Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tevis Cup Gallops into Auburn - Full Article


Autumn start is unprecedented for 100-mile endurance ride
By Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer

Tevis Cup riders may be from different walks of life, but they share a common addiction.

They live for seeing the Sierra whiz by them on horseback, leaving billowing dust clouds in their wake, while forging an unforgettable bond with a natural athlete.

The 100-mile endurance horse ride, from Tahoe to Auburn, features some of the most unforgiving terrain, yet continues to call to them year after year. Riders, like endurance trainer Janine Esler, of Granite Bay, continue to test themselves, and their horse, for 24-hours, against the elements.

The reward? A silver buckle — and a challenge that never seems to get old.

Esler said Tevis continues to thrill her, even nearly a decade after her first ride.

“I thought it was the most frightful thing I had ever done, but addicting. I finished smack on 24 hours. I didn’t have a second to spare,” Esler said. “Since then I have completed seven buckles and a very close completion. I call it my elusive eighth buckle.”

During that race Esler’s horse got stuck in a thorny berry bush about half a mile before the finish. A testament, she said to the unpredictability of the race. Last year, Esler finished fourth on Cool resident Diana Lundy’s horse, C.R. Sampson.

“He was the first horse to start dead last and place in the top 10,” Esler said. “We kind of made a little bit of history there.”

This year’s race, scheduled for Oct. 8, should be even more unpredictable than usual, according to Esler. Unusually heavy snow-melt, caused race organizers to push the race back from its original date in July. The unprecedented move means riders will be traveling in darkness for an extra couple of hours, and experience cooler temperatures.

Esler said she isn’t sure the pros of an autumn race will outweigh the cons.

“The light isn’t going to be out until approximately 7:30 (a.m.). We will be at High Camp before we see any light. I personally am very unexcited about it. It presents things that could be extremely dangerous to your horse. An extreme challenge will be the cold,” Esler said. “We are starting approximately in the teens, normally we start in the 50s. When horses are cold, they are far more reactive.”

She said the cooler temperatures should make for a pleasant ride going down the Canyon from Foresthill, but will certainly be different than the hot, dusty conditions the ride is renowned for...

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