2011 Western States Trail Ride, also known as the Tevis Cup, runs July 16­–17 (editor’s note: The Tevis Cup was rescheduled for October and the educational ride to July), starting in Lake Tahoe. To help riders prepare for that grueling test of 100 miles in 24 hours, organizers are mounting the fourth annual Tevis Education Ride, June 10–12. Educational Ride co-managers Linda Glazier and Terryl Reed are marshalling riders and volunteers from around the world for this preliminary cross-country adventure, which stretches over 64 miles of the famed Western States Trail.

Riders will gather at the Robinson Flat campsite and attend seminars before heading out Saturday, June 11, for a 36-mile trek to Foresthill Mill Site. That night, seminars will be offered, before riders head out on Sunday to wend their way to Auburn for the final 32 miles.

According to Glazier, education works. “Almost 100 percent of the educational riders who complete the educational ride go on to complete the actual 100-mile event, which is certainly better than the historic average of 50 percent,” she explained. How does the educational ride accomplish this?

During the educational ride, participants are divided into groups of six, with each group accompanied by three experienced endurance riders to instruct participants on pacing, navigation and equine care. There are four veterinary checkpoints along the first day’s route, and three the second day, to both protect horses and educate riders as to what to expect on the big ride. Glazier and Reed plan to group the riders into groups “A”, “B” and “C,” with groups A traveling around seven miles per hour, B traveling six mph and group C averaging five mph. Glazier likens organizing the event to “putting on a small Tevis.”

The Tevis Cup has been held every full moon Saturday in mid-summer since 1955, with the exception of 2008, when wildfires raged in California.

*Due to park service requirements, only 60 riders will be allowed to participate in the rough ride from Robinson Flat to Foresthill, which traverses canyons, presenting spooky views with steep descents and brutal climbs that often occur during the hottest part of the day (when it’s not unusual for the mercury to top 100 in July). Over the course of the Tevis’ 50-plus years, horses have been known to fall into the canyon and die. However, there will be no limit on riders desiring to experience the final 32 miles from the Foresthill Mill Site into Auburn. This section also spans canyons, but it is not considered so frightening since it is almost always traversed in the dark (playing into the “what you can’t see won’t hurt you” mentality typical of horses).*

Though good for drought-stricken areas of California, an accumulation of heavy winter snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas could create logistical problems for ride managers. At press time unusually deep snowfall covered sections of the Robinson Flat camp and surrounding roads, but contingency plans are being made in case the expected spring thaw fails to open needed areas.

Rho Bailey, a four-time Tevis finisher who also volunteers for both the competition and the Educational Ride, noted, “Everyone in the world has a dream, especially horse people, and if that dream is to ride Tevis, this educational ride can help.”

Tevis attracts equine adventurers from around the world. Although most currently registered participants are from California, entries for this year’s ride have been accepted from Japan, Guatemala and elsewhere in the U.S. Deirdre Monroe of Santa Fe, New Mexico, views it as an opportunity to learn from experts. “I want to be with people who understand the strategy of completing a 100-mile event over rough terrain. I want to do the Educational Ride and then come back to get my buckle.” The coveted Tevis belt buckle is awarded only to those who can complete the entire 100 miles within the allocated 24 hours on ride day.

An avid hiker, Monroe has traveled to the region over the years to hike segments of the Western States Trail, but knows the feel of a trail changes when as an equestrian you are mounted and trotting out, which she cites as an advantage of the educational ride. “We get to do the canyons and cross the river. I want that feel in my bones.”

The event was conceived and structured for those wanting to be as prepared as possible for the Tevis Cup, but it also attracts those with questions. “This event is for people who don’t know if they want to ride the entire 100 miles,” Glazier said. The ride is not for anyone who doesn’t have a well-conditioned horse with previous trail experience, and it’s not for those who are afraid of heights.

Glazier recalled one participant who, after completing the event, told her quite sincerely: “Thank you very much for having us because I realize now I don’t want to do Tevis!”

Whether or not Tevis is in their future, riders retain all that was learned from camp seminars held by experienced veterinarians, farriers and successful 100-mile riders. They can take home 75 miles of “credit” on their records for each day of the Education Ride they complete (a Tevis Cup entry requires 300 certified miles). They also take home memories of some of the best trails California has to offer. “It truly is a very educational thing for people; it gives them confidence,” Glazier said of the Education Ride. Monroe summed up best the belief of a growing number of Tevis hopefuls: “I just can’t pass it up.”

Advance registration is required for all segments of the Tevis Educational Ride. For more information about the ride, visit www.teviscup.org.


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