I rode this race 25 years ago, in 1985, on a quarter horse/mustang cross named Daniel. I was fitter, lighter, tougher, and boy I'd do it again tomorrow if I thought I could. I wax nostalgic just thinking about it.
Riders start from a point near Squaw Valley, California (base camp was in the meadow at Squaw Valley when I did it) and ride all the way to Auburn, California.
They begin in the wee hours of the morning - 5:15 am - after months or years of preparation, involving long hours of trotting their horse up and down mountains several days a week, until the horse is not only physically but mentally prepared for the challenge. The trail itself snakes over granite ridges with insane elevation gains and descents,and trail hazards including a swinging suspension bridge and the infamous Cougar Rock (imagine rock climbing for horses.) Riders routinely clamber off and run alongside on the steep downhills, and follow behind, holding on to the tails or "tailing" their horses uphill. All this in order to save their horses for the long haul home.
Why would anybody do this? I don't know. Because they're half-crazy? To say they can?
Here's a picture of me and my horse, Daniel (my head is turned away from the camera.)This picture was taken at Squaw Valley about three weeks before we accomplished the actual Tevis ride itself, when a girlfriend and I pre-rode the trail in three days, camping out and completing about 30 miles a day. We carried all our food and gear with us, and it was hands-down the most fun I've ever had horseback. For the actual race, I traveled much lighter, with a crew of great volunteers at rest stops.
Today, the Western States Ride has its own website, with a live report on each rider in the race and even twitter updates. Finishers are still awarded the coveted Tevis Cup belt buckle.
Do I own one? No. Daniel and I made it through each and every vet check, and with just a few miles to go, in the wee hours of the following morning (after riding for about 23 hours straight) my horse was all done in. Tired. I urged him forward. "Come on boy, just a couple more miles, you can do it." Nothing. Nada. He had given me everything he had, so with tears in my eyes, I got off and walked my superb trooper, my palomino horse Daniel, to finish the last few miles. We came in just overtime. We didn't win a buckle. But we finished the course, and I brought my horse home tired, but completely sound. The endurance motto "To Finish is to Win" has made me feel like a winner all these years later.
The publishing world is a lot like endurance riding. You've got to train hard, hang in there, and there are peaks and valleys and tests of your endurance. My best horseback riding days are behind me, but I hope my best writing days are still in front of me. And believe me, I'm in it for the long haul.
What have you done that you're really, really proud of, that still brings nostalgic memories? Would you do it again? Feel free to share.