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Friday, July 22, 2011

I wish I had known..."Tevis"

It's that time of year - Tevis time. Even though I won't be risking life and limb on that trail again this year (OK - so that's a slight exaggeration, but you have to admit that any endurance ride whose rider packet comes with the option of life-flight helicoptor insurance is not to be taken lightly) I can't help but get caught up in the excitement of those riders carefully planning their ride strategies and preparing their horses.

Tevis, for me, was a ride that grew more special over time. I couldn't have told you what made that ride so special before I rode it, right after I finished (or didn't finish, as was the case in '09), or even 3 months after. If I'm being perfectly honest, it wasn't that much fun to ride either. But I will tell you, right now - 2 years after my first attempt- I can't look at a full moon without reliving the Tevis. I can't ride a 100 without comparing it to Tevis. I can't plan a ride season without a look towards Tevis. I can't rehab Farley without wondering whether we will someday tackle that trail in its entirety as a team again. I might look back on some of the other rides I supported with fond remembrance, but for Tevis it's different. I feel a thrill that goes deep down into my gut and just for a second, I'm giddy with excitement before I realize that this year, I won't be there as a rider.

For all of you that are riding Tevis this year - here's what I wish I would have known before starting and some of the lessons I've learned there. With 2 attempts and 1 buckle I do not pretend to be a Tevis expert. However, maybe you'll be able to pluck a gem or two and add it to the overwhelming amount of advice you will undoubtedly get from those riders that are qualified!

1. The trail conditions change every year. Sometimes the bogs are good, sometimes they are bad. Sometimes the canyons are hot, sometimes they're not. There are no certainties and it's best to go prepared for anything - expect to be cold or hot, wet or dry, dusty or not dusty, poor footing and good footing - and you'll be as prepared as you can be.

2. Treat every part of the trail with respect. After pre-riding the last 2/3 of the trail prior to my first attempt I was told that the first 1/3 was no big deal and I shouldn't worry about it. Thus, I was unprepared mentally when the first third of the ride was extremely technical and HARD. Also, don't expect to be able to rely on other people's accounts of whether a certain section is "easy" - that will depend on you and your horse.

3. You might ride alone. Both years I had the fortune of finding a "bubble" and staying it in most of the ride. It IS possible to get away from the "elephant trains" and ride your own ride. Be courteous at all times, ask for the trail when needed and ride your own ride. Don't assume that you will have to ride with other people the whole time if you prefer to ride alone.

4. Be prepared for rude people. Most people will be wonderful. But, you may come across people who are rude, disrespectful, ignore the rules, and will lie. It's unfortunate, but try and recognize that often the people who are like this are probably scared, tired, or maybe trying to manage an issue that is taking every single bit of their mental energy. Don't let it ruin your ride. Chances are, you won't meet any of these kind of people. Be familiar with the rules, be polite and DO NOT ENGAGE. They are probably really nice people when not stressed and tired and dealing with such a trail as Tevis.

5. The volunteers are absolutely fabulous. If you have a need don't hesitate, be polite, be grateful, and ASK. More than likely you will be able to get done whatever you need to get done, whether it's a horse holder while you go to the bathroom or a little help mounting up.

6. Don't underestimate the power of properly replacing YOUR electrolytes.

7. Be prepared to get pulled through no fault of your own, through circumstances out of your control. There are places on the trail that you cannot pass. If you are close to a cut off and are stuck behind someone who refuses to pick up the pace during one of these sections, there is nothing you can do. Absolutely nothing. It's frustrating and maddening and a terrible thing - but sometimes that's just what happens. Deal with it. Consider it a character building experience.

8. Tevis is like no other endurance ride you have done. Expect to manage things in your horse during and after the ride that you've never had to deal with before. Recognize that managing your horse's recovery lasts longer than the day after the ride - it's more like 4 weeks. My negligence in this area is what contributed to Farley's tye up after the '10 Tevis.

9. You can easily leave 10 minutes after the "groups/pens" have gone, right before the start cut-off and finish in PLENTY of time. If you are so close to the cutoffs, that the 10 minutes in the beginning is absolutely going to ruin your ride, reconsider your options. IMO, you gain more than 10 minutes by not having to deal with the chaos and congestion at the start.

10. Let yourself get excited. You never know what life will throw you, and even if you plan on riding this ride year after year after never know when it will be your last. Enjoy it to the fullest. Go to the banquet lunch afterwards, talk to people, look at the horses.

Blog pick of the day (not Tevis related) - Aarene's post here. For extra credit, you can read further on the subject here.


  1. I would add a thought:

    Don't be so polite that you can't be direct.

    If you are not positive that the person holding your horse knows EXACTLY what you want to happen, then risk annoying the holder by giving instruction.

    One of the Tevis stories I heard from last year was of a rider who was quite near the finish, had a volunteer hold her horse while she went to the john, and came out to find the person had taken it upon him/herself to sponge the horse, which set it to shivering, which axed the finish.

  2. I recall that the rider specifically told the volunteer that the horse was not to be sponged. It's hard. Everyone is tired and mistakes are made.


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