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2011 Tevis Ride Stories

2011 Tevis Stories

2011 Tevis: Did It! - Jenni Smith

Blogs.equisearch.com - Jenni Smith - Full Story

October 10, 2011

The motto of the Western States Trail Ride (aka Tevis) is “To finish is to win.” It is truly apt. Even this year, with a significantly different route that took out a majority (in my opinion) of the more challenging trail, the completion rate only climbed to 60%. When the ride follows its typical course, that rate typically hovers around 50%. Which ever way you slice it, this is a tough stinkin’ ride.

That said – we finished! And it definitely feels like a win – for us, for our horses, for all the careful preparation, time and monies spent. Whoo hoo!

Jenn and I got to McCann Stadium (in the Auburn fairgrounds), did our victory lap around the arena, and passed under the official finish line just after 10 PM Saturday evening. Definitely the earliest time I will ever finish the ride, by a margin of at least two hours. Bear and I finished in 16th and Jenn and Stella were 18th (another rider named Pam Bailie on a cute paint mare named Macy did the last four mile stretch with us and finished 17th).

The amazing thing is that the winner – Jeremy Reynolds – finished three hours ahead of us. He did the entire course in 10 1/2 hours. Amazing. We came into the first vet check just behind him and were maybe 10 minutes behind him by the mid-point of the ride. It’s a testimony to an amazing horse and a fit rider (he runs quite a bit with his horses) that he could pick up the pace so much in the second half of a very tough ride.

Even though the course was largely different, I still thought of this as three rides sewn together – here are their stories;


The start was something to behold. They had all of the horses muster in one open field at 6 AM (start was at 6:30) and asked us to keep moving them around in a large circle – both for safety (fewer dust-ups) and to give them opportunity to warm up. Jenn and I malingered near the start line because we wanted to get out in the first part of the herd (again for safety – we knew our horses capable of a pretty fast pace and the fewer horses you have to pass the less chance for wrecks). Then a lead rider walked us some distance in a controlled start (much like a car race, my SO pointed out). As we wound down a hillside on an asphalt one-lane road, Jenn called out to look back and it was just a sea of horses winding up the hill in the early morning light. So wished I had a camera with me.

When the lead horse stepped aside, the pace exploded. Jenn had been concerned about Stella in this setting – she’s young yet, a little inexperienced, and has a tendency to lash out with her heels at other horses. But she was good – only aimed two retaliations at horses that crowded her from behind and didn’t cause any damage (it does help that she isn’t wearing steel shoes). There was some jostling and Jenn and I had to make an effort to stay together in the low light as we sped down a dirt fire road, headed toward the Tevis trail to Foresthill. But things shook out pretty quickly and we landed in a good space...

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Tevis 2011: Heather Reynolds

Reynolds Racing Blog - Full Story

Monday, 10 October 2011

This year Tevis was a really different experience for everyone who attended. The week leading up to the ride there had been a storm that had left the sierras covered in snow. It would be extremely dangerous to attempt to cross through the Granite Chief wilderness area. On Thursday I called the Tevis office and was told that it would be fine but that I should wait to drive to Robie Park on Friday to let the snow melt a little. This looked really bad to me as I knew there had to be a lot more snow up in the high country if basecamp was hard to access.

Six weeks before Tevis I was contacted to help a couple of UAE riders through the race. I had been preparing horses like crazy for 100 mile races for both Tevis and the North American Championship that had been two weeks before Tevis and was working really hard. I also went and picked up two of Hillorie's horses to train them as well, Jordan and Sandy, so that we could use Sandy and have Jordan as a back up. I was now really worried that all of the hard work was going to now be faced with danger.

My friend Chris Long was driving in with Andy Bown from Utah. Andy was lending Chris a horse so she could help assist me in getting the riders through. Chris called me to let me know that she had heard there would be an update on the Tevis web page later in the day.

Upon looking it was later learned that we would start from the Auburn Fairgrounds (the finish line) and do the race in reverse all the way to Chicken Hawk, then do a new trail down Gorman Ranch Road to a number check and turn around from there and go back to Auburn, the way we had come. Essentially Tevis would be an out and back. What a relief from the hazards that were out in the high country covered in 3 plus feet of snow!!

Friday we drove up to Auburn, which shortens our drive by over an hour. We found a great parking spot and unloaded the 4 horses. We had with us Marvel for Jeremy, Tiran for Mohammad, Sandy for Sultan and Bey for myself.

After setting up it was only 9 am. We had left home at 5 am to get a good parking spot. We decided to walk to downtown Auburn for breakfast. We hit up Aweful Annies. It was a great breakfast but while we were there, there were an alarming amount of Bloody Marries being bought and consumed from surrounding tables. Not sure what was up with that, I counted at least 12 and we were sitting on the outdoor patio deck!

We looked around a couple of shops then headed back to the ride site. Around noon the whole gang showed up. Almost all of the crew as well as the riders. We visited for a bit and then went to get our rider packets and vetted in. After all of this we went for a pre ride. I wanted to get the two riders on their horses and make sure the tack would work out. The ride went well. On our way back when we were almost back a super, super long train went by and all of the horses had to wait it out. They did ok with it, a little anxious but ok.

The ride meeting was at 4 pm. It was shorter than normal which was great. It left time for dinner before bed without it getting too late. During the ride meeting we found out the vet check arrangements. The first vet would be a trot by at the lower quarry, then a full vet check at Francisco's, and hour hold at Foresthill, another trot by at Chicken Hawk, then loop back to Chicken Hawk for a full vet check, back to Foresthill for another hour hold, full vet checks at Francisco's and the Lower Quarry then the finish.

We all headed into town for dinner, I must say having Tevis this way was SOOO civilized, restaurants, real bathrooms with showers and no red dirt!

Saturday morning we even got to sleep in compared to normal, the ride didn't start until 6:30. Wonderful! The two riders showed up around 5:30 and Hillorie even brought us Starbucks! We saddled up and got on at 6. Jeremy a little sooner, as he would be riding faster and wanted to get down to the start.

My group had a relaxing walk to the start. I was wearing a red glowing armband so that my riders could spot me easily in the little darkness in the morning. It worked well. We all kept together easily. It is about a 15 min ride down to the start so we got there a little over 10 mins before the start.

The ride began and we were off...

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The Tevis 2011* It’s always an adventure! - Nick Warhol

Nickwarhol.com - Full Story

October 13 2011

(* The Tevis with an asterisk)

This ride just seemed like it did not want to want to be held. It was supposed to happen in the summer, but there was too much snow in the Sierra to allow it. Something like 10 feet was still standing in and around Robinson Flat in August, and Squaw Valley had a reported 700 inches this winter, which is something like 60 feet of snow? That’s a bigger snowpack than a lot of ski lift towers are high! It sure would not work for the horses. Rather than cancel, those dedicated WSTF people made the call to move the ride to October 8th- a very daring move to say the least. There were concerns about the fewer daylight hours, the campgrounds, the cold, and perhaps would it rain? Yeah, that turned out to be the biggie. Not only did it rain all over northern California, but it snowed, again, in the Mountains. Not your nice, light, fluffy dusting of powder. No sir- this was a storm that dumped between 2 and 3 feet at the upper elevations. In October? It’s the Donner party all over again. At least that’s what I thought when on Thursday afternoon I nervously looked up at the ski runs at Squaw Valley that were covered in snow, just begging for skiers, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Lucky for me I was really sick the weekend before the ride. So sick that I would not have been able to go if it had been a week later. Sometimes my luck works out in the right direction! I felt a little funky on Wednesday, but not enough to keep me away from the ride. (I just wired up a box of Kleenex and a bottle of DayQuil on the front of my saddle.) Donnie and I are having our best ever year and he’s in splendid shape. My wife Judy once again “volunteered” to crew for me and my Donnie on my ninth start, Donnie’s fourth. He’s three for three here- twice under me and once under Judy. The deal is if Judy crews for me at Tevis I get to crew for her at 5 other rides during the year (if I don’t ride) It’s a fair deal, since crewing at Tevis is more work than riding it. Our best buddy Becky Glaser also joined in to provide the much needed second vehicle, as well as giving Judy a hand. It’s SO nice to have a crew, especially these people with such experience. They just know what to do.

We tried to pack up and leave for the ride Thursday morning as we usually do, but we found ourselves watching a movie in the house while the rain poured outside our home in Hayward. I wasn’t packing up in this. I kept looking at the road conditions- highway 80 was still open without chains amazingly enough. (I ordered some for the trailer a couple of days before we left, just in case. You know- If you have ‘em you won’t need ‘em.) At about 10:30am it let up and blue sky appeared. We tossed our stuff in the rig, loaded up the boy and set forth in the mighty Pony Tug wondering what we were in for. The trip up was completely uneventful until we started climbing the Sierra. It was blue sky and clear all the way, with roads open, but the snow on the ground in the mountains started about 3000 feet. It kept getting deeper and deeper, until at the Donner summit there was easily 2 plus feet on the ground. It looked like the dead of winter. There were small walls of plowed snow on the edges of the highway. All I could think was “there is NO WAY the ride is going to through this snow.” This is 7000 feet; the top of Squaw is above 9000. It sure was a nice day, though. We rolled down through Truckee and down highway 267 to the turn for the entrance to Robie Park. It wasn’t marked, but we turned in to the forest onto the narrow paved section. Uh oh- here comes a rig from the other direction. And another. A third. This can’t be good. We pause at the tow truck, and see a rig turning around in a spot that worked. The driver, Leigh Bacco, stopped and rolled her window down as she passed us coming out and told us it was a no-go. A rig had been stuck ahead of us, and the tow truck driver had apparently said it was a thousand dollar tow job, and that there was no way he was going back in there, so we were on our own. Leigh had made the right call! She said she was planning on driving over to Squaw Valley and hanging out there until we knew what to do. It took about a half hour to get to Squaw, but we were sure wondering out load what in the heck would happen with the ride. Start at Squaw? Um, no, not with all this snow. We pulled in and found a nice place in the parking lot to set up the rigs. We unloaded the boys and put blankets on; it was 4:30pm, but under 30 degrees and getting colder. Donnie and the other horses happily stood and ate while Judy and I, Leigh, and Matt Scribner all threw on ski parkas and sat around enjoying Bloody Marys and Gin and Tonics that Matt graciously made. They were great! We were waiting for the decision that would be announced at 5 pm. Smart phones are wonderful- sure enough we saw the announcement that Robie Park was out of the question and we should all head for Auburn. There would be a ride! Of some sort. The boys had been in the trailer for too many hours straight, so we walked over to the local Sushi restaurant and had a fantastic dinner and really enjoyed ourselves. Just like being on a Ski vacation! With my horse? It was that cold! After dinner we trundled the boys back in to the trailers and drove on back to Auburn. I was quite relieved, since I had already made up my mind I would not start if they intended to head up over Squaw Valley. We found a nice spot in the grass field by the finish, put up the horses and went to bed by 10:30 pm.

Friday morning brought all kinds of speculation. There would be a ride, but where? How? It seemed pretty unlikely that anything could be done. I chatted with Barbara White in the morning and she gave me the straight scoop- a hundred miles, out backwards on the trail to Foresthill, to Chicken Hawk, then an out and back loop, then back on to Auburn the way we came. A Tevis lollipop ride! The mind reels! What about the start? On the finish single track? Come on! Two way traffic on the California loop? You have to be kidding. What about the river in the morning? Would it be lowered in time? These WSTF crazies re-did the ride in 24 hours that it had taken them a year to plan. Who would be where, when, I can’t believe how much they must have gone through. The ride meeting was pretty funny. Poor Chuck Staley probably had not slept in 2 days, and Tony Benedetti tried to explain the start. What pens? All we had to do was walk along the railroad tracks, go to a field, muster there awhile, head through a gate under the underpass, through the skateboard park, down a paved road for 10 minutes, hit the field at the bottom, not enter the ditch on either side, only enter the lower pen in one spot, circle around, and they would release us at 6:30 am when we could at least see. Right. Everyone was really wondering how this would work. I tried to calculate a start time that would get us just to the start just as they left.

It turned out to be unbelievably good. I mean REALLY good. Like better and easier than any Tevis start I have been on...

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