Saturday, October 15, 2011

2011 Tevis: Did It! - Jenni Smith - 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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