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Christina Chesterman Memorial ride 2024 - Nick Warhol

May 22 2024 Nick Warhol

One of my favorite things in this sport is going to new rides for the first time. I'm a little surprised I haven't made it to this one before, but I went up with Sorsha, and Ines with Rayos this past Saturday. The ride is a 3.5 hour drive for me, located just north of the town of Paradise CA, the poor town that was burned to the ground by the big fire a few years ago.

I'd never been to Paradise, and seeing it was kind of scary. Most of the buildings that are there are new; the ones that have been rebuilt, but a lot of the town is still just gone. It's very spooky. The ride is put on by JayaMae Gregory, who did an absolutely splendid job. Everything about it was well organized and well run; I didn't see any real issues at all.

The whole event had a great vibe to it since it is a memorial for a young local woman who was killed by a drunk driver. Her parents come to the ride, the whole town supports it; it made for a really neat atmosphere. I hadn't heard that story before. The ride camp was great, located at this big ranch up in the mountains.

There were campground spots, and a big Meadow with lush green grass. Lots of bugs in the meadow though; luckily we were up in the campground away from all that. The ride itself was entirely out from camp; there were two vet checks on the 50 out at a single location about 15 minutes up the highway.

You know how every time you do a ride, it always seems like something can happen for the first time? Well, it did for me. In 33 years of endurance, this was the first time that I ever slept late. I set my alarm on my phone and for some reason it didn't go off. I was awakened to Ines and Laura Fend talking outside and wondering where I was. The ride started at 6:30, I got out of bed at 6:08. In 22 minutes I got dressed, ate, tacked up, and made it to the start exactly on time. That included my shoelace snapping off as I tied it. That’s why there is a spare pair of riding shoes in the trailer! Nothing like a little bit of stress in the early morning!

The ride started out on forest roads in the chilly morning air. After winding through a combination of forest roads and some nice trails, we ended up on this amazing raised road/trail that went alongside the right side of an irrigation canal of sorts. But it was a wide canal of 15 feet or so with deep, rushing water, with about an eight foot drop to the water itself. It was really neat to ride along this thing for about a mile, with an occasional slowdown or stop because you did not want your horse to go left into this thing. That would ruin your day real quick!

The ride in the past has had an extraordinary amount of forest roads in it, but management took the advice of riders and threw in much more single track. They put some very nice trails in here. There was one section especially that I just had an absolute hoot in. It was an old, soft, Jeep road sort of thing that wound through the forest that had been trimmed for horses. We blasted through that section, even cantering some of it; it was like chase in the Old West where the horses are running through the forest. Sorsha and I led, and poor Rayos had to really work to keep up! It was fun! That ended all too soon. We continued along on a combination of Jeep and logging roads, with occasional segments of single track through the trees. It was a fun loop with perfect weather.

We arrived at the first check at 20 miles where our crew Laura and Judy were there waiting for us. Laura spent the weekend hanging out with Judy which was great, and a huge help for me. We had our hour hold, and then continued on to the 2nd loop of 15 miles, where we climbed up into the high country. The terrain up here reminds me a lot of the Wild West ride; same kind of elevation, trees, and trails. This loop started off on forest roads, but culminated in a steep technical climb that was really steep, but only for a little while. Sorsha hammered up it as she usually does, thinking she should just run up it, which she usually does. It was one of those hills that has the breast collar really doing its job. Once at the top, about a mile of forest roads took us to the end of the loop where we picked up the playing card and rode back down the mountain. The way back down was less interesting, being just on fire roads, but they were fire roads in the pretty forest with the footing mostly good.

Back into that same location for our second vet check where we spent half an hour this time. The weather was really interesting; it was just lovely when you were riding in the shade, but when you get into the exposed sun it got a little warm.

But overall it was quite nice. I didn't think a lot of the first half of the 3rd loop going home, since it included a few miles of open exposed boring flat gravel roads. We actually saw the guy who had done some trail sabotage riding a quad with a woman on the back. He had gotten on to the course, kicked out a chalk arrow line, and was taking down ribbons coming towards us. We didn't know that at the time. We didn't have any issue whatsoever since we found the chalk line that he had kicked out at the only intersection in question.

We then continued on until we picked up the next ribbon in a hundred yards and all was well. By the way- the trail was marked exceptionally well. I think there was one time in any of the many turns I had to look to see where the ribbon was, and there it was. Great job ride management! I take trail marking personally, and these guys did it well. Once we got off the ugly forest roads, we reconnected with our outbound loop for about 5 miles and had a lot more of that fun stuff in the deep forest that we had done in the morning in the opposite direction.

It was also nice getting back into the forest where it was cooler. The ride has an interesting finish in that you get to the base camp area and do an entire mile loop around it. The poor horses are very confused! There's a giant, deep, clear water crossing right before the finish line where you round the meadow and come back to the finish, where both horses really tanked up.

We finished at about 3:30 PM in the middle of the pack after having a great ride. The ride meal was also very good. We camped Saturday night and headed home in the morning which was nice. Sorsha just cruised through it as usual, fresh as a daisy at the end. I really enjoyed it, and I will certainly be back! Next stop- two days at the Wild West ride!

2024 Biltmore Challenge 25 LD: A lesson in enduring - Lea Koechle

WannabeMuleSkinner.com - Full Story

May 12 2024
by Lea Koechle

A lesson in enduring...

Every rider has a story where they first encounter what it means to be a true endurance rider. As a Limited Distance rider, I’m sure I’ll have bigger stories than this one when I move up in distance. But, at this point in my story, this ride had me the most fire spitting mad and the closest I’ve been to wanting to quit and instead having to dig down and cling to the word “Endure.”

Biltmore is an absolutely gorgeous estate nestled in the mountains of North Carolina. I’m not going to go into the history of the property as I don’t know it and on this particular occasion I was not there to learn it. I do plan on going back, sans horse agenda, to truly appreciate the history and architecture of the estate. For this trip however, I wanted to ride the grounds and appreciate the beauty.

For two years I had been hounding my trailer buddy and ride mate to go to Biltmore. Since she will be taking a sabbatical from riding to focus on personal health and it’s my birthday, we finally decided to do it as a last “hurrah” since we won’t know when, if ever, we’ll be racing together again...

Read more here:

Trail's Open! for the 2024 Virtual Tevis Cup


The ride was first organized by Wendell Robie, an Auburn businessman and devoted rider of the Sierra high country. The Western States Trail Ride has had many names, but most people know it simply as “Tevis". The ride has evolved a great deal in 69 years; some of the trail has changed, the entry has changed, and even the criteria for completion has changed. One thing has not changed. One horse, One rider, 100 miles in One day (24 hours).

The Tevis Cup Ride itself operates at or near a financial loss. So, the Western States Trail Foundation needs to raise funds in order to continue our trail preservation and put on the ride. In 2020, the Virtual Tevis was created due to the cancellation of the actual ride because of the global pandemic. The Virtual Tevis has become a premier fundraiser for the Western States Trail Foundation.

Because of your support, we are able to not only put on this iconic endurance event, but continue with our efforts of trail preservation and improvements.

Once again, there will be both Riding and Non-Riding Divisions so everyone can enjoy the fun.

You can complete the 100-miles in as many smaller excursions as you choose to finish the goal. As you log your completed miles, you will receive updates of where you would be on the historic Western States Trail.

Follow this link for more details and frequently asked questions.

2024 American River Classic - Nick Warhol

April 26 2024
By Nick Warhol

The American river ride was the first ride that Sorsha and I have done in over seven months. Family obligations have kept us from doing any riding, but we have that pretty much sorted out now. I drove up on Friday morning with Ines and her spunky gelding Rayos. Camp was PACKED with rigs; the parking team did a good job getting people situated. We got so lucky since we were the third from last rig to fit in the main area. We got a great spot very close to everything. The weather was perfect, finally, although I was a little worried about some of the muddy bogs that might be present in the cool area due to the recent rains we've had. At the ride meeting the trail lady talked about something called the long water, be sure to take the long water; don’t go to the left. What was that? Well, I guess we'll find out.

The ride this year was different than past American river rides in that it started and ended in cool, doing loops in and out of camp, as opposed to the point-to-point ride that's always been in play at this ride over the years. The last time I did this ride about 8 years ago, I found the single track from Folsom Lake to the Auburn area was just too torn up, technical, and downright nasty to do again. I was glad to see a change. The ride was 3 loops for the 50: the 15 mile red, the 10 mile white, then the 25 mile blue. The red and the white loops started and ended in cool. The blue loop was pretty neat since it went from Cool to Auburn, backwards on the tevis trail, to the vet check at the overlook and then back to Cool the same way we came.

We left camp at 6:15am with a controlled walk over to the start, then took off with the pack at 6:30 with over 60 horses in the 50. The ride started right out on single track , which is fun, but makes it hard to pass people, especially early on. For some reason we just couldn't get away from the conga line of horses during the first few miles. It's just so much easier to ride by yourself. We hung back after a while and let the groups go but kept getting caught up in other groups; It was kind of strange to keep getting stuck with many riders. The trail is a mixture of really nice single track and jeep roads with good footing in most areas. There were boggy sections, as well as some rocky stuff, but overall the footing was quite good. We ended up on a long downhill road to the American river, which was pretty full, (the rapids were loud!) and skirted along the shore to the East for a bit. We then climbed all the way back up to the top of the canyon where Cool is located. After 10 miles we finally were able to ride by ourselves the last five miles into the vet check back in camp. We still didn't know what the long water was. Sorsha recovered instantly with her classic 40/40 CRI and ate happily at the trailer for 30 minutes.

The next loop was the white loop, using many of the same trails and the same area as the red loop, but included the infamous long water. A look at the GPS route we recorded shows the crazy repetitive trails used on all three loops. A couple miles from camp we noticed over to our left a couple of people trying to extract a poor horse from the mud. That looked pretty grim. The lady at the ride meeting had said “be sure to take the long water, don't go to the left or you'll get stuck.” Well, apparently this rider went to the left and got stuck.

We turned left into the long water which turned out to be like a Creek, but it was deep. Sorsha is a tall horse, and my feet and ankles were underwater as we slogged up this Creek / puddle / river that wasn't moving, for at least a couple hundred feet. I would have taken a video, and I wish I had, but I was a little bit nervous in there. It was really deep water. And at one point Sorsha thought she might try to exit stage left, but I caught her, and with one nice left leg push I got her back into the deep water in the center of the pond. That was exciting! We exited the water, with horses dripping, and continued on, but had some trouble with trail marking on the white loop. We got lost twice and did an extra 1.6 miles. (we have a gps) One benefit was that the wrong trail we were on was a great single track! Once back on trail, we continued on with winding trails back to the start finish and second vet check in cool. Another great CRI for Sorsha, this time 40/36.

We spent our hour hold letting the horses eat which they did happily, and headed out for the out-and-back loop to Auburn in the heat of the afternoon. It started out in the same general area with the other loops, but eventually made its way over to the Wendell Robie trail all along Highway 49 towards no hands bridge. I recognized right away when we got on to the tevis trail, and we rode across the no hands bridge enjoying the beautiful views. There were a lot, and i mean a lot of people walking on the road along the river between the bridge and the auburn area. It was very crowded with people; we made our way as best we could along the river loop and then to the last vet check at about 40 miles at the Auburn overlook staging area. The check was at the very top of a big climb which was hard on some horses. It was hot, and several horses weren't recovering, but Sorsha certainly didn't have that problem. She was 44/40 here, it took Rayos a few minutes to come down, but he did. Several horses were pulled for non-recovery here, and I think some were probably not able to make the cut off time.

We spent our 30 minutes and continued on, riding back the way we came towards Cool, going in reverse across no hands bridge. It was a long, slow climb up the rocky trail up the Canyon, (at least they kept us off the training hill!) but we took it easy not being in any hurry. We got to the top, then looped around, did a couple more miles and then headed to the finish. It was a long ride; we finished at 5:20, with the winner finishing at about 3:15. The winner happened to be “sandwash” Ali Woodward, riding one of Melissa Montgomery’s Mustangs. (Melissa was pulled at the 40 mile check). Ali has turned into one of the best catch riders in the West region. She needs to get her own horse, well then again, maybe she doesn't! Sorsha finished with her classic 40/36, CRI impressing the heck out of the vets. We finished in about 15th place I think out of the 60 or so starters, but I fear there were some overtime pulls at that last vet check. All in all it was an excellent ride, although getting lost a bit, we had a great ride in good weather on great horses. Next ride will be the Christina Chesterman in a month!