Tevis 2016: THINK PINK!

This was my fifth consecutive year crewing Tevis–and my favorite. If you immediately imagine 24+ hours of dirt, sweat, pain (blood? check!), excitement, hope, and inspiration, you are correct. If you were topping that imaginary scenario with a Completion and Buckle, sorry, that wasn’t the case. In fact, with a 28 mile Metabolic pull at Red Star, my rider made it the shortest of either her (she made it 55 miles in 2012) or my (I’ve crewed 3/4 buckles previously, the 1 non buckle being a Finish line pull) experiences.

Why on god’s green earth would a short ride and metabolic pull be your favorite experience, you whisper, perhaps horrified?

Because the heart of this sport of endurance besides the amazing partnerships with our horses are the great people we come to know and the true endurance it takes just to get to these starting lines. To have a great ride and finish is a true accomplishment–as is to do all that, *not finish,* and keep trucking undaunted, in it’s own right. Tevis has a completion rate of +/- 50% every year, no matter what–that’s a whole lot of technically qualified teams getting pulled despite their best efforts. No matter the end result, it’s no small thing just to be among the Vetted-in at Robie Park on Friday of Tevis weekend.

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My rider this year was my good buddy T, daily commiseration/celebration friend and source of Kenny the Morgany fella. We’ve been riding buddies for years now but originally made contact at a coastal ride when I was pointing out to a friend how snazzy T looked all in hot pink on her fancy footed grey Arabian mare, Niki. This mare can do flying lead changes darn near in place and is just generally an solid but incredibly nimble–and in that instance persistent and tireless–critter who T handled with aplomb. It’s worth mentioning that T chose Niki out of a field as an unbroke 10 year old and has done all the training and conditioning work herself. In that instance years ago, I had to congratulate T on the style with which she dressed and handled Niki, and it was one of those random small moments at a ride that results in a recognition of light in another and a great friendship, one of the best parts about this sport in my opinion. T and I both have had and will continue to have things to learn from and teach to each other, and T always inspires me to keep being tireless and bold. In fact if I may be so bold, I feel like T is a sister, and that is the excitement that Crew Chiefing for her this year brought to the table for me. And my crew-fellows? Her parents, two really fun, interesting, and supportive people that I thoroughly enjoy.

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T’s official entrant photo, credit Kristin Ojala

Because we were on track for maximum awesome feels, fellow blogger, Renegader, and booted-Tevis buckle-holder Melinda made time to glue on our Renegade Hoof boots for us, even after things went mildly sideways with the first plan and we ended up rescheduling and needing her to drive farther the next day with her cute babe along. That’s friendship, folks! Does it get better? It does–because Renegade  did some special run glue-on boots for Tevis and T got hot pink!! THANK YOU RENEGADE!

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There was swearing and a few 3 person deep YOUBESTNOTMOVEMARE moments, but then there was mare resignation (see above!), the gluing got done, and it was off to Robie Park for the girls!

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Enjoying part of her crew, T’s dad

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Friday went smoothly; I made it to Robie about 12:30 as usual, tracked T down easily thanks to the strangely strong cell reception, and she vetted in with flying colors and impressed remarks from the vets on Niki’s relaxed but forward trot.

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They even had pink chalk for her number!

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Here we are! (yours truly on the far left)

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credit Lisa Chadwick/Boots n Bloomers Photography

With the Robinson Flat gear collected, parents moving the rig to Foresthill in the a.m., and T vetted, packed, and feeling good, I headed back to my usual Tevis shower-and-pretend-to-sleep spot, Auburn’s Motel 6. I was awake before the 3:30 alarm and headed for Sailors flat to get an early spot in line for the  6 a.m. pilot car-led caravan up to Robinson Flat. I make it a point to be there at the crack of dawn always so that I get a good crewing spot *and* my vehicle is parked up near the top for easy exit, as opposed to arriving later, parking down at Sailors and taking the shuttle up to the check itself.

I did promise blood right? Yeah, there was a bit. In the rush of gear dumping on the escorted drive through Robinson itself I managed to smoosh my already Apache-smooshed finger in my truck door. AND keep chatting cheerily with a volunteer and drive out of there like nothing had happened. Fortunately I’d packed quite a nice medical kit and added it to T’s Robinson bag!

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set up at Robinson bright & early

By quarter to 7 I was settled in and ready for T, who wouldn’t arrive for hours yet. I filled the time visiting with familiar faces and obsessively refreshing the GPS and webcast trackers as usual. Her parents staged the rig at Foresthill and joined me before long, clearly recognizable in our fabulous hot pink crew shirts a friend of T’s made; they reported that she and the mare had eaten well and had a fairly smooth start that morning and she seemed to be making good time. We went over our plan to crew her into Robinson and settled down feeling good about things.

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thanks for the pic Funder 😀

Only, we all started to notice that her status wasn’t refreshing to any point past Red Star. And then the message from T arrived: “Pulled at Red Star.”  OH. Huh. Well…Shit. It’s always like an ice water bath to hear that your rider is pulled at Tevis, yep, I can confirm that now after the second round. The first thought is of course Is Everyone Okay???? As soon as we were reassured that Niki and T were okay, we scrabbled for details as we cleaned up our Robinson area and made the short walk back to my handily parked rig. A quick ride down the narrow cliffy road, dropping T’s parents at their car parked at Sailors, and on to Foresthill where the crew guide claimed all riders pulled at or before Robinson Flat would be taken.

The details began to filter in as we waited. Niki had an apparent mild tie up after a great start and relatively good behavior (so no wild boingity cramp causing shenanigans) for the early miles. She consumed and expelled phenomenally leading up to and starting the ride but needed to pee at a stop previous to Red Star, got distracted, and didn’t.  At Red Star she pulsed in, then her pulse spiked and soon after she got quivery in the hindquarters and peed slightly tea colored. She was given fluids and peed clear some time after that, all the while cheerfully hoovering up all available resources. The quarter tremors decreased throughout the afternoon and after finally arriving at the fairgrounds (not Foresthill as indicated) Niki was checked clear, returned for another clear recheck an hour later, and finally settled back at her trailer in the fairgrounds for the night, looking good and hungry as ever.

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We have various theories and strategies for what happened and what to do differently. Niki was in heat and the head vet mentioned a barn full of metabolic mares so the inevitable hormone question crops up. We are also theorizing about electrolytes, pre ride protocol (how much leg stretch/Finish line etc riding or not to do that week before ride start), and just generally how to come back and do better. Niki looks great, loves the job, and brings an enthusiastic but businesslike attitude to the table that makes her a pleasure to crew and cheer for. T handled her second Tevis pull like a complete pro which is part of what made the bittersweet ending to the experience so great. With grace and honesty she handled what happened, celebrated her own better preparation in dealing with the heat, and made plans for next year the very same day that her dreams for the buckle were trodden underfoot–again. May we all be so bold and true!

T and Niki conquer iconic Cougar Rock
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credit Gore/Baylor

TEVIS–SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

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