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Tevis Cup prize for Guinasso, Big Dog

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Photo: TEAMWORK: Deanna Guinasso of Redding rides her 7-year-old Arabian horse Big Dog near Lake Oroville during the tandem?s first 50-mile endurance ride. Guinasso and Big Dog will compete Saturday in the 100-mile Western States Trail Ride from Squaw Valley to Auburn.

By Thom Gabrukiewicz (Contact)
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Deanna Guinasso's breath is a staccato sing-song: "Hoo, hoo, hoo -- hoo, hoo, hoo -- hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo."

And it's all about the exhale.

"It's a secret -- I shouldn't tell you -- but it's exhale, exhale, exhale," said the 57-year-old Guinasso, a Redding fitness instructor, former competitive body builder and Ms. National Fitness competitor who happens to own the patent on a little piece of exercise equipment marketed as the Suzanne Somers Toning System.

"Don't even think about the inhale, 'cause you have to breath anyway. Think about the exhale and you'll blow away that negative voice that says, 'I can't.' It blows away the toxic buildup."

It even helps her horse, a 7-year-old Arabian named RGR Flashfire -- "I call him 'Big Dog,'" Guinasso said -- stay calm. Focused. Ready to run -- hard.

The pair will depart at 5:15 a.m. Saturday -- among a braying sea of a possible 250 horses -- to challenge the Western States Trail Ride, a 100-mile endurance ride with nearly 19,000 total feet of elevation in climbs and nearly 22,000 feet of descents.

"I know I can do this," said Guinasso, who has run three marathons and twice roller skated 100 miles in competition, from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. "And my horse, he's ready, too. He's going to do the climbs, and I'm going to get off and run the canyons. We're a team; he's my running partner, he's my 100-miler."

The Western States Trail Ride -- known in equestrian circles as the Tevis Cup -- is the oldest modern-day endurance ride, having been contested since 1955. The route follows the same course as the Western States 100 Run that was contested on June 23-24.

The ride was first organized by Wendell Robie, an Auburn businessman and dedicated equestrian, according to the Western States Trail Ride Foundation Web site. People in the 1950s doubted a horse could cover the trail from Lake Tahoe to Auburn in a single day. Wendell and some friends proved otherwise. He continued to hold the ride annually and also organized the Western States Trail Foundation to preserve the 100-mile trail and the ride.

A horse and rider who complete the race in 24 hours -- and is found fit to continue -- wins a silver belt buckle. The rider and horse that complete the course in the fastest time win the Tevis Cup.

And to the rider with the fittest horse -- as determined by examination of the first 10 horses to cross the finish line -- goes the Haggin Cup (first awarded in 1964 to Paige Harper, riding his 6-year-old Arabian gelding, Keno).

"Arabians are the body builders of the horse world," Guinasso said. "Superior genetics, greatly developed lung capacity. I've got my preference and I wanted a good horse, so I got an Arabian -- coming from the body building world, I want to be buff, too."

Despite pushing horse and rider to the limit, Western States Trail Foundation organizers focus not only on the rider's health, but on the health and well-being of the horse. There are several veterinarian checks, as well as mandatory rest stops. If the horse can't continue, your day is done.

"You have 24 hours to Git er done,'" Guinasso said. "I'm ready. I'm ready to do well.

"And my horse, he's ready, more than ready."

For more information on the Tevis Cup, and to keep track of Guinasso and Big Dog's progress in real time, visit www.foothill.net/tevis/index.html. Guinasso's bib number is 83.

Reporter Thom Gabrukiewicz can be reached at 225-8230 or at tgabrukiewicz@redding.com.

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