By Kandace French with Cathy Peterson
What happens when you are sitting at your desk at work and you get a call from Rusty Toth and Kevin Myers, asking, “Would you and Cathy be available to crew for us at Tevis? Oh, and we want to Top 10. It will be hard work.”
What else could two fun loving adrenaline junkies do? We said “YES”.
Crewing for Team Easyboot? Seeing the trails we would be riding for the first time in 2013. Getting the Tevis experience from a crew’s perspective? Being part of “the world’s best known and most difficult Equestrian Endurance Ride”? Learning and watching some of the best riders and crew members on the continent? Oh yeah!
The best way to describe it is like being a part of the winning Super Bowl team, Oscars and Olympics all rolled into one. It was amazing; exhausting but amazing. We still have no idea how we were able to do it, except from pure adrenalin. We still get goose bumps just thinking about that weekend. It was a once in a lifetime experience. We managed 8 hours sleep in three days.
Because of work commitments, we couldn’t leave Arizona until the Thursday afternoon before the ride. We drove straight through and arrived in Reno at 4 a.m. Friday morning. That was as far as we could drive without sleeping. We pulled into a strip mall parking lot and slept in the car for two hours, woke up at 6 a.m., tried to figure out where in the heck we were and stumbled into a nearby Heidi's (a step above Denny's) for warm food and coffee. We cleaned up in their bathroom and then headed to Robie Park to prep for the start of the ride. It was a hint of sleepless days to come.
We met our team of horses and riders as well as our fellow experienced crew member (and life saver, Leslie Spitzer). After patient instructions on parking and camp set up, it was time to give the ponies, Far and Stoner, their body clips and pre-ride preparation. They were such awesome ponies to work on too. Of course, we got to do some shopping too - lots of fun endurance vendors!
Cathy Peterson clips Stoner for the big event - Photo by Merri Melde.
We headed to Cool, California (the town, not the temperature) for four hours of sleep Friday night at the awesome home accommodations offered by Leslie’s mom, Lynda Taxera (Another Tevis regular we could not live without). Saturday morning, Lynda guided us to Robinson Flat at “OMG” early in order to beat the crush of cars and to set up for our riders. Everything we ever heard about the backlog and hiking to this hold was highly understated. But we were excited.
No sooner did we get everything set up in our camp then it was time to wait for our riders. Rusty and Kevin trotted in at around 15th place. The hour sped by as we dipped, cooled, sponged ponies while coaxing Rusty and Kevin to eat, rest and let us feed the horses, clean them up and resupplying packs with water, electrolytes and trail food for them. The guys changed into shorts and donned caps with plans to run on foot with the horses for most of the canyons to come.
Rusty and Stoner come in to Robinson Flat - Photo by Merri Melde/Endurance.Net.
The hour flew by and we were now off for Foresthill, the second one-hour hold. After getting this stop set up, we jumped back in the car and headed backwards to Michigan Bluff.
At one time, Michigan was a vet hold because it is the first time riders can see their crew after emerging from the hot, brutal canyons. Though we knew it was going to basically be a ride-through for our guys, we met them in order to help to cool the horses and to give the guys some moral support.
Garrett and Lisa, followed by Rusty and Kevin came trotting around the corner and boy did they look great! They enjoyed the cold water for them, the horses enjoyed the oats. It was a quick five minutes tops and they were gone. We really had to hustle to get back to Foresthill. I don't think we waited 30 to 45 minutes and they were there. This is an amazing stop. As the riders come up Bath Road, everyone lines the road waiting for them, cheering - crews and locals alike.
Kevin and Rusty, with Far and Stoner, jogging up Bath Road - Photo by Lynne Glazer.
When they arrived at this stop we aggressively cooled off the horses. The horses looked very good here, but the guys had worked very hard. They had gotten off the horses and jogged the canyons, up and down, to give the horses a break. Did I mention these guys are in shape? In less than an hour, our team was at the line and ready to head out again. No time wasted. We headed down to the fairgrounds to wait for them to come in to the finish. Throughout the day, Garrett and Lisa, Rusty and Kevin had climbed up the leader board. When they left Forest hill Kevin and Rusty were in 4th and 5th place.
At 10:05 PM Saturday night, Garrett Ford and Lisa Ford came into the fairgrounds arena in first and second place to a standing ovation and cheers and tears. Fifteen minutes later, Kevin and Rusty came into the arena to finish 3rd and 4th. Their horses still looked great. After another cool down, they got their official vet check - heart rate down and soundness check - it was official! They had gone out wanting to top ten, but they got a top five! Four of them were coming back in the morning to present for the Haggin Cup. Our work wasn’t over!
Far relaxes in his stall after his big finish - Photo by Catherine Peterson.
After taking care of the horses and some rest and food for the riders, Rusty took the first shift sleeping with the horses and we headed to the hotel for our two hours of sleep. We needed to be back at the fairgrounds to get the horses ready to show for the Haggin Cup “Best Conditioned” presentation. We arrived back before we knew it and it was time to start to work. Ready, set, go!
Following Far and Stoner to the arena for the trot out; the cheers, the beautiful horses and talented riders. It was mind-blowing. Just watching the presentation was emotional. Being part of it was indescribable. The horses went back to the barn and we rested and hung out, basking in their success until we got a text to get down to the Awards Banquet.
Does anyone else think awards banquets can be rather boring? Not here. The Tevis Awards Banquet was electric. Everyone was so charged up. After the presentations of appreciation, special awards, recognizing sponsors, etc. they brought the top ten horses through to receive recognition and to receive their top ten swag. They saved Garrett Ford and The Fury for last and presented him with the Tevis Cup Trophy. Head veterinarian, Dr. Fellers, gave a speech about what the Haggin Cup really means. He choked up a bit while giving the speech. It means that much.
Listening as the Haggin Cup winner was announced was breathtaking and the excitement was overwhelming. As we hear, “The winner of the Haggin Cup for best conditioned goes to Farrabba aka “Stoner” ridden and guided by Rusty Toth!” We have never been more excited for someone else's achievement in any sport than we were that day. Four amazing horses. Four awesome and talented riders. First through fourth place and now, Best Conditioned. Cheers, congratulations, back slapping and hugging abounded! The horses took it all in stride.
The smile says it all - photo by Steph Teeter/Endurance.Net.
What an adventure. It was an honor and a privilege to be a small part of this amazing, incredible, astonishing event. Even more extraordinary was watching all the horses with Easyboot Glue-Ons cross the finish line at the most memorable endurance event in our lifetime. When asked, we say we have been spoiled crewing for the Easyboot team. After all, how many get the opportunity to say they crewed for two of the Top Four Finishers, Team Easyboot and the Haggin Cup winner?
Sleep is overrated.
Kandace French with Cathy Peterson