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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tevis Story

I thought about editing it for length and interest, but when I was planning to ride the Tevis, I found that the more details people included, the more I learned, so don't look at this as a typical to-entertain story....

Farley and I headed up to the Auburn Fairgrounds on Thursday, found our stall and settled in. I had brought 2 tents – a bigger dome and a backpacking tent – so that I could set up camp at the fairgrounds and have everything ready when I finished on Saturday, and still set up a smaller camp at Robie the day before. The atmosphere at the fairgrounds was relaxed and friendly and I easily fell in with some other Tevis riders who were also camping out.

With the heavy traffic predicted for I-80, I wanted to get as early a start as possible. I took a nap while waiting for my aunt Terry and brother Tristan to show up. At ~10:40 we headed to Robie. We must have timed it well because we didn’t have any traffic. Many hours and millions of gravel roads later we were at Robie. Farley looked awesome – absolutely 100%.

I must be finally “getting” the endurance thing because everywhere I turned around I recognized people. Vetting in was uneventful. Farley was completely relaxed and pulsed in at the low 30’s. I tried going to the new-riders briefing, but have a hard time sitting still and I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I did learn that the completion rate between newbies and veterans was exactly the same, which was interesting.

My friend Dan and I planned to start and ride together. While finding his camp we ended up going in circles completely lost. (Literally going in circles…)

The night was uneventful is you don’t count rattling trailer doors and hysterical girly giggling throughout the night.

I saddled up in the morning and headed for Dan’s camp. Farley was forward but calm. I let Terry and Tristan (and my cousin Eleanor) do the camp pack up. I refused to be OCD about it and told them I didn’t care where they put stuff (*deep breath*). Dan and I walked to the start line exactly according to plan and got to start by ourselves at 5:30am. We immediately started passing people. Both our horses were totally calm, in control, and alert. It was going to be a good ride. The plan was to walk up hills and trot everything else. Both of us being impatient people, we kept each other on track. Everything went according to plan and we were right on schedule, coming into Lyon Ridge at 9am.

From the beginning my tights rode up underneath my half chaps, all the way to my knees. It was driving me crazy.

The bogs were absolutely crazy. I thought they were much more challenging than the canyons. It wasn’t the actual bogs that were bad – it was the vegetation that had grown over the trail so you couldn’t see where you were going. It might have been that I was riding this part of the trail with one contact lens. Farley started to fight me here and tripped and stumbled more than she ought to. I found myself thinking “how many times can a horse stumble and trip until it catches up to them?” She would do better if we were by ourselves, but sometimes you just have to deal with what you’re dealt. Coming out of Redstar (or whatever the first gate and go was) Dan and I got caught behind a long line of riders and Farley REALLY started fighting me. Grrrrr….At cougar rock everyone in front of us stopped to do the rock, so we went around. Farley managed to bash my knee into the wall as we went around. I said some unladylike words and thought it had fractured, but it ended up just being bruised with some blood. (I think – as I write this 5 days later it still really hurts.)

Robinson went well. I could not have done it without my crew. Even with vetting my own horse in for the Vet check and the exit CRI, I still got to sit down for 30 minutes and relax. The vets said she looked awesome. I replaced my left contact and was looking forward riding the trail with TWO contacts! I also duct taped my tights to my socks. Dan was having some trouble with pulse at the exit CRI so I waited 5 minutes for him and then took off. (he later made it through and was ~15 minutes behind me. He finished!). The exit timer was not well organized and that delayed me at least another 5 minutes.

I flew down the trail, mostly by myself. I visited with some ladies from Canada who were having the time of their lives, and met Sue, whom my aunt was crew for. This portion by pucker point is my favorite part of the trail.

At Last Chance Farley refused to drink. What????!!!! She wouldn’t stop eating and take time to drink. Finally I moved on. We flew down the first Canyon in 15 minutes, and then up up up. We passed the scene of the tragic fall (it had happened probably ~5 minutes in front of me) and went up to Devil’s Thumb. She drank well and I took the extra time to sponge her and let her eat. It was only a mile to Deadwood, so I hand jogged/walked her in.

When I jogged her out for the vet, he said she was intermittently lame on her right front. What???? Her old bow is on the LEFT front and is what I obsess about. The vet and I checked her legs and couldn’t find anything and he cleared me to go on. Her pulse during the CRI was 50 and she recovered immediately coming into the gate and go like she had all day.

I kept a close eye on her after Deadwood. The intermittent lameness only showed up going down hill. On flats and on hills she was sound. She stayed very very strong. I knew that I probably would pull at Foresthill unless there was a miracle, and wanted to give her the best chance possible to come out of this ride as sound as possible with no lasting damage. I decided to run down – on foot – the entire second canyon. Yes it was hard, yes it was worth every step. Here’s the deal about Tevis – maybe you can get through it being in not so great condition – but can you do the best thing for your horse if something unexpected comes up? I had not planned on getting off and running down down down hill for a ways, but fortunately I had the fitness to do it and still feel fresh when I got into Foresthill. I remounted for the bridge and going up the other side.

Someone called out that the cut off for Michigan Bluff was 6:15. As I didn’t have my cut-off card with me, I couldn’t verify that information. It was 5:30 and we were only half way up. The people at the head of the line couldn’t/wouldn’t speed up or couldn’t/wouldn’t let us pass. I took deep breaths and practiced patience. Right before Michigan bluff, they let us pass and I cantered into Michigan Bluff strong at 6:00 (in fact everyone was commenting how strong she looked from the bottom of the Canyon through this point). I saw someone I knew, who sponged my horse. Farley took a good drink and then cantered off to Chicken Hawk. I found out later that the 6:15 was a GUIDELINE only for Michigan Bluff, something I could have easily verified if I had my card with me. I’m not unhappy how things turned out – Farley had PLENTY of gas in the tank (excellent thing to know) and even with the running about, her lameness did not get worse – it stayed intermittent and only down hill. We walk/trotted into Chicken Hawk and pulsed down immediately. I knew that with the lameness we were borderline and I also felt like she was starting to get a bit stiff so I vetted through the check as fast as possible. Some of my crew made a surprise appearance here, which was GREAT! They didn’t slow me down at all and were able to call into my Foresthill crew and make a report of how Farley and I were doing and that I was thinking I would be pulling. I REALLY didn’t want to get pulled before Foresthill because of very long wait for a trailer. Much nicer to pull into Foresthill, have my crew there, take a shower, eat lots of goodies, and drive back in my own trailer.

The vet at Chicken Hawk I think felt I was blowing him off, but I wasn’t. I knew about the lameness, I knew down hill was where it showed up, and I was managing it the best I could. He asked me if I was OK – probably because I looked like a little dirty waif (my sister’s description was holocaust victim but that’s not very nice) who wasn’t comprehending everything he was saying. But honestly I knew what needed to be done and was preoccupied. I was tired, but not exhausted and was contemplating the trail between there and Foresthill and was planning my ride. I left Chicken Hawk at 6:30pm.

The ride to Foresthill was uneventful. Farley charged up the last canyon wall like a runaway locomotive (OK – it wasn’t that bad, but she was determined and strong I’ll say that) and before we knew it we were in Foresthill at 7:15 – exactly when I told my chicken hawk crew I would be there. Farley walk/trotted up Bath road and pulsed in immediately.

As a side note, one of the volunteers I know told me that some people were taking as long as 25 minutes to pulse in at Robinson and Foresthill? I can’t imagine. I guess everyone has their own challenges on the trail. I’m grateful that I never felt stressed for time because I could breeze through the gate and gos.

At this point, when the crew was sponging her legs off, I noticed blood on the inside of the right leg, high up, right below her knee. Aha! Finally I might have an explanation of why she’s ouchy! There was some localized swelling by the blood and I was SO relieved. So much better to have a little localized pain (caused by hitting a rock?) than tendonitis or other tendon/ligament etc. injury.

I showed the injury to the vet and trotted her out. Yep – intermittent lameness, no worse than when it was first discovered. On her re-trot out (so another vet could look) they commented that she was starting to look a little stiff in the hind too. Unless she looked much worse on her recheck, it would be my decision to pull her. I took her back to the crew set up and iced her right leg, messaged her, and walked her. She looked done to me and she still wasn’t drinking as much as I would have liked, to make up for missing Last Chance. After 45 minutes into the check, I tried trotting her out and decided we were done for the day.

I let the vet know that I was rider optioning and asked his advice on buting/lameness evaluation etc. He advised me to bute no earlier than the morning to allow for sufficient rehydration. If the bruise on the inside of the leg was the culprit, she should be sound within 7-10 days. If not, take her in for a lameness evaluation.

While waiting for the trailer to come from the fairgrounds I showered! It felt SO good. Mom had everything set up for me, including hot water. I felt totally refreshed. A grouchy, crabby, tired Melinda went in, and a smiling, laughing, able to ride another 32 miles, Melinda came out.

About 1 hour off the trail Farley started draining buckets and I knew she was going to OK. When I unloaded her at the fairgrounds she attempted to trot back to her pen, and then bolt past me at a “scary monster” so I started to lose a little sympathy for my “tired sore pony” and decided that I was too tired to ice her other front.

In the morning we celebrated my Dad’s 50th Birthday with a brunch. Most of the crew members came back and I got to hear all the stories. Farley was still muscle sore (didn’t want to turn in tight circles, I think her shoulders were sore) but there was very little filling (she usually always has filling) and she was alert, looked hydrated etc. Overall I was happy with my first attempt.


  1. Congratulations on your first attempt--further than I've gotten so far, since I've never (yet) gotten as far as sending in my entry! But someday, I will.

    Again, congrats.

  2. THanks for sharing your experienceing. Overall your ride really was uneventful, which is a good thing. You were very in tune with Farley with her soreness and drinking and that is commendable.

  3. Thank you for taking us alone on your journey. Wonderful to hear how well you and your crew did. Hooray for hot showers.


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