Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tevis 2006 - Don Bowen

by Don Bowen I just completed my third Tevis, it's three in a row! My first two
completions were done with our tough little big horse, TR Whyatt. Both of
those completions were special and gave me the needed experience in order
for me to complete with Wild West, aka Willy, better known as Willy the
Flying Horse!

It's been three years since that Memorial Day weekend that Willy and I fell
from the Tevis trail during a practice ride one month prior to Tevis 2003.
We were at Kaput Springs, I let Willy get a drink and the trail behind Willy
gave way. We went over backwards, Willy rolled over my leg and broke it, my
head slammed into a tree and I stopped at about 50'. Willy fell another
500-700 feet, depending on who you ask. The story was in the March 2004
Endurance News, center section. But the story, briefly, is that I was taken
to the hospital, a group of locals organized and found Willy the next day,
he had to be taken out by helicopter. Willy returned to endurance and did
the Bear Mt Valley ride three months later. In December, what the vet
described as a very old suspensory injury reared its ugly head. We opted
for the stem cell, and after a year off, my wife Pam started riding him
again (per the vet's instruction to start with lighter weight) with great

After last years season, Pam and I agreed we would switch horses and get
Willy ready for Tevis, Willy and I had unfinished business. At the DVE ride
an arrangement was made with Becky Glaser, that if we went to Tevis with
Willy, she would be our crew, what better crew could any ask for? Willy did
his first 100 at the Californios in June. Pam kept the boys legged up as I
chased fire on the Angeles Forest in July.

I showed up to Michigan Bluff with the boys the week before Tevis to stay
with my Tevis family, the Hall's, folks that had helped with Willy's rescue.
A funny thing happened on our arrival. I let Willy out first, as usual, but
this time when I went to let Whyatt out, Willy, kept trying to push Whyatt
back in as if to say "no Whyatt, don't get out, I know this place, this is
bad place, dude this is where I fell". And Whyatt kept trying to back out
saying "dude, I also know this place and the sooner I get out the sooner we

That night I was invited to the Tevis Pre-Ride BBQ for the send off to this
year's riders. It was at the BBQ I was able to tell Greg Kimler and others
involved with Willy's rescue that Willy was here and entered in Tevis.

We left Michigan Bluff Thursday morning and headed to Robie. On Friday we
went to the vet-in and as luck would have it, I got Dr. Jim Baldwin who knew
of Willy and his story. He vetted through just fine and we started the next

I feel we lost about an hour due to the new start and new trail. I think
that's a fair assessment since I rode the ride the previous two years. The
new start had great intentions but when it came down to it, the instruction
to continue walking in a circle in the pens was not followed nor was the
instruction followed to walk to the start in pairs. So we were already
jamming up by the time we started and the balked horses at the trickle water
crossing added to the frustration. The new trail out of Robinson had great
views, but as mid packers we weren't able to make time due to the rocks and
dust. I think this is now the new Dusty Corner. I know this to be true
because I've made good time on the road used in the past. I know both of
these items will be better in the future and this was just my experience.

When we passed Kaput Springs, I was leading, Pam was behind, with a few
others behind her. I yelled out the brief version about Willy as we passed
by the spring, without stopping of course! Willy continued through the vet
checks and trail fairly well all day. When we got to Forest Hill the
amazement of Willy's accomplishments were starting to show through. Dr.
Adrienne Brouwer, who was the vet that saw him after his fall and the
rescue, vetted Willy. She couldn't believe it was Willy and that he was here
at Tevis. He was a bit tired, but looked good, and after some food and rest
he looked like a new horse trotting out of Forest Hill. At Francisco's she
saw him again and commented he still looked good. At the finish all the vets
looked at the horse that should have been dead let alone be at the Tevis and
finish. As we completed the vetting and started our victory lap the tears
began to form, for my partner, who was able to conquer the trail that tried
to take him. A few horses have fallen from the trail and perished. This is
the story of one that survived, and eventually finished, Tevis.

Don Bowen

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