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[RC] another (long) Tevis story - Jonni

At the AERC / NATRC convention in February, I bought tickets in the Tevis
entry raffle. After completing the ride in 2005, I am sure my husband
thought that the ride would be out of my system. But, alas, I am one who the
trail keeps calling me to return. I thought if I could win an entry, it
would be easier to convince him I just HAD to make the trip from Texas to CA
again.  He was not nearly as excited when I got the note I had won the entry
as I was.  But, being non transferable, I just HAD to go! Of course, reality
is, the entry fee is the cheap part, when you add up the travel expenses

Last year I went to So. CA. Six weeks early, to finish prepping Hank for the
mountains of Tevis. Being a flatlander horse, I wanted to get some hill work
in before the ride. This year, we depended on our tiny climbs up and down
the mesa's and plateaus here in North Texas. Mostly just to keep the
different muscles stretched that they would use for climbing. We did a
couple AERC rides, and a few NATRC rides leading up to Tevis. I have seen
many people do ride after ride, after ride, often pushing for speed leading
up to Tevis, and when they get there, they have no horse left, or one that
is iffy on soundness. One must know your own horse, but I feel far more are
over trained to prep for the ride, than under trained/conditioned. One must
start with a horse that is 110% sound. Ridden correct, a horse can be taken
through the ride that many may feel is not conditioned for the task. I knew
Hank was strong and ready for the ride.

About 6 weeks before the ride, I convinced my friend Dolly, who I often ride
and train with to give Tevis a try. She had always thought about the ride in
the back of her mind, but I think never really considered heading to CA to
give it a try. She competes her husbands big gelding Chance, a full Arab,
that is a true 16 hands tall. Watching Chance, I knew he took excellent care
of himself at rides, would seek water if thirsty, ate well, and was very
sure footed, and careful in his way of going. Watching him, I knew he could
do the ride. Texas born and raised, the only mountains he has ever seen were
at some rides in Oklahoma. But he is a nice strong horse, with about 1000
AERC miles.

Two weeks before the ride, with my rig packed, we loaded the horses,and
started the trip to CA.  The weather was triple digits at home, but we had a
break in the weather all the way across TX, NM, AZ, and just before we got
to CA, we hit the heat. At one point, the truck computer read 119 outside.
we stopped at a rest area to check the boys, who were not sweating, and
seemed content. We hosed them off anyway, and headed on towards my friends
place in So. CA that we would stay at a week, before heading up to Auburn
CA.  About 15 miles before our destination, I heard one of the duallies
blow. I pulled off the freeway, and saw that one of the inside duallies had
pealed like a banana, leaving tread scattered on the freeway, but was still
holding air. Knowing where we were, and the side roads, we drove on slowly,
to my friends. The next day, we saw the other inside dually was also
chunking tread. I had bought extra warranty on the tires, and they were just
3000 miles short of the expiration. Went to the tire shop, and got FREE
brand new tires, and a deal on two more. I now had new tires all the way
around, as I had replaced the fronts before leaving. The $15 extra per tire
for the warranty paid off for once!!!!

Chance was not pleased with the corrals they were in, and was a tad nervous
about the other horses on a hill above him, and the peacocks that wandered
around. Hank on the other hand was eating like a pig, which is normal, and
would look at Chances buckets and seem to say "You gonna eat that???"  We
did some easy rides in the hills, got the rest of our stuff organized, and
then on Tuesday before the ride, headed to Auburn. Again, Chance was not
happy with the open stall/corral at the fairgrounds, but he had Hank, his
new best friend there, and was starting to settle in. I like to stay at the
fairgrounds in Auburn, as it makes the horses know that it is "home". When
they hit the section of trail at the end that you pre-ride, they usually
perk up, and know they are almost home to their stall and food!

We headed up to camp at Robie park on Friday AM. As soon as Chance arrived,
he started to eat like Hank, and was completely relaxed. Both horses were
looking ready to go, and Dolly and I had most of our stuff already organized
before even arriving at camp. We checked in, and went out to see the first
couple miles of the trail, and see the condition of the little wash outs /
ditches that are on the trail. They were there the past couple years, and
one just needed to be aware of them. A tad deeper than normal, but we made
note of them, and knew when we got there, it would be very dusty, and they
might be hard to see.

I slept pretty well, but Dolly admitted she did not sleep at all. We were
assigned the 3rd starting group. I had chosen the 2nd group the previous 2
years, and was not thrilled with being in the last group. A few of the
horses and riders were looking to be pretty new to the sport, and the group
did seem to have more problematic horses than I had experienced in the
previous 2 years. When we got to the little ditches, we came to a halt, as
many horses were refusing to cross, and there was no way around them to just
get on by. We lost about 10or more min. at that point, on a ride where EVERY
min. counts. I knew the pace we needed to keep, and after getting through
that spot, we pushed on. After the horses drank well at High Camp (the top
of Squaw Valley) we headed into the high country. This year I actually saw a
couple bogs, and the rocks were worst. The winter had played more havoc on
the trail. At one point, we came to a stop where a rider had come off their
horse. We had a back up of about 20 horses. Then, instead of just letting
the group go by, they decided to lead the horses up a very steep section of
trail through the rocks. But, those walking could not keep a pace, and had
to stop, thus having all these riders following have to stop again, some in
very rocky, steep sections that one must keep moving on, to avoid more
accidents. I'm sure they just wanted to get their hurt rider out of there,
and did not realize how they were almost causing more accidents by trying to
lead the horses and not let the rest of the group get on past.  Again, more
time lost.

Last year, Hank gave me the most perfect ride. One that I knew would be hard
to match. He could do NO wrong, took no bad steps, and was in tune with my
every need. This year he was good, but not that beyond perfect horse of the
previous year. I do not make up my mind about going over Cougar Rock, until
I get to it, and decide how the horse had been listening and handling the
rocks and bogs etc. In 2004, I went around with Gambler, who was tripping
bad. In 2005, Hank jetted up it in awesome fashion, but we got really bad
photos. So, we got to it, and I was not sure what to do. Wendell Robie
created the ride, with Cougar Rock as part of it. I also will admit to
wanting a better photo, and then Dolly said she would like to give it a try,
and I knew Chance should follow Hank, and if I took the by-pass, Chance
might not want to go up and over. So, I gathered my reins, and off we went.
Hank was slipping some, and if the horse loses forward motion on the rock,
that seems to be when they might fall, or spin to head back down. You MUST
ride boldly, and keep them moving! I felt Hank start to lose that forward
motion, and kicked him hard, yelled at him, and he popped on up and over.
Not the best trip over the rock. Dolly and Chance made it look pretty easy,
and her grin was priceless as she peaked over the top. Hank had a small cut
on a rear coronet band, but I flushed with water, and headed down the trail.
It was not sore.  He drank well at Lyon Ridge, Red Star he pulsed down well,
and had good grades, and on into Robinson we went. We were about 40 min.
behind the time I want to be in there, and remembered at the rider meeting
them saying the new trail out of Robinson rode slower than the road.  Hank
ate like his normal self, and had drank well upon arrival. His CRI was
better than last year, and I was pleased with how well he was doing. We
left, and really moved out along the new trail the best we could. Some
interesting views, but it was dusty, rocky, and long. I also missed seeing
the family who set up a table with drinks along the road each year. On
through Dusty corners, and we flew around the pucker point trail, trying to
make up some time lost.  Last Chance, then on into the first of the canyons.
We tried to make up some time on the downhill, and we did until we got
behind some slower riders who were leading, and we could not get around.
They tailed up the canyon, and Hank was wanting to walk faster, but really,
that is not a place to make up any time. I rode with a heart rate monitor
this year, and found it interesting to compare his HR with others. He and
Chance are usually about the same, tho carry very different weights.(Hank
has much more to carry)  A couple juniors were comparing heart rates
climbing out of that steep canyon, and Hank was often 10+ beats LESS than
their horses who had much less weight on their backs. He was strong, and
proving to me he was fit as we did a steady climb out of that canyon.  At
Devils Thumb he drank, and we headed to the Deadwood check. Last year he
needed more time here for low gut sounds, and to eat. This year his gut
sounds were better, his CRI was one of the best yet, and after a recharge,
we headed on towards the next canyon.

We managed to move out really well down into El Dorado canyon. Lots of
trotting where safe. At the bottom, we were told how to go to the creek to
water, which is down off trail a little bit. We took them to the creek, but
Hank only drank a little. I was not concerned, as he had been drinking well
at the other water stops. We left the bottom, with no horses to follow,and I
let Hank chose the pace. He went into his strong foreword walk, and marched
up the canyon. A couple times towards the top, he tried to trot some, and I
let him a tad, then pulled him back into a walk. Ears were foreword, he was
cheerful, and feeling good. I knew I had plenty of horse to finish. Chance
was doing well, and Dolly I think was starting to realize that we were about
1/2 way.

We entered Michigan Bluff, and they had a bunch of horses there. I took Hank
to the water trough, where he drank well. His pulse was 80, which was about
right after that climb. I grabbed some hay, and dropped it on the top of the
water, as he likes to eat it like that. I tossed some water on him, to start
cooling him. He then backed a couple steps from the water trough, put his
head down, I think pawed once, and started to bend his knees to lay down. I
grabbed him up, and walked him, and had someone get an official, who got him
in the front of the line for the vet. They had medication in him within 5
min. of him wanting to lay down. His pulse was still 80, but never spiked
and dropped, just steady. When the vet listened to his tummy, low, in front
of his left flank, he tried to kick up at the stethoscope. That seemed to be
where the pain was. We got a trailer ride out, and into Foresthill. I had
friends go tell Dolly to keep going! She was now on her own, on trail she
had never seen, but with a strong horse.

At Foresthill, they did an NG tube to check for reflux, and he had very
little, and the vet was happy with the amount that came out. Just some mash.
He was put on an IV, to get more fluids in him. I commented on how I saw no
signs of this coming on, he was strong, and foreword, and actually pooping a
lot. The vet commented that they will often poop a bunch to clear it on out
when they get a colic like this. (great, now I will worry everytime he poops
a lot at a ride!  ;-)     )  We got him on down to the fairgrounds, and they
put him in the "vet stalls" to keep an eye on him. He had stopped wanting to
roll fairly quick, and it was not long before he was hungry, and wanting
food!  I finally left him in their care, as sitting there staring at him was
not gonna do much, went and slept a couple hours, and when I returned, he
had a few piles of manure, and they had started to give him some small
amounts of hay.  Going over this in my mind, the only sign I can think of,
was him not drinking at the stream at the bottom of the canyon before the
climb. But, that is not that unusual for him to pass on some water. Wish I
could tell more on what to watch for, and hope that we could learn something
from this, but just can't pin point anything. I'm very glad he did not do
this at the bottom of one of the canyons, and at least waited for a vet
check! Just not his day. I realize that I am not always sure what causes a
stomach ache when I get one, and we won't always know the anwsers with our

Meanwhile, Dolly was out there, on her own, and heading on to the CA loop in
the dark. She hooked up with some riders who knew the trail, and kept a good
pace, and made up the rest of the time we had lost early in the day. Arnie
Garcia and his black stallion let her follow through the dark, and Arnie
kept checking on Dolly, to make sure she was still there, and OK.  At one
point Arnies horse took a spill off the CA loop, and Chance actually spooked
and whirled back. Thankfully they got back on the trail, but later Arnie had
to pull later on. I was checking the leader board, and saw she had cleared
Francisco's at a respectable time, and then cleared the Quarry.  And at
about 4:15, I was there to meet Dolly and Chance as they crossed the finish
line. I was sorry we did not get to do it together, but I was just about as
excited for her, as I was the previous year when I got my buckle.  I trotted
Chance out for Dolly, and the vet said "Is that a GIANT horse???" LOL  Yep,
a great big red horse, with a lot of heart, that took his rider on a ride
she will not forget.

Some never want to see that trail again. Not sure, but I think Dolly might
be one of those.  Me, I am one who wants to go back again and again.
Everytime I have reached the top of Emigrant pass, and looked first to
Watson's monument, then back to the morning glow of Lake Tahoe, and forward
to the mountain tops and canyons that lay before us, I will admit I get
choked up. I realize how blessed we are to have the ability to choose to
take on such a challenge if we wish, and I think of all those who have gone
before us, traveling over the Sierra Nevada mountains on a good horse,
taking on what ever the day and night will bring us. For that moment I
question and wonder what kind of day I will have, take a deep breath, wipe
the tear out of my eye before it turns to mud, and rein my horse to the
right, and start down into the wilderness.

I already want to see the trail again. I wonder what my husband will say if
I buy raffle tickets again to win an entry........................

Jonni and Hank, back home in TX


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