Riding endurance is not all joy and happiness. There are lots of ups and downs, pure bliss and deep disappointments taking their turns settling into the hearts of long distance riders. When someone is competitive in this sport, dedicating their life to it, pouring heart and soul into it, they’re in for an emotional rollercoaster. I wrote a blog about the Tevis Blues in 2019, titled “Bad Luck or Bad Decisions?”
Today is Saturday, July 16th, 2022. It’s 5:15 am. Adrenaline is running high and can be felt all over. VA Blizzard of Oz, or Ozzy for short, is sporting the number 2 on his hip. This number was allocated to him because he finished Tevis in 2nd place last year. The top 10 riders from the previous year are allocated their finishing order as their ID numbers the following year.
We are starting in the dark together with 132 other riders up towards Squaw Valley. It is a warm, early morning.
From the start, Ozzy wants to be in the lead and throughout the morning we move at a speedy pace.
Ozzy is full of energy, so when we reach the bottom of Squaw I elect not to get off and tail like I have done in all of my 15 prior Tevis attempts. I feel this year that I probably could not run as fast as Ozzy wants to go, so I am staying in the saddle. Besides, he feels stronger than he had during his prior Tevis attempts.
Into the Granite Wilderness we go. Ozzy is eager to lead the group of riders behind me. He does not bother to taste some of the lush green grass on the sides of the trail, his focus is forward movement. At the first vet check at Red Star, we have a little hiccup. Ozzy has not peed yet, so his HR stays high a few minutes, allowing other riders to pass him there. Onward to the Robinson vet check. Robinson is crucial for the horses. They have to eat and drink plenty, otherwise trouble might lurk for them in the canyons. I am happy when Ozzy eats for over 45 minutes.
An unrelated bike race is held this year on the trails surrounding Tevis, with different signs and trail markings all over the place. Pay attention! Focus!! After a short hesitation reading all the other trail markers to assure we are not taking a bike trail, we continue on familiar terrain towards the canyons. Getting warmer for real now!
It is standard procedure for me to be out of the saddle and leading the horse down the steep canyons and tailing up the other side. With temperatures approaching 110 degrees Fahrenheit, sweat is dripping off both of our bodies, and my eyes are burning from the salty liquid.
Ozzy has such a huge walking stride, he powers up the canyons without missing a beat. He knows that he is being helped by not having to carry my body’s weight uphill. He gladly offers the tail for me. Tailing Ozzy allows me to watch each footfall and examine how his footwear is working for him.
Ozzy has the 1.5 Wide Easyboot Glue-Ons on the front, and the 1.5 Fury Glue-Ons on the hind. He is short coupled, so he cannot have any heel extension in the front. His dorsal hoof wall has to be short for quick turnover. The Easyboot Glue-Ons have a very nice built-in breakover, which helps the front hooves to move on before the hinds end up forging onto the front. For the hind hooves, Ozzy enjoys the extra heel extension that the Fury Glue-On model offers, giving his hind hooves that extra support to prevent that ominous ‘collapsing’ of the hind fetlocks. I’m very happy with these Easyboot Glue-On options I had selected. They work well for him.
The cushioning and sole protection with these boots is unsurpassed.
They are the ideal protection for the rough and demanding Tevis trail, that’s for sure.
Ozzy needs electrolytes! The heat and effort climbing out of the canyon sucked the salt and water right out of him. Last year I almost ran out of electrolytes in the canyons. This year I packed extra, which pays off.
Together with two other riders, we are first into Forrest Hill. Ozzy eats the whole hour, has a huge appetite, and I know right then that we will make it to the finish line. Ozzy and I leave Forrest Hill in second place, and soon the three front riders are all united again. We are taking turns leading, and I am switching between riding and running. I run on the sustained downhills and some of the steep uphills that characterize the California Loop. I’m not sure why this stretch of trail has this name. It is actually not a loop, but countless switchbacks on a mostly descending trail.
At Francisco’s vet check the rider who would end up winning Tevis 2022 leaves a minute before me and ……is gone! Ha, how could it be? No matter, I adhere to my motto, “Ride the horse you have right now, not the one you wish to have!” Not that I want a different horse now. I am perfectly happy with Ozzy’s performance, but I am also not going to jeopardize him by asking too much of him at this point on the trail.
I sense that a Tevis win is probably no longer achievable, unless misfortune befalls the front runner, which I never wish on anyone. So Ozzy and I are taking our time and coasting towards the finish line when sudden footfall noise and light behind me starts getting closer. Time to speed up a bit! Ozzy gets the hint and moves out. We cross the finish line before the third place finisher closes in on us. Relief! We made it! Now the victory loop, and then a final trot out for completion. All goes well with a 48 HR at the final CRI.
I had a heart-stopping moment when my spare horse kicks Ozzy in the hock back at the trailer. He was jealous of all the attention Ozzy was receiving. I heard a distinct, audible thud, and luckily there were no other consequences. The next morning Ozzy shows like a rock star at the Haggin Cup.
He is unanimously voted by the vet panel the Best Conditioned Horse, worthy of receiving the coveted Haggin Cup!
This was the first Haggin Cup for Ozzy and I. Oh, how we were, and still are, thrilled. Seldom does it get any better than that.
Ozzy is certainly a remarkable horse. You might remember my previous blog about his AERC 2021 Year End Achievements, National Awards, and Championships, titled “Championships through Performance.” It was published a few months ago.
But equally as remarkable as his performance is the footwear I had selected for Ozzy and all my other horses at the Global Endurance Training Center (GETC). EasyCare is the leader in innovative hoof wear for horses. The passion and enthusiasm of the EasyCare staff around their leader, Garrett Ford, is reflected in the achievements of all my horses on the trail and the AERC circuit, the successes of horses like Ozzy and LLC Pyros of Choice, the winner of Tevis 2022, who also was sporting Easyboot Glue-Ons.
My choice for all my endurance horses is, and always will be, EasyCare hoof protection!
Global Endurance Training Center