Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guidelines created for performance horse treatment

October 26 2011

Most equine veterinarians, at least those who are American Association of Equine Practitioners members, work with nonracing performance horses during their years of training and competition. These animals compete in a wide range of athletic activities encompassing everything from rodeo to dressage to endurance riding.

To better assist its members, the AAEP has developed guidelines for veterinarians who treat horses competing in athletic events other than racing. The document, "Clinical Guidelines for Veterinarians Treating the Non-Racing Performance Horse," promotes medical practices the AAEP believes place the appropriate emphasis on the health, safety, and welfare of performance horses.

Focusing on the highly competitive performance horse environment, the guidelines address the importance of obtaining a specific diagnosis before administering treatment.

"The current use of medications to manage competition horses is often permissive and excessive. This environment is propagated by owners, trainers, and veterinarians who fail to appreciate the potential harm to the horse inherent in the excessive or frivolous use of multiple medications and supplements in the quest for competitive success," according to the guidelines.

All medical treatment of performance horses should be based on a veterinary diagnosis with appropriate time allowed for an evaluation following treatment to ensure the horse has recovered before it competes again, the guidelines go on to say. Administering joint injections without a specific medical indication is listed as an example of underdiagnosis and overtreatment. The competition schedule should not be the primary factor when evaluating a horse's need for medical care, the guidelines contend.

In addition to medication administration, the document addresses the use of shockwave therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and cold therapy. Also included are recommendations for veterinary medical records, drug compounding, and infectious disease control at competitions and sales. The guidelines will be updated as research provides new data about the medical care of performance horses.

The clinical guidelines were developed by the AAEP Task Force on Medication in the Non-Racing Performance Horse, a group composed of private and regulatory veterinarians involved in a wide range of sport horse disciplines. Dr. Nathaniel A. White II, AAEP immediate past president, served as task force chair.

"While the guidelines were written for veterinarians, we hope our recommendations will resonate with owners, trainers, and organizations involved with competitions," explained Dr. White in a Sept. 19 AAEP press release. "Everyone involved in the care of the horse must appreciate the potential harm that may come from the excessive use of multiple medications. Simply giving a horse time off from competition is often the best medical choice that can be made."

The clinical guidelines are at .

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pocatello woman makes top 10 national equine endurance race - Full Article

October 20, 2011 12:24 am

Pocatello woman makes top 10 national equine endurance race By Vanessa Grieve Idaho State Journal | 0 comments

After working with her Arabian gelding for about five years, Pocatello’s Laura Yost saw the opportunity for her horse to “open up,” earning ninth place in a nationally esteemed endurance race.

Yost, 36, competed with her horse, O.T. El Din RSI, in the Tevis Cup or Western States Trail Ride on Oct. 8. The race is 100 miles across the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Truckee, Nev., to Auburn, Calif., fluctuating in elevation from 8,700 feet to 700 feet.

“It was a dream come true,” Yost said. “This year I changed his conditioning and workout to cater to the Tevis to handle the elevation change and faster pace. I decided this was the year to let him go.”

Yost said she was on “cloud nine” after the experience. She said the morning following the race, the top 10 winners showed their horses to judges and an audience as veterinarians inspected the animals with a “fine tooth comb” for metabolic and physical soundness. Yost said El Din was quite energetic...

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Endurance athletes of the horse world train, compete just like human marathoners - Full Article

Pam LeBlanc, Fit City
Oct. 15, 2011

ROUND MOUNTAIN — Toodles doesn't look like a long-distance runner.

She's sturdier and more stout than most marathoners. But this four-legged endurance athlete — a Polish Arabian mare — has plenty in common with her human counterparts.

She spends months building endurance. She tapers, easing off on training in the days before an event. And her owner carefully monitors her nutrition on game day, giving her electrolyte paste and the equine equivalent of energy bars to keep her from bonking.

"It's just like a human athlete," says Elaine Swiss, a retired high-tech executive and Toodles' owner and partner in competitive trail riding, one of two types of long-distance riding events popular in Central Texas.

At competitions, Swiss and Toodles follow a marked trail, tackling obstacles along the way. Judges lurk in bushes, scoring each horse-rider team as they pass through gates, scamper up and down steep hills, cross streams and negotiate special tasks. Teams must finish within a designated time window, but the first team across the finish line doesn't necessarily win.

Endurance races, the other type of long-distance riding event, are pure races. The winning horse is the first to cross the finish line.

In both types of competition, veterinarians check the horses periodically, looking for pink, healthy gums and sloshing belly noises to make sure the animal athletes are well-hydrated and capable of completing 25, 50 or 100-mile rides...

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Heraldic - One Determined Horse Part 2 (The Return) - by John Crandell

Heraldic and John Crandell are in Chile preparing for the 2011 Pan American Endurance Championships on October 22, 2011. This is Part II of a story about Heraldic, written by Crandell.

My heart sank that day in August of 2008. Heraldic was in training for the 2008 FEI World Endurance Championship in Malaysia, and only a few weeks from departing to a training camp in Florida. He had been moved to a smaller meadow the evening before and was slated for shoeing in the morning. As I approached to bring him in, I realized something was terribly wrong. Heraldic looked both ways, contemplating evasion as always, but never moved. Getting closer I could see his left hind leg was bloodied from a 2.5 inch diameter open wound medial on the stifle; Grade 5 lame.

I hobbled Heraldic 50 yards to a nearby shed for treatment. Dr. Jeannie Waldron rushed over and we begin what I already knew would be a long ordeal.

There was little need for sonograms to visualize the critical tissues around the stifle; we could see it all with the naked eye. The collateral ligaments were visibly bruised but intact, and we saw no evidence that the integrity of the joint capsules critical infection barrier had been compromised. By extremely narrow margins, we were spared these aspects of athletic career ending injury, but there were still huge uncertainties that threatened not just his athletic ability, but his life itself.

Dr. Waldron thoroughly cleaned stones and debris out a nine inch deep pocket of loosened skin extending below the stifle, and installed drain tubes to allow the wound to expel fluid as it healed from the inside out. We anticipated that we would have a critical recovery period in a the next weeks as the bruised ligamentation around the joint went through an even more fragile stage in the early phases of healing, so the same shelter just yards from his injury was prepared to be the site of a long convalescence; as fully immobilized as a horse can survive.

The Barbaro tragedy demonstrated to the world how difficult it can be to survive a horse through an extended period with a non-weight bearing limb. It is the opposing sound limb that must bear the load of the horses’ weight without a moment’s relief that is prone to the most irreversible demise. We were fortunate that Heraldic seem comfortable to face down-slope in his shed stall, providing some physical load relief to the overburdened hind limb. We selected bedding that would fill the concavity of his hoof for the most diffused support possible. Now there were weeks of careful monitoring, and wound nursing, and hoping ahead.

It was more than a month before Heraldic could bear weight for even a moment on the left hind leg.

It would be several more months before Heraldic would walk freely in a paddock. His entire left hind quarter was completely atrophied, which stood in stark contrast to the muscular right. The wound itself had healed as flawlessly as we could have ever hoped, but the road back to the athletic wonder that Heraldic had been before would be a very long one. It was like starting his endurance racing development all over again, with additional attention needed on rebalancing.

We will never know exactly what caused the accident, which was probably just a high speed fall and skid on the abrasive soils in the mountain meadow. Something must have startled him for such a violent wipe-out, but those reasons why are lost in the dark of that night in August.

Starting all over again has not been without some benefits. My extended family is always improving our training processes, and raising the standards of education we expect of our horses as they advance in a physical fitness program. Every endurance trainer struggles between the investment of time toward more refined training standards, and the rigors of a fitness program. With more effective training techniques we are able to set higher standards early, which leads to better efficiency later in the program. This integration is pivotal to raising the ceiling of performance. It’s not just about grinding workouts; it’s about working hard without sacrificing precision. It’s about eloquent sweat.

After a year and half invested in the therapy and retraining, Heraldic came out of the ordeal re-educated, more disciplined, and better prepared to train for fitness than ever.

The 2010 Old Dominion 100 was the first ride we attempted after his two year absence from the endurance scene. Just as in developing a new endurance horse, his fitness program to this time had favored certainty that his soundness durability had been fully developed. He was still not at peak physical performance, but like the Tevis, the Old Dominion tests fitness and a lot more. Heraldic at 90% fitness is still not shabby, and the Old Dominion is our home turf (rock and sauna). We were first place and BC by a modest margin.

Two weeks of rest after Old Dominion and then several cardio/muscular focused workouts had us physically right where I felt we needed to be for Tevis. Greyson had been on a similar work schedule all season, and was performing flawlessly, so he was the clear choice for an alternate. It takes a lot of investment of time and logistics to prepare for the Tevis from out of the region. It’s both practical and fairest to the horses not to put all that pressure on one horse.

To have Shannon Constanti ride Greyson, was a late opportunity offered by Linda Glaiser, who with Roger Yohe had been a trusted friend and gracious host in our Tevis adventures for several years. Heraldic is strong and focused to the end with or without company, so we had always performed in quiet solitary for most of our endurance races. I estimated that the rider weight difference between us would be a just enough of offset the very slight difference in the ability of the two horses, and that they would be very well matched together. I was determined to ride each horse to its own best advantage, but new that we just might be able to stay together all day.

I realized as I woke the morning of the Tevis that the high altitude temperature was freakishly warm. I knew that we were as well prepared for heat as anyone could be, so it only bolstered my confidence. The “new” Heraldic gave me the calmest, most disciplined start ever, so we warmed up and moved out with excellent early efficiency.

I never have as much concern about the competitive racing aspect of the challenge as most people would think. To me the day is simply an opportunity for a nature based test of training theories and techniques, and other riders in the field are simply providing welcomed additional benchmarks. I was a little concerned that I might be over-pacing when we pulled into Red Star Ridge only a few moments behind the leaders, but the horses pulsed faster than I could take a wiz, and we were on our way.

With careful regard to the low oxygen levels at that elevation we cruised along at a very conservative pace to Robinson Flat. These horses have trained at <15 mph paces through extended mountain grades, so the pace we held was comparatively lazy. The trail after Robinson Flat is dominated by gentle downgrades on fair footing. These are bone-jarring to horses that are not well educated for a controlled and collected ride, but they are an opportunity to demonstrate low stress “free mile” canters for the well prepared. While the Western States Trail is often referred to as a tough and rugged course, I’d like to offer another perspective that better describes this tests value as a benchmark for horse and horsemanship. To simply say this is a tough course is really only a comparison, relative to the modern norm in endurance riding today. Against the whole of challenges in the evolution of horses and horsemanship, this test is not really such an extreme. The Tevis race is really much more than just a grueling challenge. In fact, only a modest proportion of the 100 mile distance is really all that arduous. We spend a lot of our time in those more rugged sections of the course, but they are not really as large a part of the total miles of testing. It’s the complement of other parts of the course that offer different challenges, test different aspects, that make this course such a comprehensive assay. This is a FULL SPECTRUM test that considers many criterions. This creates potential for broad separation of the field of competitors. Great performances here don’t come by excellence in any one aspect, but by scoring not badly in EACH AND EVERY of many aspects. The hot canyon lands passed smoothly. As always, I was much too focused on taking optimal care of my own horses to pay much attention to what the rest of the field might be doing. We passed through each vet station as efficiently as possible. We departed each check-point carrying out nibbles of food for the horses’ consumption elsewhere along the trail were the pause was more comfortable and effective. Hot and humid weather conditions are extremely critical of finer details about how the work is approached. Advantage goes to those that press on with care and reverence, and avoid the need to stop completely for rests, for this spoils the apparent breeze and compromises the efficiency of vascular circulation. “Never Hurry, Never Tarry”-- Matthew Mackay-Smith After showering away the high sierra and a change of clothes at Forest Hill, I did happen to ask “where is everybody else?” and was told by a member of the crew that the next horses where about half hour behind. This turned out to be incorrect. We later supposed that someone had miss-read across the lines of the leaderboard, and compared the next horses’ departure from Chicken Hawk, the previous vet station. Leaving Forest Hill with gross misinformation of where the other horses in the field were really didn’t affect our pacing judgment. As I’ve said before, I ride to give my horses their optimum test result. The competitive placing is a secondary concern. Our horses were rolling for home smoothly, with plenty of untapped energy waiting at our request. It was simply a matter of getting them home for dinner at the healthiest hour. No other riders showed up at Fransisco’s, and I didn’t think to ask if they had any statistical information. We lingered just a few moments extra for forage, and then moved on with more feed in hand as usual. It wasn’t until we rode into Lower Quarry, when Dr. Fellers offered that we were three hours ahead of the next horse, did it occur to me that I might for once adjust my pace due to the competition. I reasoned that we were well poised for a notable finish, where a few minutes more or less would be forgotten. We basked in those last miles at “zero risk” pace, stopped to bath the horses for cleanliness in presentation more than cooling, and generally just allowed ourselves to enjoy the moonlight trail ride. Critiques about not holding a negative split pace, or boasting about completing the last leg faster than the winner really have no credibility when the front runners are so securely apart from the field of competition. Since the 2010 Tevis, Heraldic has continued to be only wiser and stronger. We had a rare non-completion after he broke through a sub-surface hole at the AERC Championship, but he quickly recovered from that shoulder sprain. Early this year we comfortably turned out a 7:58 hr. winning hundred and BC in the sands of Florida, demonstrating the range of Heraldics athletic prowess, and making it clear that Heraldic is back, better than ever before. A background of training toward FULL SPECTRUM tests like the Tevis leaves us confident and prepared over the earth’s full range of terrain and course profiles. We are currently fund-raising and training for a bid to represent the U.S.A. in the Pan-American Championship in October. - John Crandell III See more on Heraldic and John Crandell here:

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Heraldic - One Determined Horse Part 1 - by John Crandell

Heraldic and John Crandell are in Chile preparing for the 2011 Pan American Endurance Championships on October 22, 2011. This is Part I of a story about Heraldic, written by Crandell.

We had driven many hours to pick up a young horse that was been donated to the Old Dominion Rides for a fund-raising raffle. As we walked out into the meadows and mucky winter barnyards in Sink Hole, West Virginia we saw a scene that seized our attention like one wild horse watching another come over the horizon.

There were forty or so horses in one group, excited by the appearance of strange humans in a field and charging back and forth in front of us. There in the middle of the herd was one of the most striking movers we had ever witnessed. It was evident that he wanted to hide himself more in the middle of the group as much as he could, but he couldn’t seem to avoid outpacing all his companions. With an effortless, floating motion he would propel himself from the back to the front, just as the herd was doing an about face, placing him in the back again, and repeating the cycle.

This was Asgard Arabians, and there was not a shabby mover in the lot. If any of the other horses were placed in a more common group, they would have stood out just as clearly. Here we knew we were witnessing something that was an astounding exception, something that was distinct even among the very best. My father was absolutely smitten.

Stood still, he wasn’t particularly more striking than some of the other great specimens in the lot. Identifiable by a distinctive and complex blaze, and one white eye, but coloration means little to us. He had good proportions, as best as can be discerned in a two year old, with muscles flowing well down his limbs. Well formed joints. He had a particularly generous separation of tendon and bone through the cannons. There was an overall image of great strength, without being the slightest over-built… design eloquence.

Truthfully, there were a lot of horses there that fit that description, and many of them have gone on to become renowned endurance horses, but when we saw this one move, we realized Heraldic was in a class all by himself. There was something about the smooth, highly coordinated way he engaged his muscles that inherently made him move faster, with less energy, than all the rest.

Heraldic did not want to be anybodies pet. Life was good there-untamed, racing his siblings in the large pasture back at Asgard. I take great pride developing a good man-horse bonding with the horses I develop. I want my horses to feel good about working with me. Heraldic is Heraldic. I am just lucky he enjoys doing some of the same things I do.

I have never seen a horse with such self identity, and reliance only on himself. Heraldic needs no one, man or beast. Heraldic trusts no one, he can look out for himself. He seldom more than lifts his head when his pasture mate is taken out, and never has particularly bonded with another horse. On exercise runs, he works alone as aggressively as with company, although he does take considerable pleasure in showing the hairless side of his tail to other horses.

It is obvious that Heraldic wants to be known for his physical gifts, and only for them. The image he projects to other horses is little different than the face he shows me. When turned out with a group of horses, he will never allow himself to be beaten in a challenge run, and yet seems completely uninterested in marking his status in the herd. He doesn’t care to be an alpha, and yet won’t tolerate being pushed around. He is just there of his own identity. He works well in the group, but has no dependency on it. Heraldic is Heraldic. His coat of arms is the flare of his nostril, a piercing eye, and a cloud of dust.

Catching Heraldic is a fine art, and it’s not that he is against going out to work, he actually likes that part. Any excuse to run around a while and show independence is a good one. If you want him to run a long while, that is no problem. “How about 200 miles right here in this pasture?” Heraldic seems to offer. Trying to access natural horse instincts and hook him up is like pulling in a whale with kite string. This horse could be all alone in the wilderness and quite content. All the other horses here, other Asgards as well, are conditioned to come running across the pasture to me as soon as I call. Heraldic has taught me a lot about catching loose horses, what works a little on him, charms others. I’m going to go put a halter on some white-tail deer next.

Heraldic is naturally sensitive to aids. So sensitive that it has been a challenge to teach him to relax and to forgive an occasional imperfection of contact, such as will happen when you are running in a group over rough terrain. This has been the only real challenge in developing him to be an endurance horse. His physical conditioning and every other aspect of his maturation has bloomed with gifted ease.

Heraldic knows the task at hand like he was somehow pre-wired for exactly one purpose, endurance racing. It has taken a little extra time to convince him that there was any need for me to come along. He has the program and is quite confident he could do this all on his own.

Of course no hot-blooded horses inherently rate themselves properly at the start of a race. When free horses race, the game is won for who ever is in front when all others throw in the towel, an indefinite distance race. Doing very arduous 100 milers like the Old Dominion and the Tevis most quickly develops a horse’s sense that there is a purpose behind being rated. The fact that these courses run overland without at lot of looping back creates a keen awareness that there is a certain distance to be done, a place to get to. Sometimes people are surprised that I bring some fairly inexperienced horses to these tough rides. I never shortcut on long and careful physical development before a horse does any race. Taking a new horse to one tough race, develops more maturity and wisdom than you will achieve running a dozen fast courses. The stalwart competitor we all strive for is created with less risk and less wear all in all.

The greatest reward of all from this grand racing season is knowing that I have a much better working companion now than when the year started. He is also quite physically undaunted from the season, more fit and fresh than ever. Heraldic is even adding just a little bit of a healthy social exchange to his character. Just the other day was a milestone, I got a little bit of a pleasure reaction out of him while grooming. I’m sure I have done things that felt good before, I’ve certainly tried, but he is only now allowing himself to show it. At this rate, in another 20 years even Heraldic will let himself be a pet.

I am certain that if the world changed overnight and there were suddenly no more organized endurance rides I would still be doing this, and challenging myself just as hard, even if all alone. Heraldic makes it clear that there are horses of the same mind.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Exploring northern California - Full Article

Last updated 05:00 12/10/2011

Arriving into the northern California town of Mendocino in a bright red Smart car is a little like landing in a miniaturised Tardis, such is the curiosity it garners.

"What is that thing, a rollerskate?" one local chuckles, while a weathered, ratty-haired woman dressed in a felt coat, ugg boots and a red sequinned scarf circles my rental vehicle whispering, "Whooooaaaa!", clearly having some sort of acid flashback.

Born in the logging heyday of the 1860s but peaking in the 1960s when it was rediscovered by Bohemian artists, Mendocino, three hours' drive north of San Francisco, is a town frozen in time.

With pastel chocolate-box houses and wooden water towers, this quaint village perched on a peninsula overlooking the wild, woolly Pacific Ocean is seemingly uprooted from east coast Maine, impossibly endearing and as pretty as a Hollywood set.

It seems fitting, then, in this outpost of fewer than 1000 permanent residents, that I am temporarily trading in the Smart car for a more timeless form of transport - the four-legged variety.

I have been lured here by the reputation of Ricochet Ridge Ranch, widely considered among the equestrian community as one of the premier trek operators in the world, as well as by the promise of riding both on the beach and through the redwood forests that are so symbolic of this region.

With the afternoon sun victorious after a squally start to the day, it's the former attraction that Ricochet's owner, Lari Shea, is anxious for me to experience first.

"Quick, let's get you to the beach while this weather lasts," Lari, distinctively clad in red western shirt and cowboy hat, says as she greets me in the lobby of the Mendocino Hotel, my accommodation for the next few nights.

She then whisks me off to her stables 16 kilometres north in Fort Bragg. En route, this energetic, glowingly beautiful, 66-year-old dynamo shares a potted history of her credentials as one of the US's top endurance riders...

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Did shorter route, no High Sierra riding, tarnish Tevis?

Auburn Journal - full article
By Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer

The 56th Tevis Cup ride was like no other, with early autumn snow keeping the endurance event’s equestrian teams out of the High Sierra and shortening the usual 100 miles of hard riding.

But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of rookie rider – and new Tevis Cup buckle recipient – Charles Cowan of Yacolt, Wash. for this year’s event.

“It never crossed my mind,” Cowan said Monday. “I was happy all the way.”

Cowan picked up his prized Tevis – “100 miles in 24 hours” – buckle at the awards ceremony in Auburn on Sunday. He was one of 123 finishers from a starting field of 176.

“I’ve never been to an endurance ride so well-organized, particularly in relation to what happened,” Cowan said.

This year’s ride was in danger of being shut down by snow not once but twice. In June, Tevis organizers decided snow depths were too heavy in the Sierra to allow the ride July 16 and it was postponed until Oct. 8. Then a freak, early snowstorm – the earliest in recent memory – dumped 22 inches of snow at the start line.

The Western States Trail Foundation board decided Thursday to remap the Tevis route so that the ride could go on this year at lower, snow-free elevations. The postponement came three years after heavy smoke and the threat of wildland fire cancelled both the Tevis ride and Western States 100 endurance run from high in the Sierra to Auburn.

Kathie Perry, president of the Western States Trail Foundation and 21-time Tevis finisher, said Monday that riders were given the option of pulling out after the route was changed Thursday and getting their fee refunded. On Friday, the number of riders was down to 187 from 198 and by start time, 176 were at the Gold Country Fairgrounds.

The race started and finished in Auburn for the first time. Normally the riders would start out from Robie Park in Truckee on Saturday morning in August or July. The postponed ride was to start at Truckee.

Perry said the board could have chosen to cancel the ride. But with cooperation from the state Parks Department, the U.S. Department of Forestry and the CHP, clearances were given to reroute the Tevis to start in Auburn, travel out to a point 38 miles east near Michigan Bluff and then double back on the trail to Auburn’s Gold Country Fairgrounds and the traditional finish line at McCann Stadium.

“What I’ve heard is people loved it because we put a ride on for them,” Perry said.

Rain and cooler temperatures which would have put a damper on the ride, were back by Monday.

“We got some luck and a window of good weather on our side,” Perry said.

Perry said that the shorter distance – about 89 to 91 miles instead of the usual 100.1-mile route – didn’t tarnish the luster of an event with an international reputation among riders for its tough conditions. About half of the Tevis horse-rider teams usually finish and earn buckles. This time around, the buckle percentage was up to 70 percent.

“It just adds to what we’ve accomplished,” Perry said. “To the board’s credit, we showed we could put it on, no matter what.”

Greenwood’s Potato Richardson, a 21-time Tevis finisher, was one of the riders who ended up without a finisher’s buckle. Richardson’s Arabian mare completed the route but was pulled at the McCann Stadium veterinary check. Richardson said he felt there was “plenty of horse left” and that he’ll be advocating a rules revamp for more clarity on defining horse health.

Richardson said he knows at least a couple of riders who pulled out because the Tevis ride this years wasn’t the same traditional route.

“You could say it was just two back-to-back, 50-mile rides and that it didn’t go over Cougar Rock (a landmark high point in the Sierra),” Richardson said. “But cancellation would have been financially catastrophic for the ride committee. They had a big task and they pulled it off. And finishers this year can come back next year to earn their Cougar Rock buckle.”

That group of returnees is likely to include Washington state’s Cowan, who said he’s already looking ahead to Tevis in 2012 – and climbing Cougar Rock.

“The ride itself was just magnificent,” Cowan said.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Tevis Start Location Changed to Auburn Fairgrounds!

Thursday October 6 2011

NEW START TIME AND LOCATION FOR THE TEVIS CUP: Due to the excessive snowfall in the high country and at the usual starting line of Robie Park on Wednesday and Wednesday night, the 2011 Tevis Cup will start and finish at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn. The start will be at 6:30am Saturday 10/8 and go up to Foresthill. Rider Check-In begins at noon at the Fairgrounds on Friday 10/7. More details coming soon at

A Man to Match These Mountains October 6 2011

photo: Wendell T. Robie bought his first horse, a mustang from Nevada, for $20 of his own savings. With a little help from his grandfather, he broke, then rode, the horse all over Auburn to do errands for his father. He was 7 years old at the time.

Previously in this column, we shared the tale of the Pullman railcar at the Historic Passenger depot complex. Immediately, requests were voiced for the story of Wendell Towle Robie, in whose honor the US Bank gave the rolling hunk of metal to the Colfax community. This is, albeit brief, a summary of the man and his legacy to the Sierra.

A native of the Placer County seat, Auburn, born May 28, 1895, his ancestry dates back to New England colonists originating from Derbyshire, England. Henry Robie came to America and is a charter signer for the new town of Exeter, N.H. on July 4, 1639.

Wendell Robie’s great-grandfather, Bracket Towle, was an officer in the Revolutionary War.

Robie’s grandmother was the younger sister of the three Towle brothers who answered the call to the gold fields of California in the early 1850s. Ethan Allen Towle, the first to head west, reached Dutch Flat in 1851. He quickly realized there was a better fortune to be made in supplying the miners. Having had a lumber operation in Vermont, he knew the formula for success. He convinced his two brothers – George Washington Towle and Edwin Warrington Towle – to join him. After his sister May married John Henry Robie and had their child, Edwin Towle Robie, Towle invited them to move west and join the operation in 1870.

By 1889 their company became one of the largest lumber operations in California.

In 1887, J.H. Robie moved his family to Auburn in order to take charge of the Towle Bros. lumberyard. The primary reason for the transfer was to allow his son, E. T. Robie, to attend Sierra Normal College. He majored in business accounting and graduated in 1888. It was there “E.T.” met and later married Ina Stone in 1894. Shortly thereafter their first child, Wendell, was born.

When E.T. Robie became secretary of the Towle Brothers Company, he moved back to Towle. That’s where Wendell T. Robie began his schooling. The town was near Baxter and Alta but was subsequently removed for the construction of Interstate 80.

In 1900, George W. Towle, the only surviving brother, sold the sawmill business and retired. J.H. Robie, E.T. Robie and Lathrop Huntley purchased the Towle firm in Auburn and renamed it the Auburn Lumber Company. E.T. was named president. Under his direction, he and his associates expanded operations to Colfax, Truckee, Dixon, Woodland, and Tucson, Ariz.

In 1901, the company obtained a charter for a savings and loan association; it was the forerunner of Central Bank of California and Central California Building and Loan. Years later, the Robie firm was to become Heart Federal Savings.

In this rich environment and family history, Wendell T. Robie grew into self-confidence. He became president of the 1912 Placer High School graduating class. The assumption that he would follow the family tradition of taking over the business was a given. First college was on the menu. However, he was more interested in being a prankster than studying. The result was a failed attempt at the University of California, Berkeley almost ending in expulsion. Money and influence prevailed and after a short intermission and a bit of maturation, Robie transferred to the University of Arizona.

While at Arizona, Robie began his lifelong practice of getting involved in community. He also met and married his life companion, Inez Benzie. They had one son, John Henry.

The continued success of the family business through the years allowed him to pursue his avocations with vigor. The list of his dedications is long. It ranges from president of the Placer High Alumni Association to Lions Club, Auburn Volunteer Fire Department, Native Sons of the Golden West and E Clampus Vitus. Not just a joiner, he was a visionary and a doer. He formed ski clubs, along with other sporting groups. He was politically minded as well serving on several commissions and committees, often as chairman. Robie was a major player in not only bringing the Winter Olympics to Squaw but also seeing that Interstate 80 was completed to get spectators to the event.

One would be hard pressed to find disagreement that his greatest contribution, through vision and tenacity, is the construction and preservation of the Western States Trail. As founder of the WST Foundation in 1955 and the ride commonly called the Tevis Cup, Robie offered to the entire world his dream of a continuous trail, through the high summit at Squaw Pass and traversing the best scenic areas and maintain an absolute wilderness character. The 100-mile trail starts at Lake Tahoe, runs down the Foresthill Divide and ends in Auburn. The 56-year-old horse endurance contest and its younger two-legged runner version – the Western 100 – are internationally famous. The foundation protects and maintains the trail to this day.

Wendell Towle Robie literally worked until the day he died, October 31, 1984, at 89 years. He was wearing his Lions Club vest.

8 Inches of Snow Falls on Squaw Valley

Thursday October 6 2011

The first winter snowfall brought 8 inches of snow to the Sierra Nevada mountains around Robie Park and Squaw Valley through which the 56th annual Tevis Cup traverses. Starting time for the ride is scheduled for 5:15 AM Saturday October 8th.

The chance of snow drops to 40% today at Robie with a predicted high of 41*. Overnight temperature will be 23*; Friday calls for mostly sunny with a high of 53*, and ride day sunny and 64*.

A message from the Ride Director on the website says, "Ride management is aware of the cold front preceding this weekend's ride. We are working to ensure that the ride camp and trails are ready regardless. We are staying informed with weather updates and the weather will not stop the event."

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Greenville hosts major endurance ride - Full Article

Feather Publishing


In December 2009, local CHP officer Kassandra Tucker was asked by the United States Equestrian Federation to host the North American Endurance Team Challenge in Indian Valley, after successfully hosting the 2009 American Endurance Ride Conference National Championship in the same location.

After a year and a half of preparation, training and detail oriented planning by Kassandra Tucker and Greenville Rotary President Centella Tucker, the North American Endurance Team Challenge finally arrived.

The event happened Sept. 24 in Greenville, and it was the last of three rides that were major fundraisers for the Greenville Rotary Club. The event was good for the local community, bringing hundreds of competitors and their crews to the community for as long as eight days.

Base camp was located at the beautiful and spacious Coppercreek Camp. Although the competition did not start until Saturday, preparation for base camp began Sunday, Sept. 18, with local rancher Andy Meyers, who delivered corrals for competitors whose horses had left a week earlier and traveled across the United States to compete in this event. The first horses and competitors arrived the evening of Sept. 18.

The countries represented in the North American team competition were the United States, fielding nine teams, and Canada, which brought one team. Other countries competing in open international competition were Sweden, United Kingdom and Romania...

Read more here:

Tevis: Snowing at Robie Park

October 5 2011

With a winter storm warning in effect, snow has begun to fall in Robie Park in the Sierra Nevadas - the starting line of Saturday's Tevis Cup.

Wednesday's forecast for the Robie area is total daytime snow accumulation of 3-5 inches possible, with a west wind between 15 and 25 mph, gusting as high as 35 mph. Overnight the temperature will be around 27*F, with wind between 10-15 mph and new snow accumulation of less than one inch possible. By Thursday the chance of snow showers will decrease to 40%, with a daytime high of 36*. Friday should be mostly sunny and 50*F, while ride day, Saturday, should be sunny with a high of 58*F.

As of October 4, 190 horses and riders are pre-entered in the ride.

For updated entry list, more news, stories, and photos, see

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tevis 2011: Date Change Means Cooler Competition Weather - Full Article

by: Marsha Hayes
October 03 2011, Article # 18909

When the Tevis Cup endurance competition kicks off at 5:15 a.m. on Oct. 8, more than 200 horse and rider teams will attempt to travel 100 miles from near Lake Tahoe, Calif., to Auburn, Calif., in 24 hours or less. Greg Fellers, DVM, veteran head veterinarian at the ride, will oversee a team of 16 additional American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC)-certified veterinarians to make sure the horses navigate the trek safely.

Traditionally held during July, heavy snowfall along the traditional route in California's High Sierra Mountains forced ride management to reschedule the event to October. Never before has the ride been held in the fall, and the date change brings both new concerns and potential advantages.

"The weather could about 20 to 25 degrees cooler than a traditional Tevis date, and there could be a problem with a hot, hardworking horse coming into vet checks and standing," Fellers said. "It will certainly behoove both riders and vets to expedite the (vetting) process as quickly as possible."

Should hot equine muscles cool too quickly or thoroughly, muscle stiffness could result and injuries are more likely, Fellers noted...

Read more here:

Monday, October 03, 2011

Swingley leads team to endurance victory

By the Missoulian | Posted: Monday, October 3, 2011

A four-time champion of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has a new kind of feather in his hat.

Doug Swingley of Lincoln led the Mountain A team to the gold medal at the 2011 North American Endurance Team Challenge in the Cascade Mountains near Greenville, Calif., on Sept. 25.

Swingley rode his horse Pal of Mine in the 100-mile U.S. Equestrian Federation event. He placed fourth overall in a time of 8 hours, 56 minutes after leading for 30 miles during the middle part of the race. Veteran rider Suzanne Hayes of Ovando and Suzanne Hedgecock of Park City, Utah, helped the Mountain team clinch the win. Teammate Christoph Scholk of Moab, Utah, was eliminated at the fourth gate.

Swingley became the first non-Alaskan to win the Iditarod in 1995, and followed with consecutive wins in 1999, 2000 and 2001. He announced his retirement from long-distance sled racing in 2008.

Read more:

It Has Nothing to Do with Age

October 3 2011

Frank Lieberman has written "It Has Nothing to Do with Age: Stories of driven athletes who compete in extraordinary Sports", a testimonial to the 65 and older age group who push their physical, mental, and emotional limits to unfathomable levels. Explore the underlying motivation of these passionate men and women as they undertake such grueling athletic endeavors as The Tevis Cup, The Hawaiian Ironman, The Molokai to Oahu Outrigger canoe race, and the Swanton Pacific 100 mile Ride and Tie. Let inspiration consume you through the powerful drive and determination of these extreme athletes who undeniably prove they are not defined by their age.(less)

The book was published September 15th 2011 by Winter Goose Publishing and is available at Barnes N Noble and online.

See details here:

Snow Forecast for Robie Park on Wednesday

October 3 2011

With less than 5 days left in the countdown, the first winter storm of the season in the Sierra Nevada range will add an element of intrigue to the 56th Tevis Cup, which is being held for the first time in October, after being postponed from its regular July date because of too much late snow on the trails.

This is the official weather forecast by the National Weather Service for the Robie Park area (the Zero Milepost for the Tevis Cup).

The current forecast (as of Monday morning) shows a winter storm watch about 7000 feet, and indicates a 100% chance of snow on Wednesday, stating: 






Chance of snowfall will taper off Wednesday into Thursday, with temperatures rising. The expected high Friday is 51*F and Saturday 59*F with mostly sunny skies.

This moisture from the snowfall should help to minimize the dust from the trail-bed from the hoof-beats of 206 horses.
The following link is for the approximate latitude & longitude and elevation of Robie Park, so that it is slightly different from Truckee or Squaw Valley.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

178 Pre-Entries in Tevis

October 2 2011

With less than 6 days till the Start of the 56th annual Tevis Cup, 178 riders are signed up to ride. As of September 28, the starting list includes 2 Australians, 2 Japanese (including Mr Seiichi Hasumi, going for his 8th buckle in a row), 1 Canadian, 1 South African, 1 Netherlands, and 2 UAE riders.

Volunteers are still needed at the Foresthill Vet Check - minimum time frame is 3 PM to 10 PM on October 8. You can sign up on the website: or send an email to Joanne Hoefler directly:

See the entry list here Launches Tevis Cup Blog with Endurance Rider Jenni Smith

Award-winning website announces the launch of its new blog, “Journey to the Tevis Cup.” Jenni Smith, a competitor in the 2011 Tevis Cup, will chronicle her preparations for the grueling ride, which takes place October 8.

Gaithersburg, MD, September 30, 2011 --( Held annually since 1955, the Tevis Cup (also known as the Western States Trail Ride) covers 100 miles of demanding terrain across the Sierra Nevada in California. Riders aim to complete the 100-mile ride in under 24 hours. In “Journey to the Tevis Cup,” Smith will cover all aspects of her preparations: Readers will learn about proper training, conditioning and care specific to endurance horses. Smith will also post videos from her training rides, giving readers an inside view into how she gets herself and her horse ready.

Smith, the director of brand marketing for Ariat International, began endurance riding in 2001 because of her love for Arabian horses, a breed that dominates the sport because of its stamina. She is approaching 2,500 American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) miles, rides at the international level and is working on her FEI (International Equestrian Federation) four-star qualification. An experienced Tevis competitor, Smith has attempted the ride seven times, finished five times and finished in the top 10 in both 2002 and 2003. This year she will ride BA Bearcat, a 16-year-old Egyptian Arabian, owned by Barry Waite and Jennifer Nice.

“I hope the blog is enjoyable to read and gives interested readers - from those who think ‘someday maybe’ to those who think ‘no way ever!’ but are curious about it just the same - some insight into what it’s like to be caught up in the whirl that is Tevis,” Smith says. Smith will blog in the weeks leading up to the October 8 ride and blog post-ride about her experience.

To read the “Journey to the Tevis Cup” blog or subscribe to the RSS feed, visit

Ride and tie the Cool thing to do

Ben Furtado • Auburn Journal
Tony Brickel, left, and Frank Lieberman
run the last stretch of the 12-mile loop
on the Olmstead Trail near Cool,
where the Coolest Ride and Tie will
take place Saturday. - Full Article

By Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer

Dr. Frank Lieberman believes “It has nothing to do with age.”

So, the 71-year-old psychologist from Cool set about discovering what compels senior citizens to compete in extreme sports. He chronicled their stories of triumph in his newly released book.

“People are looking at what we do, not at why we do what we do. Why do we push our bodies?” Lieberman said. “How does the mind and body relate to all of that stuff?”

The Auburn area, which hosts events like the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup, was the perfect backdrop to his research. Lieberman already knew many local seniors testing their competitive limits — partially because he is one of them.

Since he turned 60, Lieberman has completed Western States, the Tevis Cup and the Swanton Pacific 100 Mile Ride and Tie.

Saturday, the 6th annual Coolest Ride and Tie gallops into Cool, an event that Lieberman and his wife, Linda, produce...

Read more here:

Mountain A Wins North American Endurance Team Challenge

Mountain Zone (Photo: Melinda Cassol)

Release: September 29 2011
Author: Leah Oliveto

Lexington, KY - Taking place across the rugged terrain of California's Cascade Mountains, the 2011 North American Endurance Team Challenge drew 10 teams from the U.S. and Canada race for medals. In addition, five individuals representing four countries vied for individual honors.

Finishing in a combined time of 31:07:13, Mountain A took the Team Gold medal. Doug Swingley aboard Pal of Mine lead the team effort, riding into three of five vet checks in the lead, he finished in a time of 8:55:54. Also across the finish line for Mountain A was Suzanne Hayes with Greenbriar Al Jabal and Suzanne Hedgecock with Aireagle; teammate Christoph Schork was eliminated at gate four.

"I was riding a fairly young horse, he was only an 8-year-old and was only his second hundred (mile race)," said Hayes. "I wanted to test him a little bit - which we did. He shows a lot of promise as far as increasing his speed in the future. The Mountain Zone worked really well as a team. Everyone that was on the team worked really well together to solidify our performance as the gold medal team... The course was very well suited for us. We live in Montana - we train in the mountains, we are well suited for that."

Taking the Team Silver was Northeast -North. The team completed the course within seconds of each other for an overall time of 33:57:29. Kyle Gibbon and Soho, Steve Rojek and Beaujolais, and Gene Limlaw and Con La Garcia were the team's counted times as Kathy Brunjes and Frontier Random were eliminated at the finish.

The Northeast proved to be a dominate zone, as their second team, Northeast-East, captured the Bronze medal in 35:53:31. Leading the team was individual Silver medalist Meg Sleeper, who blazed to the finish in 8:17:34 with her own Syrocco Reveille. Sleeper was followed by teammates Lisa Green with LR Amana Tabi and Holly Corcoran with DJB Santanas Chief. Melody Blittersdorf was eliminated at gate three.

The Individual medals were determined by a race to the finish line as Jeremy Reynolds (Pacific South) and A Kutt Above outran Meg Sleeper and Syrocco Reveille by a mere second to take the Gold in 8:17:33. Becky Hart with No Repeat, riding as an individual for Pacific South, took the Bronze medal in 8:38:30. No Repeat also earned the coveted Best Conditioned Horse award.

Horses' health is primary concern during Tevis Cup 100-mile ride - Full Article

By Sam McManis The Sacramento Bee

Much as we might be inclined to anthropomorphize horses – Mr. Ed, anyone? – much as we'd like to put faith in rugged-as-Robert Redford "horse whisperers" to intuit deep meaning from every neigh or nod, the sad fact is that even the elite equine athletes in the Tevis Cup 100-Mile Trail Ride are sorely lacking in one important area.

"They don't talk," said Garrett Ford, last year's winner of the Haggin Cup, awarded to the top-10 finisher in the Tevis whose horse was judged as best conditioned. "That, obviously, is the challenge."

Oh, but think how much easier caring for and racing endurance horses would be if a common interspecies language were indeed possible.

They could tell riders and race veterinarians when, and exactly where, they are hurting...

Read more here: