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Images by Lucy Trumbull
Official Ride photos by Baylor/Gore photography

20 Mule Team - 41st Anniversary

(unofficial) 100 mile results - 25 starters, 10 finishers

1. Reyna Mero - Vaz Djets On - 14.01
2. John Stevens - Balalaika CF - 16.24
3. Kaitlin Cummins - VA Anastahzi - 17.07
4. Alex Neihaus - Nefuso Grande RSI - 19.45
5. Jennifer Neihaus - Bak Jabari - 19.45
6. Joyce Sousa - Shahs Gold Nugget - 19.45
7. Rhiannon Davies - ALittle Too Much CH - 20.40
8. Kaitlyn Salci - Rodans Red Robin - 20.45
8. Esty Sweet - Babe's Zel - 20.45
10. Debi Sanger - Journey - 20.59
Ron Barnett
Gwen Boland
Cressy Drummond
Tammy Gagnon
Sandy Holder
Suzanne Ford Huff
Valerie Jaques
Juliana McElroy
Jeanette Mero
Melissa Montgomery
Gayle Pena
Kelly Williams Stehman
Lucy Trumbull
Kerrie Tuley
Nick Warhol

(unofficial) 65 mile results - 22 starters, 13 finishers

1. Leahe Daby - Lucy - 9.01
2. Dean Moon - Sassy Cassie - 9.01
3. Lisa Schneider - FV Amazing Farwa - 9.52
4. Mae Chase-Dunn - WHR Limited Edition - 9.52
5. Matthew Lease - Ena WSF - 9/58
6. Sarah Gray - California Kidd - 9.58
7. Aly Wheeler - JOS Chance Remark - 10.05
8. Robin Chriss - Perfect Love GWA - 10.05
9. Kady Doody - AJ Finn McCool - 10.14
10. Jelena Woehr - Aavanti - 10.14
11. Callie Thornburgh - Gweneviere - 12.47
12. Laurie Birch - Scudd Runn - 12.47
13. Tracey Bakewell - Rushcreek Caribou - 12.05 (?)
Marci Cunningham
Andrew Gerhard
Carolyn Hock
Jill Kilty-Newburn
Greg Mayer
Lori Oleson
Sally Toye
Sheri Weast
Erin Lemmons

Challenging Ride at the 20 Mule Team

Lucy Chaplin Trumbull photos

The sometimes-deceptive terrain, and the always unpredictable weather, made for a challenging edition of this year's Twenty Mule Team endurance rides in Ridgecrest, California which ended in the wee hours of Sunday morning with a lower than normal finish percentage.

One rider described it as "A steady all day precipitation from misting to hail to pouring rain," that horses and riders contended with, though it did serve to keep the horses cool.

22 started the 65, with 13 finishing. Leahe Daby and Lucy won the 65 in a ride time of 9.01 and got Best Condition.

25 started the 100, with 10 finishing. Reyna Mero and Vaz Djets On won in a ride time of 14.01. Kaitlin Cummins and VA Anastahzi finished third in a ride time of 17.07 and got Best Condition.

Kaity Cummins

Thank you everyone for the kind words and congrats! Ani gave me a wonderful ride on Saturday at the 20 Mule Team 💯, and we completed at 2:07AM for his 11th 100 mile completion. He really did a phenomenal job of taking care of himself out there this year, despite some wild weather. At the finish I was told we were in 3rd and needed to weigh for best condition judging - my surprise at 2am was nothing compared to hearing Ani receive Best Condition at awards the next morning! Proud mama for sure. ❤️ 

I have a lot of people to thank for this year's ride, despite coming into it with drop bags and "no crew": my Mom and hubby stayed home to watch my girls all weekend, Katie helped me glue boots on Wednesday evening after she got off work, and Sue & Tony jumped in as crew where ever and when ever they could on Saturday. Having the help and support makes such a difference; it truly made this ride weekend a smooth sailing experience. Thank you to all!!

Lisa Schneider

It was a great day for Team Schneider at the 20 Mule Team ride. My hubby, Shel, did the 15-mile Fun ride and got to see a big Mojave Green rattlesnake from a safe distance. These snakes are known for their aggressiveness and the neurotoxin they inject in their victim! Shel and Tally stayed far away from that nasty critter.

Jelena Woehr, Kady Doody and I rode the 65-miler and had a blast.
I’m so proud of them as they rode to plan and the ponies looked great afterwards. We all moved out on the easy terrain and rode very conservatively on the rocky, sandy parts and the steep downhills. This strategy paid off as all three horses completed in the top ten after some horses were pulled at the finish line. Sky and I were 3rd place, Finn and Kady Doody were 9th place and Aavanti and Jelena Woehr were 10th place. We took home the team award, too!
All four of our horses are shod in Epona shoes. I continue to be amazed at how much concussion the shoes seem to absorb and how the Epona trim makes such a positive change in their balance. I’m very pleased with the improvements I see in hoof health and the horses’ way of going. Thank you Monique Craig for educating me about your process and the precise trim. Things are going well so far for Tevis prep.

Jeanette Mero

Super proud of my daughter Reyna for winning the 20 Mule Team 100 miler! And I’m so proud and thankful for my family and friends for crewing and supporting us. Doing it all as a family means SO much. We are a pretty good, well oiled machine now. Reyna and I have been asking more and more of our crew as we increase our speed and efforts. And while we ride a lot of rides crewless, Reyna and I just supporting each other, even this 100 in last years, we couldn’t race at the level we have been lately without our awesome crew.

Here’s the long debriefing for those who are always interested in our adventures.

We really had a terrific day all day and the plan had been to press hard and see where we ended up. It was to be Reyna’s and our mare Stella’s first fast, racing 100 miler. The pair did awesome a few months back at the National Champ 50 miler with a tenth on the same trail. We needed to see how well Stella could manage going with Lena, my mare, so we can make plans for Tevis 2020.

So we went out quite fast, and sustained a tough pace all day. We had a little trail drama as we got off trail onto some trail marked for motorcycles, but no harm no foul, and we got ourselves righted and back to where we had been. We ran up front all day, usually 2-3, but just minutes behind the first horse. The mares did great all day with Stella’s heart rate recovering close enough to Lena’s that we were excited we could stay together.

By the last hold at 90 miles however, Stella started to have some trouble. She took a while to recover her heart rate and she was punking a bit. Lena was her usual freak self and was happily eating away with a ridiculously low heart rate. By that time the number one horse had to pull for lameness, so after we got Stella through the vet check we decided to have me and Lena go on and have Reyna stay back and let Stella eat and recover a bit longer. Lena and I just coasted in, not pushing hard at all by that point. I never felt an off step all day and at the finish, after a pace and day even faster than her National Champ 100 mile ride, she had a heart rate of 40, after walking in and going straight to the vet. But sadly when we jogged her out she had something mild showing up on her LF. I represented twice then, and was allowed a chance to retrot before my hour was up post completion, to see if we could improve it. While I was shocked since the mare had been stellar with perfect gait scores all day, with no sense something was coming - this is the nature of our sport and the price we pay when we race. Speed absolutely increases your chances of a problem and being pulled. We let her rest a bit and then when I re-evaluated her with my crew we all agreed it was a legit call and we did not go back up to represent. It was consistent enough. I have no hard feelings, my vet friends and colleagues made a good call.

Funny thing was I really wasn’t upset then and still am not this morning. Lena gave me an amazing day and responded fantastically to us asking her to work harder, walking in to holds almost always recovered on her heart rate with no crewing needed, and eating her way through the day. I’ve just got to go back to problem solving issues with her feet and shoeing to see what we can do to help her, her feet are her weak link. And it’s crazy what she does accomplish with the thin soles and poor feet she does have. This is her first pull in over 1200 miles. And she only has two pulls on her 1400 mile plus record.

Anyway, back to Reyna’s adventures - Reyna kept her cool and didn’t give up and did exactly what I told her to do over the last ten miles. She needed to walk any up hill and only trot the flats or downhill to give the mare a chance to recover and catch up from the earlier speed of the day. Reyna did that and more - walking on foot over 8 miles and taking great care of Stella as they carefully made their way in. This was a crap shoot as Stella could have easily gone the other way and continued to decline, requiring her to be pulled too at the finish. We all waited anxiously and Reyna managed to hold on to her placing giving her a win when she came across the finish line - but we all knew we had to get the mare through her completion vet check. While it took Stella still longer than we like to recover her heart rate, she vetted through sound and happy to trot, with a 60/60 CRI and mostly As on her vet card!!! We were all SO excited, Team Mero pulled out a win, and Reyna and Stella saved the day! I felt so happy and relieved for our crew, as they were so down when Lena and I pulled - the crew was rewarded as much as Reyna was for her first place, as again we couldn’t have done it without them. Onward now to problem solving what we need to work on and improve. The 2020 Tevis plans are underway!

20MT Ride Meeting:

* 41st running of the ride.

* 100 distance is the largest turn out - 28 riders

* 65 = ~22 riders

* 35 = ~17 riders

* a dozen “intro” riders

* really nice weather forecast (a little cooler than earlier in the week and maybe a tiny bit of mist at the start) - 46° at start (6am), ~60° high

* Cal State Pomona (Holly Greene) doing a research project involving stride parameters and fatigue (videoing horses on the trail). Also doing thermography - still at early stages to see if they can identify stress markers based on heat indicators.

* 23 water troughs on trail! Takes a day and half to get it all out there (some way out in the boonies)

* glowsticks every 2/10th of a mile on the night loop

* Vets: Mike Peralez, Susan McCartney, Mike Tomlinson and Michelle Roush

* Pulse criteria - 60 all day, except 64 at 90 mile check and at finish. Tack off at 35 mile check and 65 mile check.

*Crews to check under their tires before moving their vehicles in case of desert tortoises sleeping under them

* 25 amateur radio guys out on the trail tracking us

* Holds 20, 60, 20, 60, 20 minutes