Wednesday, August 16, 2023

2023 Midnight Rider - Connie Holloway

August 14 2023
by Connie Holloway

It’s so nice when your hard work pays off, and I’ve been working hard on both of my horses.With DWA Barack going on our fourth year together. (I am going to write a story about him and our attachment issues. But I think we’re fairly well attached to each other now, somewhere this year, I really started to love this horse.) And DWA Papillon is coming along wonderfully.

We had so much fun at the Mount Adams endurance ride. And that’s why I’m in it I realized more for the fun than anything else and I love challenges. Things you have to work hard for. That put you in all kinds of situations and riding horses in the outdoors because all the elements, various terrain, can be super tricky at times and all the wild stuff that jumps out at you etc. So much is out of your control and it’s all fairly exciting, and throw wind and thunderstorms and that’s interesting. But we had none of that. We had stellar weather.

Speaking of stellar I took DWA Papillon out on the night ride. On Saturday both rides were at night. We did the first 12 mile loop in the daylight and the second time at night. Bobbi does this to give riders an opportunity to take there horse out at nite, normally only hundred mile rides you’re out in the dark! I so love this concept. Also, Christoph gave an excellent talk on riding at night. I learned so much more that was really helpful for me and my horse.

I chose to ride by myself with Pappy as usual and Pappy was a bit anxious and energetic. On the first loop leaving camp I decided to get off him and lead him for a bit, because his action was more up-and-down than forward and he was riled up. He could hear the horses coming in his direction through the woods on the road but not quite see them. I had started him last he didn’t know what to think of it all but I knew he’d settle down. I got on him as soon as I got down to the flat road and he took off at like a 20 mph trot. I did not know he could trot out that fast. !!!!!

He’s got a super good mind snd did settle down after the climbs. I’ve learned this horse really wants to race and go and his bred for it but we’re not doing that now, he still has his training wheels on. I should’ve gotten on him earlier in the day, but it was too hot and I was feeling lazy like Barack so it was a bit of a challenge for both of us at the start ! 

The 2nd Loop was the real gem because you’re repeating the first, only now in the dark and following little green twinkling lights, and sometimes you came to intersections and saw some twinkling blue lights and red lights and purple lights. It was like a fiesta in the forest. These little teeny lights. And my friends know how I like Christmas lights so I was really digging that. And was relishing the night under the stars and the meteor showers peak nite.

Halfway through the loop there was party Central. There was mash, hay and water for the horses, and for us coffee and Baileys, hot chocolate and Bailey’s, or straight Bailey’s, whatever you wanted and cookies. There were more sparkly lights here and friendly trail angels. I had Baileys and coffee to wash the cookie down, thank you very much, while I spoon fed mash to Pappy who is scared of the tub. He is very royal.

Endurance is fairly new for him and all the different shaped water tubs and everything is suspect. He hasn’t figured it all out yet, but he starting to. He was super awesome in the dark moving right out and I loved being by myself with him, he relying on me and me relying on him, that’s how the bond really develops. We saw other horses out there a few times, it would surprise him every time but for the most part we really were all alone other than a little passing here and there.

For the non-riders, you don’t use white lights, it blinds people and the horses. Horses see just as good at night, it’s OK to use a red light which I used often on for me, but not my horse. I really liked it when I had no light on. If you’re lucky enough to ride in a moon, you don’t need anything. Imagine riding in the Moonlight that’s magical too. but I’ll take no moon and meteor showers. Thank you universe !

I didn’t want the ride to end. In fact, I didn’t go to bed till 2 AM because the evening was warm, and the stars were putting on a show. So I hung outside my tent with the horses and Alexstoney. I can’t recall having so much fun as I did on this loop.

And at the finish, I was handed a little cup of champagne, it just doesn’t get any better than that. All the fun people celebrating and helping us. I so appreciate it. I was so pleased and giddy with this night experience! Whenever I do a Limited Distance, I always say I’m only doing an LD. But I think that’s pretty lame. I think they all matter what you do with your horses .I’ve ridden only 4 100 milers so I’ve been out at night, but never by myself. It’s something completely different. and I really loved it.!

I also rode Barack and he was such a good boy in the 50 miler on Friday, he had to go out and leave camp three different times which is hard. Sometimes they think they’re done when they go home, but we had three different loops, and he was a good sport about it. He certainly did some relaxing the next day sunbathing in the pen.

Thank you, Bobbi Walker your husband, Mark, the water, people, the party people all the good people you had to help put on that ride. I love how you give people an opportunity to ride at night even people that will never get to do 100 they can go out and ride at night in an LD or 50. Next year I’m going to do the 50. And thank you Regina Rose of course for bringing me. Always fun. We have a good camp and Kristin and Sara were right next door. Merri Melde for the photos.

It was fun to be back in this area I used to do spotted owl work in Glenwood, which isn’t too far off so I went back that way through many other places I knew and love the whole Klickitat Canyon area. Oh, I forgot to mention that Bobbi gave away coupons for huckleberry milkshakes, and OMG they are the best I’ve ever had. I might have to make several detours in the future. Such a great fun area.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

2023 Tevis and Haggin Cup by Haley Moquin

August 2 2023 by Haley Moquin

For those of you who don’t know PJs (Freaky) story. Here it is. Heather Reynolds had posted PJs breeding on Facebook stating her new horse would be arriving soon. PJ is a grandson of Okba - my favorite bloodline, a son of French Open, who Heather had won Tevis 2014 on. How exciting for her! I was flying to Florida to do the 3 day 100 with the Reynolds and PJ arrived while I was at their farm in Florida. PJ was a 12 year gelding who was apparently 15 hands with a stick and level. It was very clear PJ was not 15 hands. He is 14.2 with shoes on 🤣 obviously this was upsetting so I was like I’ll take him, and we arranged shipping from Florida to Texas.

It was said that PJ was rideable but difficult to mount but he hadn’t been ridden in a few years. He had been hanging out in a 40 acre pasture for 7 years in Colorado. Once he arrived in Texas, i began to work with him. He was perfect to saddle, knew how to round pen, and knew cues with the bit. He was reactive and spooky but he seemed to know what I was asking. About a week of ground work, i attempted to mount PJ. He bolted off before i could even put my foot in the stirrup. Fast forward 60 days, I was finally able to mount PJ. He was great our first ride. We walked in the round pen and I was able to get on and off of him safely. During the 60 days, it seemed that once PJ was over something, he never had a problem with it again. The very next day, I had fed the horses dinner. No one was at the barn but I decided to ride PJ for a second time. I got on him and he moved around a bit but for the most part was fine. We started to walk and he tripped. That completely freaked out him and he began running as fast as he could around the round pen. I couldn’t stop him. When he did stop, if i made a single move, he would run off again. I was stuck on PJ for about an hour and a half. I was crying and panicking, i was stuck on this horse. Not a good feeling. If i touched my phone, he would run off. There was no calling for help. I ended up grabbing onto the round pen panels and letting him bolt from underneath me.

I called my mom and told her i would never ride him again. Something i forgot to mention earlier, PJ was not ever accepting of being held by someone else for mounting and dismounting, he still isn’t to this day. If he feels trapped, he freaks out and bolts off. I attempted to give PJ back to his breeder, who heather had received him from. Heather was wonderful and had offered to pay half of the shipping to get him back to Colorado. His breeder stated that it would be best to euthanize him as he was just too crazy. She had bred him for the track and had him in training from age 3 to 5 and could never get him broke to ride. I tried giving him away to others but no one wanted him, and i do not blame them LOL. I started reaching out to trainers and i kept getting turned down. The trainers were telling me they didn’t know how to train a horse like PJ.

I then reached out to Dan Keen and after i described PJ, he said “bring him to the ranch and i will get him right”. No hesitation and Dan wasn’t worried at all. PJ spent 4 months at Dans. Dan stated that PJ was in the top 10% of most difficult horses he had ever trained. PJ was challenging and one in a million, but he did say that if he had to ride from coast to coast, PJ would be the one to do it. He described PJ as what it felt like to ride 4 horses at once. When i picked PJ up from Dans, Dan told me to ride him every day, get the miles on him, and do not rest him, PJ needed to work. That following October I did my first 50 on PJ. He was amazing. We then decided that we would aim him towards Tevis 2022.

PJ was a challenge every single ride. He was still quick to walk off when I would mount, he was easily bothered by things, he is a horse that all hands and feet need to be inside the ride at all times. I never knew what type of PJ i was going to get. Sometimes he’d stand nicely when i would get on him, sometimes he would spin violently for several minutes and try to run off. PJ was also worse if i mounted him at different places. He is very routine and if he is presented with something different, he would be explosive. In October 2022, i did the Armadillo 100 on him. That morning when I went to get on him, he went bucking and bolting through camp. People were yelling “loose horse”, nope, just me and PJ running through camp. I managed to stay on and we had a great day, we won. The initial mount of the day was PJs biggest issue even after all the training. And if you fell off during that initial mount, he was not rideable for the rest of the day. As I got the endurance miles on him, his behavior did improve.

In 1 year, i rode PJ 430 miles just in endurance rides. Yet, still a challenge all the time. I did not want to give up on PJ as he was freaky talented. He had the best recoveries, takes care of himself, and he can really move down the trail. This past spring, PJ decided he was not broke to ride. This is after 430 miles worth of races, a million training miles, and no long periods of rest. He just went back to his old self and was not safe to ride.

He just was not comfortable with a rider anymore and was honestly dangerous again. I debated giving him away because I am currently in Dental Hygiene school and a broke college kid. Training is expensive and it was such a disappointment that after a year and a half, he was back to being a psycho. Im not afraid to admit that I was scared of him again. I didn’t want to ride him again. I was so over the walking on egg shells to make sure I didn’t scare him in anyway, but it made me sad to give up.

So back to Dans he went. 30 days at Dans and we were back on track. This time Dan had to do some tough love but i was pleasantly surprised when I picked PJ up. Ever since I have picked PJ up, he had stood 100% still during mounting. I have poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into PJ. He is like having a child as I cannot leave for more than 5 days because he can’t handle the rest still to this day. Coming in the top 10 and winning the Haggin Cup at Tevis is a dream come true. My hard work has paid off and PJ is a champion. I always saw the potential in PJ but at times it seemed like it would be easier to just give up. I am so glad I did not.

Dan Keen (his trainer) always said that PJ was a winner and he was right. PJ will more than likely be a challenge for the rest of his life and I will probably never get to go on a long vacation unless I send him to Dans for the period of time, but that is perfectly fine. He gave me the best ride ever this past weekend and I do just love that little power pony so much even on the bad days ❤️ PJ actually stands for Princess Jeremy as that is what I nicknamed Mr Jeremy Reynolds a Few years ago 🤣 since i got PJ from Heather and Jeremy it was awesome and so funny to name him that as an insider. Freaky shortly became another nickname for him as he is a freak. If i wrote about every freaky moment I’ve had in this horse, it would be a million word book.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

2023 Tevis Cup - Mark Montgomery

August 2 2032
by Mark Montgomery

Mark Montgomery and his mustang MM Gus finished in 8th place

Tevis 2023 - almost didn't happen for me this year. My horse Gus came up lame just three days before the ride. I called my crew, and the Tevis office to let them know we were out. My wife Linda DVM couldn't find anything obvious causing the lameness, so she recommended pulling the shoes. Upon doing so, I found that the N/G shoes had cupped, causing sole pressure. I ground out more sole and put the EasyCare Flex shoes on him, which are more ridged than the N/Gs. Gus instantly went from lame to almost 100% sound, but he was still slightly off. His sole was still sore. It's now Wednesday evening. I start calling farmer friends, looking for Vet Tec, to add sole protection. Scotty Mayfield came to the rescue. He had a tube of Vet Tec and the applicator, and he gave me a demonstration on how to apply it. A huge Thank You to Scotty. We are good to go, and back in it. Woody has had great success for years with the EasyCare N/Gs, but Gus is more flat footed, and needs a shoe with more support.

Do to the depth of the snow over the top of the Sierras, this year the ride started at Soda Springs, in the dark, early Saturday morning. The first part of the trail was a long downhill road, starting with pavement, then changing to gravel, then to dirt. My friend from Israel, Ilan Dvir, was riding my mustang Woody. Woody is very competitive, and can be very difficult to ride, but Ilan is an excellent horseman and rider. The plan was to use Gus as a blocker, to slow Woody down. Ilan is also very competitive. They got ahead of Gus and I, and started working their way through all the riders in front of us. We were doing our best to keep them in sight. When we got to the bottom of the canyon I asked a spectator “How many are in front of us?”. He said “Nobody, you’re it”. We climbed to the top of Lyon Ridge, where Todd Barnum and crew were managing the trot by and water stop. While our horses were drinking, I jumped of and gave them their electrolytes that I carried in my backpack, along with some extra shoes, a hammer, and some nails, incase they lost a shoe. We headed out of this stop just as other riders were starting to arrive.

Ilan and Woody were leading the way, and as we approached Cougar Rock, Ilan and Woody were having a disagreement on which way to go, over the Rock, or go around on the bypass trail. Last year I let Woody choose, and he chose the bypass. Ilan won the argument, so over The Rock we went. The ride photographer was not expecting to see riders so soon, and was not quite ready yet, consequently our pictures are a little fuzzy. Sorry Bill, I should have yelled that we were coming.

Woody is known for his big spooks, at high speed, resulting in the rider (usually me) hitting the ground. That’s why I always hold on to my Oh Shit Strap while riding him. We left Cougar Rock with about a ten minute lead on the other riders, with Ilan in the front. As they flew around a blind corner, a man with a camera stood up from behind a bush, causing Woody to spook, a duck and spin, resulting in Ilan falling off. The ridge and the trail was heading West, but Woody took off, heading North, down off the ridge, over an almost vertical 300’ drop, and disappeared into the timber below. I stayed on Gus, at the edge of the cliff, while Ilan climbed down the bank in pursuit. A short time later I hear him yell “Got him”, and they climbed back up to the trail. I asked how he was able to catch him so easily, expecting Woody to run clear to the next vet check at Red Star. He said that he approached him as if he was another horse, bobbing his head, with a non confrontal slouched posture. It worked, and we are back on trail, just as three riders pass us. Ilan and Woody were able to pass, putting them back in 1st place. Gus and I were content to follow the three riders at a more moderate pace, so we came into Red Star in 5th place. I pulled tack, and got water on Gus, and his heart rate was immediately down to criteria. One of my highlights of my ride was looking over and seeing Chuck Stalley hand feeding Woody some hay. With support like that, I knew it was going to be a great day. We left Red Star in 1st place, and came into Robinson Flat fast, with a good lead on second place. At Robinson, Gus pulsed down almost immediately again, so off we go to vet through. Our vet at this stop was Mike Peralez DVM, the head vet for the ride. As he preformed the CRI, Gus’s first pulse was 48. After the trot out and back, Mike checked his pulse again. He looked at me and smiled with amazement, Gus’s pulse was 44. I jokingly said “You better check that Again”. Mike gave us the green light to proceed. Unfortunately, Woody was off at this vet check, and was pulled. Could he have injured himself earlier, running down that embankment, who knows, but he was 100% sound when we trotted him out the next day at the Auburn Fair Grounds.

Gus and I kept a good fast pace heading down the trail, only slowing down for the steep downhills. As we came into the Dusty Corners water stop, a volunteer commented how good Gus looked as she handed me a slice of watermelon and I offered Gus a drink. He was not interested in drinking at that time, and we took off down the trail as we see other riders coming fast into this stop. As we leave, the volunteer yelled “Only 4.9 miles to the next check at Last Chance.” Gus and I were in sync, flying down the single track trail as one body. He was on auto pilot, only slowing to a trot for brief moments when necessary, for our safety. I did take a glance down off the cliff at Pucker Point as we flew by, thinking that it would be the end of us if we went off there. There were fresh bear tracks in the trail, and we were lucky that we didn’t encounter a bear while cantering around those blind corners, on that narrow trail, with a drop off on one side.

We came into Last Chance with a good lead, and Gus looking great. He ate and drank, and vetted through right away, so off we go, heading down into the first canyon. I usually get off and run this section, but my left knee was starting to give me trouble, so I stayed on. In the past, I’ve always taken my horses into the river for a swim below Swinging Bridge. It was still early in the day, it wasn’t hot yet, and Gus didn’t seem hot or tired, so we skipped the river, and across the bridge we go. The climb to Devils Thumb is brutal. I consider it the toughest part of the ride, so when I could start to hear Gus breathing, I would get off and lead him. By the time I got to the top, I was beat. I could hear Greg Kimber and other volunteers offering encouraging words, but I was too exhausted to look up and acknowledge them, we were heading for the water trough, where we were treated with more volunteers with treats and cooling sponges.

Our next vet check is Deadwood, only a mile down the trail. We quickly vetted though, and down into the second canyon we go, at a fast trot, only slowing down for the steep sections. So much work has been done to improve the Tevis trail, and this section was no exception. We felt very safe, as much of the trail has been widened. Seeing all the chainsaw work that had been done was amazing. So many huge dead trees from last year’s fire had been cut out of the way. This will be an ongoing project for years to come, as more dead trees fall.

As we neared the top of Eldorado Canyon, Gus was getting hot, so I jumped off at the last creek crossing before Michigan Bluff, to cool him off. As I was pouring water on him, two riders passed us. I figured that cooling my horse was far more important than maintaining our 1st place position. We left Michigan Bluff and came into the next vet check at Chicken Hawk in third place. Gus pulsed down right away, and we probably could have left Chicken Hawk in the lead, but Gus was finally starting to get an apatite, so we stayed a little longer to let him eat. I lost track of how many riders passed us at this check while Gus was eating. I think that there were about five out areas of us.

Coming up Bath Road was perfect. My crew were amazing. Ilan and his son Rotem met us part way down the road with a gallon jug of ice water. I was pouring it on Gus and drinking it as we trotted up the road to the rest of our crew. I said to my crew“Get Gus straight to the P&R person”, as from past experience, I know his heart rate will be down. He was down right away, and that put us leaving Forest Hill in third place, just four minutes behind first. While at this check, I noticed that he had lost his Vet Tec padding. Luckily, the farier, Joby Souza, was there to apply more.

The next section of trail goes right through downtown Forest Hill, on pavement. We quickly caught and passed the next rider, putting us in second place. Dropping down the switchbacks, I could see the lead rider about a minute ahead of us. We caught her just beforee the Cal 2 water stop, and we led the way down the switchbacks from Cal 2 to the river. We were flying, but we couldn’t out run them. Turns out, it was Jenna and Kong, they are an amazing team. We rode together for a while, trading off the first place position.

About a mile from Franciscos, three other riders caught up to us. They were trotting fast down the road. Gus wanted to go with them, but my knee was done. I could not go that speed any longer. I had to turn Gus in a circle to slow him down to a walk. My knee was swollen, and the skin had worn off where it rubbed on the saddle. We came into Franciscos a couple minutes behind the group of four. Gus pulsed down right away again, but he was breathing hard, and I was exhausted. I could not keep up that pace any longer, and at that point I realized that we weren’t going to win, and resigned to shooting for a Top Ten finish. We stayed a little extra long at this check so we could both get our strength back. I was feeling really overheated at this point and the volunteers were wonderful helping to get me prepared to hit the trail again. Another rider passed us while we were resting in the vet check, putting us in 6th place.

The next section of trail had to be re routed up Drivers Flat Road, a 2 1/2 mile steep climb to the top. As we passed the usual single track trail to the left,, that goes to the river crossing, Gus looked at at me saying “You are going the wrong way, we are supposed to turn here”. He lost his motivation at that point, and we walked all the way to the top. Our crew was waiting for us at the top, a welcome site for sure. They cooled Gus while I rested. Gus remained unmotivated for the next several miles. He knew we had missed a turn, as he had done this ride once before, with a junior rider, Rotem, in 2019. It’s amazing how they remember the trail. While we were jogging down the trail, two other riders caught and passed us, putting us in 8th place. Gus stayed with them for a while but finally let them go. At this point, I was exhausted, and my poor riding form was taking it’s toll on Gus. I was riding with both hands on the pommel of the saddle to help relieve the pressure on my knee, just letting the reins go free on his neck. The new re route of the trail seemed to go on forever. Finally, just before dark, we reached the highway crossing at the Forest Hill bridge, and we were passed by another rider, putting us in 9th place.

The long steep descend down to the confluence of the North and middle forks of the American rivers brought us to the final vet check before the finish line. Gus vetted through right away again, but just as I mounted up to leave, he decides that he wanted to stay and eat hay. Every couple minutes I would suggest that we really need to get going, and he would just keep eating, so I let him, knowing that we would probably be passed by other riders. Finally he had enough hay and we were back on the trail. Just before No Hands Bridge, my crew found me and let me know that two riders were coming up fast behind us. When Gus got to No Hands Bridge, he new where we were, he wasn’t lost any more, and we flew at a fast canter. He had been dogging it for the last couple hours, and now he had a renewed energy. We quickly caught the 8th place rider, putting us in 8th place, but we could hear the other two riders, in the dark, pushing hard to catch us, all the way to the finish line. They crossed the line less than a minute behind us. Gus cantered most of the lap around the track at the stadium. He felt and looked great at the finish, and at the Best Condition showing the next morning. I was in no condition to show him. Thanks Caroline De Bourbon for showing him for BC for me, you did an excellent job.

My crew was great, they could not have done any better. I was spoiled all day. They went above and beyond to be everywhere for me. A huge Thank You to Karen Gardella, Shane Lesher and his wife Angie, Amy Rawlins, Ilan and Rotem Dvir, and my wife Linda DVM, and Mike Shaper for moving my rig from Soda Springs to Auburn.

Chuck Stalley and his crew of volunteers did an amazing job to make this ride happen, from dealing with the mess from the fire last summer, to re routing the trail because the river was too high to cross, to all of the work done to make the trail as safe as possible. The Traill was the best that I’ve seen it - Outstanding job guys. And as always, the vets were great keeping all the horses safe.

A huge Thank You to everyone.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

2023 Tevis Cup - Alexandra Collier

July 31 2022
by Alexandra Collier

Alexandra Collier and the mustang JM Gibbs finished in 52nd place

7 years ago I made the decision to move from Maryland to San Diego, California. I had discovered that Auburn was the endurance capital of the world and where Tevis takes place. I didn’t move to Auburn specifically though for fear of lack of opportunities. Around this time period, I was not well, all around. I was in some of the lowest years of my life and just a mess. I had been contemplating and convincing myself that moving somewhere where there was “more endurance” would help set me on the right path to personal peace.

Fast forward to this morning at 4:42am, JM Gibbs and I completed the Western States Trail Ride aka the Tevis Cup. Until this weekend, Gibbs and I had never met. What I knew about him was that he was a stocky ole mustang from Devils Garden and “kids safe.” According to his AERC record, he has done a handful of 50s, maybe 5ish and the placings I saw were 25th, 28th, and 37th. Neither Gibbs nor I had ever attempted Tevis. I had a 100 mile completion under my belt, but Gibbs did not even have a previous attempt.

On paper, if someone were to be interested in leasing a horse for Tevis, Gibbs wouldn’t light someone up inside with excitement. Now, this is a normal person I’m talking about. Then, there is me.

Amongst all the reasons why Gibbs might not be someone’s best first interest for Tevis, I saw it differently. Mustang, underrepresented breed in endurance, underdog of endurance, not likely to finish, a mental challenge, a long long 100 miles, lots of mental effort into strategic planning, anxiety, more anxiety and worry. I won’t say I “like” all of those things, but that’s how I saw it. This wasn’t about a Tevis completion, truly. It was about how many crazy boxes I would check IF we completed and IF we didn’t, so what if we just did something crazy, and tried.

After winning the Tevis benefactor entry, this was my green-light-go sign. My gut, my heart, all shouting “You cannot miss this opportunity, despite the foreseen challenges.”

I met Gibbs on Thursday before the ride. Friday I took him for a 30 minute walking ride just to get a feel for things. Then I woke up on Saturday morning and hopped up on his back and off we were to conquer 100 miles. Our goal was to finish faster morning miles in the cooler weather to accommodate for the hot midday sun. Gibbs and I were doing great, until the canyons. It was hot, it was unmotivating for him, it was rocky. When we reached the swinging bridge we B-lined it for the river. I dismounted and walked him in submerging myself fully and letting him cool down for a few mins before the hike up Devil’s Thumb.

We crossed the bridge following two other riders that we eventually let go on without us. I dismounted to get a rock out of my shoe and thought to myself “No part of me wants to hike this canyon up to the top but I probably should as it may be our saving grace at the end.” So we hiked it together, miserably. Gibbs’ attitude was “this is so not it.” Between the 2mph walking and my quite literally dragging him, I felt discouraged but continued on step after step. I mean literally looking down at the ground watching each one of my boots cover another small increment of ground.

We made it to the top, just to barrel down into another canyon. Same thing again. Walking, breathing, internally dying inside. We hit a relatively level point and I mounted Gibbs, gave him a kick, just for the result to be a dead stand still. He would not go. He knew that his body needed to recover and did not believe there was any urgency in continuing on. So I got off and resumed my dragging routine. “Mustangs take care of themselves” they say. And yup, they sure do. And sometimes that means, “I’d just like to rest and not do anything anymore despite us being in the middle of a very serious ride with a time cut off.”

We lost so much time. We came into Michigan Bluff with me thinking I had arrived at Chicken Hawk, but we had not. There was another handful of miles left. Gibbs was spent and morale was low for me and him. Luckily between my crew and Terry Howe’s positivity and motivation, I felt a surge of life. I left Michigan Bluff choking back my tears from the reality that this might be it we may not make it. Two riders knew the “bad times” were hitting me and they kept pushing me to continue on, keep up, and attach Gibbs to them for motivation. They saved me. The last 1.5 to Chicken Hawk felt ENDLESS. Somehow, somehow, we made it in with a few minutes to spare. My amazing crew immediately helped me and set me up for success. If my timeline of the story doesn’t align with location names or anything, it’s because anything after Michigan Bluff is an absolute complete blur. It was all just work and a one track mindset, GO.

The switchbacks following felt endless. We came into Forest Hill or Cal 2 with one minute to spare. One damn minute. After this, any concept of where I was just fell from my mind. We must keep moving forward and not waste much time. It was dark, which meant it was cooling down and our only opportunity to make it.

Every check after that was “you need to pick up the speed,” “you’re right at cut off,” “you can do it, but you have to keep moving and use every minute wisely.” I was riding with someone who had a gaited horse which was great for pacing a faster walk. We were working together to try to get this done. I was in charge of time and he was in charge of leading. I’ll be honest, every time he asked me the time, I lied. I told the time was five minutes past what the actual time was so that he didn’t believe we had any extra moment.  Probably saved us both in the end because he finished as well. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind the lying now if I told him my strategy.

At 1:52am, I realized the reality of we might not finish. Calculating, recalculating, mathing, running through my mind how could we possible make it 20 miles in 3 hours. That’s 10mph give or take. How is that even possible, we aren’t capable of that. We just aren’t. My text was sent to my crew at 1:52am during this breakdown and it read “I am not convinced we will make it in time.” I had to prepare my team for the disappointment to come despite their amazing efforts of crewing for me and cheering me on all day.

I asked myself if this was my giving up moment. No, it sure as heck is not. And we are going to fly at any damn opportunity that we can and if we don’t finish AT LEAST WE TRIED.

Every pulse Gibbs had coming into check, he would come in at about 80, but within 5 mins of snacking and drinking, he’d be down to 64. And we would head out essentially by our crew pushing us out the gate.

Francisco’s and the street crossings still had me tense about time, but once we hit Confluents, I started believing this is real. We are about to finish Tevis when I spent majority of the day mentally preparing myself for a potential pull or being overtime. We FLEW. I made sure he attached himself mentally to the butt of another horse and we kept going. There was no thinking really just following the glimpse of a riders sillouette in front of us. I tried not to let myself believe we “had this” before the end because I was still panicking about a stone bruise flying like that in the very dark forest. Again, if felt endless. Any glimmer of a light, I was hoping for the finish.

And finally, there it was. Lights up on a hill and my heart is beating so fast; I’m feeling so many emotions. How in the heck did I just pull this off? Just, how. But we did it.

With endurance, I get into this mindset where it’s like I’m using every single aspect of my brain. As I’m sure we all do. But I assess, reassess, push, pull, tweak this and that. It’s not easy with a horse who isn’t guaranteed to finish. There is so much that goes on internally in my mind throughout the process. I knew Gibbs would be a challenge, but what worked in my favor is that for the last two years I’ve been riding a mustang who is equally, even more so stubborn. I know how to navigate them. It’s not about demanding, it’s about asking. And sometimes they straight up tell you “No” and not a single thing will change that. So when this happens, is when I have to change the plan, again. And again, and again. It’s not a straight line.

I had a paper I was following with “set goal times” and the cut-off times listed. The first few points we were an hour to an hour and a half ahead. During this time I was of course feeling positive and motivated. Then, the lull of the ride was when we were coming in an hour to an hour and a half AFTER what our goal time should be and seconds before cut off. There is and was never any plan, truly. Do what you can with your best effort, and adjust. If it doesn’t go to plan, the day is not over, the ride is not over. We keep on going and we make it to the finish.

A very special thanks to Gibbs’ home Crater Hill Equestrian Center and all of their crew, Samantha Ellis, Gibbs’ rightful owners Jennifer Elizabeth Mayfield & Scotty Mayfield, Ashley Sansome whom I ventured on this mission with, Valerie Jaques for setting me up to borrow her Garmin, Terry Howe for letting me borrow her saddle, the benefactor who made it possible for me to have an entry to the ride, every single person who was out there on the sidelines in-person or from home, Jacqueline Davis for providing me with the resources and experience the last two years to have the knowledge that it took to complete this ride, and Gibbs of course for all of his hard work to make this happen.

I am so proud of our teamwork and our ability to finish the ride in time. This memory I will cherish forever. It checked so many personal boxes for me with regards to goals and putting myself to the test to see what I really am capable of as a rider and person in general. I am ecstatic and still in shock, so very happy with my ability to overcome challenges and prevail in the end. Gibbs is a very special mustang and although at times he wouldn’t give me what I wanted, in the end he gave us both what we needed to make it happen. Gibbs was part of the 2020 round up and brought in as a stallion. He was not gelded until 2 years ago (I believe) and has only been broke for 2 years as well. From RoundUp2020 to Tevis2023, really awesome.

I will try to forget about the embarrassing demonstration he put on for everyone as we did our victory lap.