Just in case you're reading this, but you're not an endurance person - Tevis is the original endurance ride. It goes from Lake Tahoe to Auburn, CA, down through the western Sierras. It's one hundred miles, and you have 24 hours to complete it. It's brutal and epic and a life goal for a surprising number of people. Year to year, only about 50% of the starters complete the ride successfully.
I have volunteered/crewed Tevis every year (thanks, C, for dragging me to them!) since we moved to the area, so I had some idea what to expect, but I'd never ridden a mile of the trail before. The Ed Ride breaks down the last two-thirds of the trail into two days: one day to ride from Robinson Flat to Foresthill, and one day to ride from Foresthill into Auburn.
I camped and rode with my friend Wayne (featured in Washoe, Red Rocks, and a NEDA ride the year before that), and he befriended the RM and got us a gaited mentor. Not just any gaited mentor, either; we got Becky Lange. She's attempted Tevis four times and completed it three times on her amazing little KMSH, Mocha Jack - always finishing quite well, in 11th place in 2011! But she's not a racer; she usually does multidays on him. A perfect mentor for our goals!
I'm gonna break this post up into The Talks and The Ride:
There were speakers both nights, and honestly, I was kinda of whatever about listening to speakers. I'm a visual learner; I've read tons of articles and ride stories about Tevis; and I only showed up to let my horse learn the trail. But the speakers were absolutely the added value that made the weekend more than worth the price!
I left the ride packet in the trailer, so I know I'm going to forget something, but here's my best guess at remembering what I learned from the speakers:
Kevin Myers was there from Easycare. He talked about boots and said the same thing I tell people: boots work great if you're physically and mentally able to commit to them. You have to be able to touch up the trim yourself, even if you have a great trimmer coming every six weeks. It's not that hard if you're able-bodied, but I could see how if you have arthritis, for example, you'd just use shoes.
A successful racer talked about how to maximize your placing, but once I figured out he was a racer I kinda quit listening, to be totally honest. A lot of the advice that applies to people trying to top-ten will only hurt people who are just trying to complete.
Rob Lydon, a local vet/RM, talked about the four most common pulls they see at Tevis and what we the riders can do to try to prevent them. In no particular order:
- Wounds. Just hope your horse doesn't trip on a rock.
- Colic. Keep them eating to keep the guts active, make sure they calm down at vet checks. Horses, like all mammals, divert blood flow from the innards to the run-fast muscles when they get amped up on adrenaline, and if they run in a state of anxiety for too long their guts shut down and they colic. They need to move calmly down the trail, eating snacks, and they must eat pretty much the whole time at the vet checks.
- Thumps (synchronous diaphragmatic flutter). When horses get hot, they sweat. Sweating depletes electrolytes in the body, and if the horse gets too depleted, ~something I don't understand~ happens with the nerves by the heart and it triggers the diaphragm to contract. You can see the flank twitch; apparently it's very distinctive once you've seen it before. Make sure the horse is conditioned for the exercise and heat and give the right amount of electrolytes.
- Tying up (exertional rhabdomyolysis). Another too-hot too-much-exercise problem. This is another one where I don't think I'm qualified to explain what's happening inside the horse, but what the rider will see is a bitchy horse that doesn't want to move, is obviously in pain, and has hard cramping muscles instead of jello-soft squishy muscles. And it's another one that can be prevented (sometimes) with adequate conditioning and the right amount of electrolytes.