Although it was Heidi Larson’s first time participating in the 100-mile Tevis Cup Ride from Lake Tahoe to Auburn, CA, the 49-year-old Yacolt resident and her 17-year-old registered Arabian horse, Ash, placed 26th at the event out of 160 starters and 75 finishers.
“Most challenging was the Granite Chief Wilderness,” Larson said of the 100-mile trail. “It’s got some bogs, which I wasn’t worried about since we live in such a wet area, but you are riding at speed, probably 8 to 10 miles per hour, and in a row of horses, slightly downhill, and there are large, flat granite rocks in the trail, it’s very slick, very scary to trot over. My favorite part was probably going over Cougar Rock and crossing the American River in the dark with glow sticks floating in the water to light your way across.”
According to the Tevis Cup Ride website, www.teviscup.org, the Western States Trail Ride, widely called the Tevis Cup Ride, is the oldest modern-day endurance ride, having been held annually since 1955. The ride was first organized by Wendell Robie, an Auburn businessman and devoted rider of the Sierra high country.
“Many people in the 50s doubted that any modern-day horse could cover the rugged trail from Lake Tahoe to Auburn in a single day,” states the website. “Wendell and a few of his friends proved them wrong in August of 1955. He continued to hold the ride annually thereafter and organized the Western States Trail Foundation to preserve the 100-mile trail and the ride.”
Each rider who completes the 100-mile course from Tahoe to Auburn within the 24-hour limit, and whose horse is judged “fit to continue,” is awarded the Silver Completion Award Buckle. The Tevis Cup trophy is awarded to the person who completes the 100-mile, one-day course in the shortest amount of time and whose horse is in sound condition and “fit to continue.”
Larson and Ash completed the ride in 19 hours and 39 minutes. First-time finishers have the choice of receiving a new belt buckle or a donation by riders who have multiple buckle wins. Typically, donations come from riders with 20 or more belt buckles. Larson said the most belt buckles won by a single rider since 1955 goes to Barbara Suhr White, who has won 32 buckles. White, 65, was going for her 33rd buckle this year, but was pulled from the ride along the trail. White and her horses have attempted the ride 45 times.
Together, Ash and Larson have more than 2,000 endurance miles. They have participated in four other 100-mile rides, a number of 75- and 50-mile rides and numerous 25-mile, limited-distance rides. Ash has won six Best Condition awards. Out of the top 10 in each distance, there is another vet check with rider weight, ride time and vet score calculated for the horse that is in the best condition for the distance, speed and weight he carried.
When Larson first got Ash, he was an “unbroke, recently-gelded 5 year old.” She builds her conditioning with Ash early in the spring, starting in about February/March, and builds incrementally each week until they’ve built up enough miles that she feels they’re ready.
“I started riding late in life, about age 32, and did my first endurance ride in 1996,” Larson said. “I met another local endurance rider and we became friends and she mentored me on my first ride. Just riding 20 to 30 miles in a week and doing lots of trotting and cantering just fit with the sport of endurance. My first horse I rode was so super fit when I took him and did a 25-miler, we probably could’ve done a 50. We ‘top tenned’ our first ride out.”
Larson has been married for nine years and has two grown children, one in the Navy and one in Pullman. She is a real estate appraiser and also works part time at Wilco in Battle Ground.