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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tevis 2013 - First look

 I don't know where to even start.  Everytime I start my Tevis story, I end up only 1/3 through the ride, at 3500 words and complete chaos.

So, today I'm posting some pretty pictures and I'll tell you the end before the beginning, and hopefully reassure those of you that saw that I got pulled lame at Fransisco's (~85 miles).

Pictures are either from the fabulous Tevis webcast team (thank you Crysta and Lucy - I totally stole the pics of me off Facebook) or from the wonderful Gore and Baylor photography team.

 Above is me and Farley before vetting in.  Farely is demonstrating her typical behavior before and during a ride - totally focused on her job and ignoring whatever silliness I've decided to engage in.

 As you can see, my dreams came true and I got to go over cougar rock *and* get photos.  Although it was a near thing.  The pictures that is.  Some of my pics didn't get printed and the wonderful Bill Gore, who took the shot below looked through his files and managed to find me some wonderful shots of the "right" side.

Reader question - which shot should I get an 8x10 of?  The one above or the one below?  The one above is certainly a more pleasing shot of a horse and rider is sorta harmony, but the one below is totally fun and adventerous :)!


I got to ride the first 1/3 of the ride with a couple of really really great gals.  This is me talking to one of them.  LOL.  (and yes, the first cougar rock shot, and the 2 below are pics of a pic that Baylor and Gore the quality is not great here - but they are BEAUTIFUL in real life).
 And lets face it - when your ankle gotta itch it.  Let's here it for flexibility in the saddle!!!!!
 I had a very very VERY fresh horse coming into Robinson Flat.  I realized that I was going to come in like 20 minutes too early. Oops  Every time that I've been disappointed with the amount of horse I had later in this ride, it's because I rode a section too fast. 

Coming into Robinson I had a LOT of horse. 

A horse that knew EXACTLY where she was going and EXACTLY where the vet checks were. 

But I also had a plan. And that plan was to come into Robinson at 11:30.

We had a discussion on what was a walk, what was a trot, and what was a jig....ANNNNDDDDD.......when I said “walk” what EXACTLY that meant. 

We had this discussion for 1 1/2 miles. 

I came into Robinson at 11:25ish.  On a jiggy horse.  On a horse that I was getting compliments on all the way into the pulse area. 

Below I'm coming into Chicken Hawk.  This was a really low point in the ride for me.  Every year I feel totally dejected and tired and feel the impossiblity of finishing this ride.  It's only 6pm and it's impossible for me to contemplate being in the saddle another 10 hours. The difference this year was the low point started about half way down canyon #2 instead of at the vet check.  And I was never really able to shake it.  Farley was fine.  Totally sound.  Totally hydrated.  Vet's were giving me A's for gut sounds after telling me that they weren't giving any A's for gut sounds.  

 Farley got her bit caught in a bin of carrots and managed to dump the entire bucket over.  I was not amused.  Everyone at the check seemed amused and thought the orange carrots against the orange renegades was a "fabulous" picture.  Sorta of like when I was curled on the ground in front of my horse at fransisco's sleeping because I I can vaguely remember flashing cameras since I suppose that too was a "fabulous" picture.

So what happened?

The simple answer is I don't know.

I know that I had more horse throughout this ride than I have ever had at previous years

I know that my horse vetted through better - gaits, hydration, gut sounds, muscle tone - than she has EVER vetted through any significant ride in her history. It would be so easy to blame my pull on the total lack of conditioning miles in the last year, but at no point did Farley give any indication she was not prepared for the work being asked of her. So I have to conclude that my conditioning plan (or rather "rest" plan) was appropriate.  And considering that from Chicken Hawk onward I was pleading with the vets to give me an excuse to pull and they just laughed and ignored wasn't like I was giving a false picture at the vet check of how my ride was going....

I know that she trotted out totally sound at Foresthill and the vet ignored my feeble attempts to convince him to let me rider option.  He forced me to watch her trot out - which in retrospect was a good thing since I know he didn't just miss something.  She looked totally sound.  Not even stiff.

I know she was totally lame on her Right Hind when I got into Fransico's.  Not a reinjury of anything previous in her history.

I know we had a bad fall in the bogs in the first 1/3 of the ride.  But to stay totally sound for the next 75 miles and then just suddenly be lame without warning?

I know that if she hadn't been lame at Fransico's I would have probably sobbed and cried until the vet relented and let me rider option.  When the vet at Fransisco's (who knew me) refused and convinced me to go on to Lower Quarry, someone would have handed me some caffeine pills and Tylenol and I would have finally found someone to actually draft off of for the first time in the entire ride and I wouldn't have had to lead on a trail I saw once in the daylight 5 years ago and that I didn't remember at ALL and could have finally given my brain a break. 

I know that I was in pain every single mile of the ride I was in the saddle from mile 3 onward because of my knees which didn't like the saddle.  And perhaps that is to blame for my extreme fatigue that had me wondering whether falling to my death off the cliffs was really going to be THAT bad?  Because at least I could close my eyes and go to sleep? 

I know that it would be easy to blame the heat this year.  People from freakin' AZ heat stroked in the canyons!!!!!! (or so I was told - I'm having to go back and make some corrections because, as usual, it's easy to only get half the story or a rumor!) The completion rate was really really low this year - even with extending the cutoffs 15 minutes.  Last I saw, no non-arabs finished, and only 2 half arabs did (correction: 2 non arabs finished - Garlinghouse and Ribley - and 2 half arabs finished).  [ANOTHER EDIT:  Just ignore this whole previous sentence.  There were probably additional half arabs that finished beyond just 2. We were looking at unofficial results that morning and brain dead, so bottom line - go look at the ride results for yourself! :)] I think it's safe to say that the heat was definiately a factor in a lot of people's rides. But I can't blame the heat for my pull.  It never even registered to me that it was hot. I tailed Farley up the first canyon and while it wasn't easy, it never is.  I only noticed the heat when the sun fell because I realized I was STILL dripping in sweat and I couldn't see the trail because of all the damn dust....and then realized it was steam/fog whatever and it dawned on me that it was really really hot.  And then riders around me started talking about how their horses' pulses were running 10 beats higher than normal at the vet checks and I realized that I was damn lucky I live in the hot central valley, and I was damn SMART that I heat conditioned the way I did because me and Farley? We didn't even noticed the heat.  So no, I can't blame the heat for a pull at midnight, for a lame horse that still looked good in every single other parameter and breezed through the vet checks all day.  As for the rider, I didn't have one headache, didn't feel nauseous once.  So no, it wasn't the heat.

I know that for the next 2 days after Tevis the muscles hurt in my body so bad it even hurt to sleep.  My calves and feet didn't hurt (my feet are conditioned and no elyte cramps!).  My abs and arms and shoulders didn't hurt (rode Farley in a curb so that she couldn't pull against me).  But my back, butt, hamstrings, quads HURT.  Symmetrically and evenly and in a way that tells me that while my cardio may be just fine (no problems tailing up that canyon) I am WOEFULLY out of shape in the strength department for this sort of thing.  

So I ask again.  What happened? Why did my sound, looked-above-average horse that left FH come into Fransisco's lame? 

Based on everything above -  I know this:  that I did not under prepare my horse for this ride, but that I probably under prepared myself.

I wonder whether I just had some bad luck in the dark and hit a rock or a hole and she tweaked a RH that had already been tweaked in the bogs earlier in the day?

Or whether that's a story I'm weaving for myself and I'm missing something?  That's what I'm most afraid of - that I'll tell a story about this year about what happened that absolves me of blame, when it was something I could have prevented, because I've learned that very few things occur just because of "luck".

But on the other hand, Tevis seems to be more based in luck than any other ride I've ever seen.

A horse in front of me in the bogs put a hind foot wrong, and got trapped. Thirty seconds later after flailing around and dumping it's rider it jerked it's foot out of the rocks that had trapped it and limped off bloody and three legged.  Luck.

I heard a horse that was behind me somwhere on the trail attempted Cougar Rock and flipped over backwards on the rock, fell, and died.  I also heard it was a good rider on a good horse. Luck. (So.....apparently I heard wrong and the the horse did not actually flip off the rock!!!!!  Horse had gone over rock successfully and was on the trail above the rock doing a tack adjustment and fell off the steep trail there.  :)  Thank you Crysta)

I'll talk in future posts about how I "made my own luck" this year in a couple of places because I know the trail, but overall it seem that sh*t happens on this trail.

And so, today, after a day of napping and a second day of sitting on the couch eating ice cream and watching movies and replaying the day over and over in my head and in emails to crew and friends, I'm still left with the following:

I had an awesome horse and incredible ride all day.  I was probably under prepared and under conditioned, but my horse was just fine.  When I left Foresthill there wasn't any indication that I wouldn't finish with a lot of horse left at Auburn.  Something happened on the trail between Foresthill (mile 65 or 68?) and Fransisco's (mile 85 or so?) that left Farley's RH filled and ouchy.  And maybe I'll figure it out, and maybe I wont', and maybe it was just luck, and maybe this was our last Tevis and maybe it wasn't.  But I'm still glad I rode, and I have no regrets, and I did good by my horse.

And the last is the most important.


  1. Amen to that last statement.

    It truly sounds like a mystery at this point. Farley sounds like she did so amazingly phenomenal and that is absolutely because your conditioning program was so dialed. I totally understand the misery of soreness - hope you're bouncing back today.

    The photos are incredible, too. You two are a great pair.

  2. I would get 8 by 10's of BOTH of those cougar Rock photos, if I were you. They are fantastic.

    1. I'm so stingy with photos and feel like I'm some sort of conceited person when I blow them up because someone in my office once was all weirded out why I had pictures of myself on the wall....and it had never occurred to me that the photo wasn't about the horse. LOL. I'm tempted to do what you say - blow up both of them, add a picture from our first year, and give into the gloriousness of plastering the wall what I like to look at - my horse

  3. Oh, and congratulations on what sounds like a mostly really good ride, and I hope Farley is 100% in no time.

  4. Just a couple of corrections that I hope people get to read:

    Susan Garlinghouse finished on her non-Arab Tennessee Walking Horse, and Robert Ribley finished on his Appaloosa. I'm pretty sure there's more 1/2 Arabs in there as well as Hal Hall was on a 1/2, Nicole Chappell, Hiromi from Japan, etc.

    Kelly's horse Reb actually summitted Cougar Rock successfully and withouth incident. Her saddle slipped and she got off at the top, and took him to the side out of the way, where he experienced a fainting episode and fell over the edge. Very tragic but the rock itself wasn't directly involved so much as just the general steepness of the trail in that area.

    Was very sorry to see you pulled and hated to wake Funder up from her nap with that text. :( Hope to see you out there again next year.

    1. Thanks! I'll correct my post and repost!!!!!

      I'm so glad that the rock itself wasn't involved - still absolutely horrible, but not as awful in my mind for some reason.

    2. I'm hoping since you got here early, that the misinformation didn't go too far.

  5. She looks better every day so I'm crossing my fingers that it's something just minor and will resolve uneventfully. We are done for the rest of the season and will have the next six months off or plenty of time to just heal and play around :)

  6. And we love you.

    You forgot that bit.

    (don't forget that bit)

    1. I'll never forget that bit :). Part of my whine to my crew was trying to convince Funder at FH that it would make a much better story for my blog if I RO and it was so cool to go down the trail knowing that I wasn't a dissapointement to you'all no matter what happened and I didn't have to finish to be proud of this ride.

  7. Great post Melinda. I think that luck is a huge factor in this ride as I saw my watch list of 12 dwindle down to 5 finishers. I saw Barbara White get pulled, my previous trainer Janine Esler, Heather Reynolds among other various other experienced riders get the line drawn thru their vet cards. I was the vet secretary at Foresthill that told you I was going to slap you to snap out of it. I enjoyed meeting you finally and your friend who I thought looked like someone else......I don't think people want to pull and one girl at Francisco's begged my vet 9x's to RO which he finally got and gave to her. She was seriously done. You may have been under-conditioned or maybe it just wasn't your day. And maybe you weren't balanced enough towards the end and caused your horse to step funny. Or maybe she just stepped funny and that was it. I love reading these stories and am so impressed by the riders and of course horses, but the reflection afterwards is sweet. You did a good job. You and your horse went as far as you could. And, she did look awesome at Foresthill. Not every horse did and it went downhill at Francisco's. Thanks for sharing this. Diana Hiiesalu

    1. Sorry I was such a ditz at FH.

      It was so weird. I felt so bad on horse back starting before chicken hawk, but then I would get off the horse and feel fine. I think the saddle and me just weren't getting along?

      For example, I was 100% sure I would rider option at FH, but then I got off to pulse and vet and started to think that I could do it because I felt fine. So by the time I saw you I was only 60% I wanted to RO.

      I was 100% sure going into Fransico's that I was done, but by the time I was at the vet in, I was 80% sure I wanted to RO and when I saw a friend that I could leave with etc. I thought maybe I could go on and was willing to let myself get talked into going on if my horse looked good (which she did until the trot out LOL. The vet said he was not going to let me RO, I said OK and laughed through the tears, and then when she was lame we both laughed and said "perhaps not".).

    2. Oh....and get both pictures. Screw your office mate...or whoever has no idea what you do. Then make the photos big and put your buckle in there (or when you get an extra one). You deserve it.

  8. Mel you're a hero in our book! Just getting to Tevis period makes you a winner to me!

  9. Both pictures are wonderful! But you know me. The first looks like a calendar shot and the other has stories to tell. Like, what happens in the next split second? So that's my fave. But get me both and get them big.
    I'm so proud of Farley for how she did!

  10. Wow! I can't even imagine getting to Tevis let alone goin 85 miles with so much horse the entire time. You two are amazing and have inspired me to get out there an do what I've been dreaming of bu too scared to do! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing!!! Get both pictures!

  11. I know it must be terribly disappointing to not finish, but from my point of view you and Farley are amazing. I hope her leg heals up alright. I like the fires picture, because it shows just how steep that rock is! Congratulations!

  12. They are both pictures of a lifetime! You should be very proud. I loved the neon orange, too.

  13. Every time I hear about horses falling off and dying, I have to calm my pulse and remind myself that, as I am reading your blog post, you must still be alive.

    Or are you on a canyon floor with 2 broken legs blogging the last few minutes of your sweaty existence?

  14. So you would be that normal person that looks at cougar rock pictures and has no desire to ride tevis ever? Not a crazy person that says I want to ride this ride no matter what it takes?

    1. I be seein' that and I be all Haaaeeeeeelll NAW

  15. You found the rock with your name on it. All horses have one out there, and you hope you do not find it....

    17th place horse is part Friesian, and the best placing non Arab

    Go figure, they know how to condition those horses!

    I love the 2nd pic. It is like the "old" images that Charlie shot. The correct angle to make friends go OH MY!

    1. Moments after the second picture was taken, Farley bounced me out of the saddle in "Angie" fashion (remember the cover of her book?) and I was hoping that I was immortalized suspended in mid air over the saddle, but alas it was not to be :). I'm so over the pics of "damn I look good in the saddle" and now I tend to gravitate towards the pics where me and Farley look like we are having a wild (fun) time :). Yeah, I was super pleased with the second shot :).

    2. FYI - think I saw that 1/2 Fresion at Deadwood - came in right after me. Horse was hot but was doing OK. Looked like he made it through the heat of the day and finished well!!!!!! Good to hear.

    3. Hearing there was a half-Fresian made my eyes bug out -- not a cross I would have expected to cope well with miles and miles in the heat! I would love to hear that rider's and horse's story.

      As for your ride, man: horses! What a weird development. I am glad to hear that you guys are okay and that Farley is improving. Here's to next year, then!

      How much running did you end up doing along the way?

  16. I felt like tallying it up, here are the results that I got from looking at the list of 75 completions: 64 Arabs, 9 half-Arabs, 1 TWH and 1 Appaloosa. I counted Golden Knight, the half-Friesian as half-Arab because his dam is 3/4 Arab.

  17. mmmm...that doesn't actually seem too outrageous. There are usually more nonarabs that finish I think, but there were also far fewer starters than normal I think. The 2 arabs that finished were ridden by 2 really really really experienced people.

  18. Definitely get both pics blown up! They are each awesome in their own way and with the adventure you had, you should have lots of great reminders!:) I hope Farley is 100% soon, and that I get to read about next year's Tevis:) And, I'm so excited to hear that a part-Friesian finished! I've got a full Friesian that I'm training and I love to hear that it's possible for us to get to that level.

  19. Both pictures are great, but I love her reaching leg in the second shot. I hope a few days later you're seeing it all in perspective and that Farley is looking better. A pretty great adventure, just thwarted a bit. There is always next year.


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