Thursday, July 19, 2012

America’s Toughest Ride: The Tevis Cup - Full Article

by Sherry Phillips
July 17, 2012

Barbara White, 64, rides her 11-year-old mare across No Hands Bridge east of Auburn, Calif. (pop. 13,330), trotting through early morning fog in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

White grins and waves to her mother, Julie Suhr, 88, who stands at the end of the bridge alongside other well-wishers cheering for competitors in the Tevis Cup, the nation’s most grueling equine endurance ride.

“I know the nervousness and excitement they’re all feeling,” says Suhr, a former competitor who 22 times completed the one-day, 100-mile ride on the Western States Trail.

Last October, 177 horsemen and women from around the world, ranging in age from 12 to 69, began the ride, and 123 finished within the required 24 hours to earn a coveted sterling silver belt buckle emblazoned with a Pony Express rider. White received her 31st buckle, more than any other entrant.

“For me the challenge has always been the trail, not the other riders,” says White, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Scotts Valley, Calif. (pop. 11,580). “We cheer for each other, and there’s no shame in not finishing. The slogan of endurance riding is ‘to finish is to win...’”

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