Next Up: 100 Miles


If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve probably seen that the cat was officially out of the bag this morning: my next adventure is the Virginia City 100 endurance ride in two-and-half weeks.

What started out as a promotional sharing of the ride info post on Facebook turned into an offer of an extra horse, no guarantees of a finish, but if I wanted to give it a shot, the horse was available.


Meeting of the minds: First ride with Beeba

To that end, meet Beeba. She’s a 9-yr-old Arab mare who has been described as “the textbook chestnut mare.”

Now, I know the reputation of chestnut mares…but it really doesn’t faze me. One, I love mares. Two, I’ve spent the past 22 years with a pony mare whose genetic code is greyed-out-chestnut. “Pony” beats “Arab” in the “who can be the worse hellion” department. Additionally, my dad’s first horse was a wonderful chestnut mare. So needless to say, the “red mare” thing wasn’t a turn-off, but instead more of a curiosity and intrigue.

Of course, the whole plan was contingent on: 1) the horse not killing me and 2) her saddle not crippling me. She’s been very challenging to saddle fit, so using her saddle was a non-negotiable point.

Well, no worries on the horse behavior department. She’s a blast to ride, and I think we’ve come to a good understanding between ourselves. She doesn’t like to be micro-managed…but she also does her job and doesn’t need micro-managing. And we’ve done two really good rides with some very active riding and the saddle hasn’t crippled me, so we’re calling it good.


lovely ears

It’ll be her first 100…and mine. Neither of us have a stellar ride record, so there’s no pressure or expectations. She seems game and honest, though, and I’ve got grit, determination, and the physical ability to get off and run or hike along the way.

I’ve got copious notes about the ride and trail from friends who have ridden it previously, as well as the “driving tour” of town/vet checks/some of the trails after the 2016 AERC Convention. I’ve crewed 10 100-milers. It’s the right opportunity, at the right time, and I’m grabbing it and running with it.

Besides, it’s the 50th Anniversary of VC100. Crewing the 50th Anniversary of Tevis was the first first endurance ride I ever attended, so somehow, riding the 50th of another historic ride seems highly appropriate.


she’s a champion chow-hound

Horse gear is dialed in, boots are sorted (she will be wearing Renegade Pro-Comp Glue-Ons), and I’m getting my ducks in a row as far as my own clothes/gear/food. I feel excited and eager, and very grateful for this opportunity.

Getting an Education


What’s the next best thing to a Tevis entry form?

How about an entry form to the Tevis Educational Ride?!?

Last month, a friend surprised me with an offer to join her on the Tevis Ed Ride and ride one of her horses. Naturally, I had to think about that for all of about .05 seconds. I’ve been wanting to participate in the Ed Ride for years now, but just like Tevis itself, it takes money, time, and the appropriate horse. (While it’s 64 miles in two days versus 100 miles in 24 hours, it still involves the canyons, so a fit, strong, capable horse is required.)

I have been peel-me-off-the-ceiling excited about this since it all came together. I’m really excited about the chance to see the trail again, and really psyched about all of the seminars and clinics that are a part of the weekend. Every little bit of trail experience and Tevis-specific knowledge I can get crammed into my brain will only serve to help me on the actual ride, and in the past, those who have completed the Ed Ride have a very high completion rate on Tevis itself.

It’s also an opportunity to spend a long weekend in close company with a very experienced endurance rider — over 20 years, over 17,000 miles, and 5 Tevis completions out of 7 starts. With a 2-day drive to Auburn, there’s a lot of time for conversation, questions, and brain picking.

Most of my attention for the past three weekends was spent on two different expo trade shows (two three-day shows, two weekends apart), but those are done with now, so the next few weekends will involve getting in some good saddle time so I can remind my riding muscles that they really are functional and have a job to do.

It should be an interesting weekend — because the Sierras are still snow-covered (and just got more snow on Monday), the courses for both the Ed Ride and Tevis itself have been altered this year. They’ll still use a majority of the original trail, but there are definitely some changes involved…curious to see how the ride will play out, although management is working hard to ensure that the changes don’t lessen the degree of difficulty of the ride.

And I just realized that I leave for the Ed Ride 3 weeks from today. Wooo!!!

PSA: Endurance and Social Media

Most of the time, I like social media. (Obviously. I’m a blogger.) The vast majority of my friends are out of town or out of state, so things like Facebook allow me to stay in easy contact with them (well, so does texting), and theoretically, it is nice to be able to create “groups” for like-minded people to gather and have discussions.

Except when discussions degenerate into hysterical, name-calling, mud-wrestling, argue-fests. Which happens quite a bit on some of the endurance groups, especially this time of year, when a large part of the population is snowed or mudded in and looking to take off a piece of someone’s hide in frustration. (It’s not just ponies and dogs that get spring fever.)

It’s not a pretty picture, and doesn’t give a great impression.


Facebook groups give mare faces a run for their money in the snark department

So I’ll come right out and say it: If you’re considering endurance, or want to dip your toes in the water of the sport, stay away from the Facebook groups. Not only is there a ton of unnecessary drama that will leave a really bad taste in your mouth, it is often a case of “ask ten people one question and get 13 different answers.”

(I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, that maybe they don’t realize how they’re coming off sounding online, since they’re otherwise perfectly pleasant people to talk with in person. And then other people are just as belligerent and argumentative in person, so it’s not always a case of “lack of social media social graces”. )

While there is very little “there is only one way to do things and this is the correct way” in endurance, that myriad of information overload can be intimidating, overwhelming, or confusing. Also consider: we have approximately just over 5000 AERC members. There are almost 12,000 people that participate in one of the “main” Facebook groups. That’s a pretty big difference, even taking into account that some people may not have renewed a membership, or ride but don’t have a membership. So that means there are probably people on there who are also new and seeking information, as well as the handful of “internet experts” who feel obligated to dole out information despite the fact they don’t even have a ride record.

So, know thy source when gathering information, or deciding whose advice to take. There can be some really good advice to be found (which is why I still lurk on these groups), and I have an ongoing Word doc of “tidbits of advice to save” for individuals whose experience and approach I like and respect.

AERC itself offers some very good “how to get started” information, located under the “Education” tab on, and of superb value: the Mentor program. They give email addresses and locations, so you’re able to contact those individuals with everything from an email question to a more involved “can I ride with you” type of mentoring.

Those are the official AERC mentors. You might also know someone local to you that you can approach, who takes you under their wing and introduces you to the sport. Not everyone advertises as a mentor, but most of us are willing to answer questions when someone expresses an interest in our sport.

(And I’m going to preemptively say that I’m best suited for giving advice on how to do a lot of conditioning, attend rides very infrequently, and quite a bit of “don’t do what I did.” Most days, I still feel like I need a mentor, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be friends and acquaintances with a lot of people who are way more experienced with endurance than I am, and they take my picking of their brains and information gathering with good humor. I may be experienced with horses and riding in general, but many days, I still feel like I’m splashing around in the kiddie pool when it comes to endurance.)


at least we look put together?

I say this, not to scare people off, but rather, to prevent them from being scared off — social media seems to bring out the snarkiness, especially this time of year — so please, please, if you’re an aspiring endurance rider, don’t judge an organization by its Facebook groups. Make personal contact with individuals, reach out to a mentor, come attend a ride and get a feel for it, and you’ll find that we’re, overall, a fun bunch of people who love our horses, exploring trails, and pushing ourselves to go a little bit further.

EDIT: I also want to add a belated edit that not all of the groups out there are bad. While I’m not really an active participant in many of them (I tend to lurk, and save my social interaction or very small groups, or in person), I’ve gotten some very good information and found helpful, kind people in some of the more specialized groups, such as the “Zonies” group targeted at AZ endurance riders, just as one example. So Good People are out there…even on social media. ;) 

Tevis 2015 Crewing: Worth It

I crewed the 50th Anniversary Tevis ride…and now I’ve crewed the 60th Anniversary ride. Plus 5 other years in between. I’ve definitely earned my crewing stripes. :)

I was crewing for my best friend Kaity again, this time riding her newer horse Ani in his first Tevis. I can’t really say “Spoiler Alert” since full ride results are available online, but THEY FINISHED!!

Wednesday afternoon saw me flying in to Sacramento, where Lucy picked me up from the airport and we headed straight to the Tevis Pre-Ride BBQ in Auburn. Since we were still early, we perused the vendors (pretty 60th Anniversary shirts this year…of course I added to my wardrobe) and walked through the barns, looking for people/horses we might know.

I ran into Tammy from Arizona and her mare DRae…who, we found out, is actually a half sister to Kaity’s Ani. Small world. It was their first Tevis…and they finished!





You would think they were related or something. ;)

After the BBQ, it was onward to Tevis Low Camp (aka Lucy’s place, where it is tradition to stash horses/crewpeople versus staying at the fairgrounds) for an evening of hanging out on the back deck, drinking beer and analyzing the Tevis rider lists.


Tevis moon


Cuddling with Spike, Artemis’s younger brother. Worst part about flying somewhere is not being able to take Artemis along.

I won’t admit what time we all finally shuffled off to our respective beds, but it was late. Or early, depending on your perspective and if you want to call it Wednesday night or Thursday morning. ;)

I had a way-too-early rooster chorus wake-up call, but I managed to stuff a pillow over my head and go back to bed for another couple of hours before dragging myself out for coffee and a day of trailer packing and ride prep.

Something I bring to the table (ha!) as a crew-person is my ability to cook, and I get an annual request for my “Tevis pasta salad” to be a part of the food line-up. (So far, all four years I’ve made this, my riders have finished. A correlation? {Probably not, but we all have to have our superstitions…})

Ashley’s “Magic Tevis” Pasta Salad
16oz small pasta (elbows, small shells, ditalini, etc…)
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
9-10oz mayonnaise, more or less can be used as desired
olive or grape seed oil

– Cook pasta according to package directions. Once cooked, drain and lightly drizzle with olive or grape seed oil (this will keep it from sticking or clumping together).
– While pasta is still warm, add half the mayo and stir to coat pasta.
– Add chopped eggs and sliced green onions and mix.
– Salt/pepper to taste.
– Add additional mayo to taste. I generally use about 9 oz of mayo for an entire bag of pasta, and it creates a nice coating on the salad without being gooey or gloppy. Adding it while the pasta is still warm allows the pasta to absorb some of the mayo for a nice creamy taste and texture.

*** For Tevis, I parcel it out into Ziploc bags and small tupperware containers to be divvied among the main food cooler and individual vet check coolers. It’s proven to be popular with both rider and crew alike.

This year we went the “dry ice” route of keeping food cold…all I can say is it worked really well…like overkill well, to the point that a number of food items were actually *frozen* by Saturday evening. Next time: yes to dry ice, just maybe a little less than 70 pounds worth… (Worked great for ice boots though!)

Thursday prep went really smoothly (no exploding hay bales this year), so Friday morning, we rolled out of Lucy’s around 10:45, on our way to Robie Park.


Infamous Robie Park dust on the last several miles of the drive in.


Tevis start line. {wistful sigh}
One of these days…

Monsoon activity has been pretty prevalent in the Sierras, and a couple miles out from Robie Park, we started getting RAIN! Ummm, whut???? It’s not supposed to rain at Tevis! (Except for that time in 2012 when it started raining in the evening after Foresthill, but I digress…)


Rain at Tevis. It’s a thing. A thing that completely blew my theory that “if you actually bring raingear, you won’t need it.” Grateful for my GoreTex. Especially since “raingear” isn’t a commonly-carried Tevis vendor item…so I would have been reduced to running around with a trashbag, spooking horses.

Once at Robie Park, while Kaity went and checked in, I wandered around, connected with friends and some of “my” Renegade riders, and hung out at the vetting area until Kaity came back down with Ani to vet in.


First obstacle passed: vetted in GREAT!

After watching them vet through, I went and did my best to contribute to the Tevis economy (yay, vendor shopping!). I had a couple things on my wish list that I was able to find, but mostly I just like perusing the different horse wares.

After having a couple of questionable experiences on the availability of food at the Friday night Tevis dinner the last couple of years, despite having pre-purchased tickets, it was decided this year we would have our own private crew dinner ahead of time, and then head down to the ride meeting, which worked perfectly.


Super-crowded ride meeting. With 198 starters, the pavilion area was *packed*!

After the meeting, the “advance team” of myself, Lucy, and Renee headed out of Robie Park and back down to Foresthill where we would spend the night in anticipation of being able to be one of the earlier cars in line up to Robinson Flat. While it made for a shorter night of sleep, it was definitely a good idea and way less stressful than the Great Trailer Race out of Robie Park in the morning…plus we were up there early enough to watch all of the front runners come in.


Tevis Moon! (Driving out of Robie Park Friday night.)


Following the water truck up to Robinson Flat.


Vet check area at Robinson Flat. The calm before the horse arrival storm.


First rider in.

There was some miscommunication early on about how much “crewing” was allowed on the road in to Robinson Flat — first we were mistakenly told by an official “you can’t crew here, you have to go back down past the in-timer.” Never mind that the first 6 or 7 horses had already been in at that point…

Yes, there is a sign about 1/4-mile out from Robinson Flat that states “no crewing before this point.” But historically, we’ve always been allowed to meet riders out on the road, let the horses get a first drink, pull tack, and start cooling. So to be told, “No crewing” created a bit of a stir, especially since there was never anything published anywhere to that effect.

A few minutes later, another official came by and clarified: We were okay where we were, they just don’t want a huge backlog of horses stopping out on the road and creating major traffic jams — so as long as we could do things in a “mostly forward motion” we were okay to start pulling tack and cooling the horse. Which is what we’ve always done. I can understand the not wanting a backlog of horse butts standing in the road while other horses and crewing come bustling up around and behind them, but the communication of that intent could have been more clear.

(A a brief aside here: I realize an organization needs rules and regulations to run smoothly, but it seems like every year, there are more and more asinine and arbitrary rules that are invented and imposed on riders and crew…I feel like it’s starting to cast a bit of a shadow on something that has always been very enjoyable. This kerfuffle over crewing/not-crewing, and not allowing food into the blood draw and vet lines at Robinson Flat were the two biggies for me.)

{And stepping back off the soapbox…}

While we were waiting, it…wait for it…started raining. Again. And this time I didn’t bring the rain jacket. Fortunately there were large pine trees to shelter under, and horse blankets in the crew cart.


A shivery (partial) SUPERCREW!
Renee, Lucy, and yours truly
The other half of the crew was on their way up from dropping the trailer at Foreshill.

And happily (since Ani does NOT like cold), by the time Kaity arrived, the clouds had passed and the sun was out.


Kaity arrives!

Keeping the “forward motion” edict in mind, we quickly got to work stripping tack and stuffing food into the starving Ani. He wasn’t quite keen on the “quickly strip tack” idea, with a few “let me spurt forward and run into my handler (me)”  moments…but we got the job done and got them to the in-timer and then onward to the blood draw and vet line.

As I mentioned before, they blocked us from bringing horse food into the blood draw area (which we have in the past, as some of our participants are not fond of needles, so pans of food serve as excellent distraction) and into the vet line. In our case, this time, it was fine…Ani doesn’t care about needles, and Kaity only had one person ahead of her in the vet line…but for others that were stuck in that line for 20-30 minutes, that’s a big problem. At least if you have to wait that long, the time can be productive for the horse to eat, but that wasn’t allowed to happen this year. Another one of those new, unpublished rules that doesn’t seem to make any kind of sense.


Ani trot

I have no photos of the crewing-and-stuffing-food-into-rider-and-horse part of the check, since I was refilling water bottles and saddle packs, tending to horse necessities, and re-tacking…but suffice to say that hold always zips by.

Ani needed a re-check per the blood draw (as the vet who re-checked them said, “Why???) but that was completely seamless and we had them to the out check right on time.


leaving Robinson Flat

Shortly after Kaity left, a rescue helicopter was brought in for a rider who had come off earlier in the ride — that was a bit of excitement as it tried to land, kicked up a ton of dust, and peeled off to land elsewhere. A whole cluster of riders rushed up to the out-timer to try to get out, were sent back down when they brought the chopper in, then rushed back up as soon as it peeled off. Always a bit of unplanned excitement.


(I was impressed by the fact that all the horses that I saw were completely nonplussed by the whole thing. Gotta love Tevis horses.)

After the helicopter excitement, we headed back down to Foresthill where we got the trailer set up, then Lucy, Renee and I headed back out again — Lucy and Renee to Chicken Hawk vet check, and myself to Michigan Bluff, which is just a water stop, but it’s at the top of the second canyon, and it can be beneficial to both horse and rider to have a quick pause here for a snack/cool-down before heading up to Chicken Hawk, a mile and half up the road.

I had some AZ endurance buddies down at Michigan Bluff to hang out with, who had snagged an excellent shady spot, so I took pictures, jumped in to give a crew hand to a couple of people, and waited for Kaity to show up.


Kaity and Ani at Michigan Bluff. A little hot, and definitely starving.

My goal as crew was to have them out in 10 minutes or less — they were gone in 9 minutes. There was time to cool Ani, let him eat a large chunk of alfalfa, get Kaity to drink an Ensure and refill her water pack, and send them on their way.

I got the Full Tevis Experience this year in running down the hill to Michigan Bluff (and the shin splints to prove it), and the subsequent hike back up. New sympathy for the horses/riders climbing the canyons.

Timing worked out well — Kaity was *just* coming up Bath Rd to Foresthill by the time we got back (after socializing a bit in FH), and the other half of our crew had already taken the cart, met her, and pulled tack.


Foresthill vet check

The Foresthill check was really smooth — longer vet line, but plenty of food — and we had them back at the trailer in short order. Kaity showered, Ani got ice boots on his legs, glowsticks and headlamp were applied to gear, and we had them to the out-timer on time.

After seeing them out, we hung out around FH for a little bit, eating our own dinner and packing up the trailer before making our way back down to Auburn.

Sensible people take advantage of several hours of downtime and take a nap.

I am not sensible. Nor is Lucy. Hence why we stayed up all night in the stadium, watching riders come in. I almost nodded off a couple of times, but we kept following the webcast status, seeing riders we knew leave the Lower Quarry check and would keep delaying the notion of heading off to bed. And before long, it was close enough to the time Kaity was expected that we might as well stay up.

Tevis riders and crews have perfected sleep deprivation.

Our routine has been that when our rider leaves Lower Quarry, they turn on their “Track My iPhone” feature that we can then access and follow their progress on our phones, so that last half hour was spent obsessively refreshing my phone, wondering *exactly* where she was at on the trail.

And then her tracker showed her very close, and then there were three neon green glowsticks appearing at the finish line!


official timed finish


down in the stadium


completion trot-out


good boy!!

And like that, we were done, and Kaity has another Tevis horse. We hung out in the stadium for the hour re-check on metabolics, using the time to poultice and wrap legs (another reason I’m on the crew, aside from my pasta salad, is that I’m an excellent leg-wrapper).

It was daylight by the time we wrapped things up and got back up to the trailer, and we all crashed for a few hours of sleep.


Comparing grubby crew legs

Lucy and I got up early enough to shower (nothing feels as good as that shower Sunday morning, even if the water does go from ice cold to scalding hot), get breakfast, and watch the Haggin Cup judging. 8 out of the Top Ten horses showed this year, and they looked good.

After that it was hanging around the trailer, packing stuff up to head back to Tevis Low Camp, and then awards dinner.

The 2015 Tevis Cup was won by Potato Richardson riding SMR Filouette; the 2015 Haggin Cup was awarded to Auli Farwa, owned by Kevin Myers and ridden by Jenni Smith. 198 riders started, 90 finished, for a 45% completion rate.

After awards, we headed back to Low Camp, ate pizza, and spent the rest of the evening chattering away about all things Tevis. And then Monday, my Tevis fun was over and it was back to the Real World. (Tevis World is much more fun.)

2016 Tevis is early, so there’s only 50 weeks and change before the next round. ;)


Crew shirts.
Really says it all.
Definitely worth it.