The Tevis Cup, also known as the Western States Trail Ride, has been held annually in America, since 1955. This ride has a rich history, with the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) acknowledging it as the founding ride of modern endurance. The Tevis Cup also rightly has a reputation as the world’s best known and most difficult endurance ride. With a completion rate of only 54 percent, this event is incredibly tough for both horse and rider.
The route covers 100 miles across Placer County in California, and is completed in just one day. The ride starts at 5.15am and crosses the Sierra Nevada mountain range, before going through El Dorado County and finally finishing near Auburn, at 5.15am the next day.
As with any long-distance ride, adequate preparation for the Tevis Cup for both horse and rider is essential. As the Tevis Cup website itself mentions, the terrain and mountains, “although beautiful, are relentless in their challenge and unforgiving to the ill-prepared.”
There are numerous vet checks across the route where the condition of each horse is evaluated and they are deemed fit to continue or asked to retire. These include two mandatory rest stops of 60 minutes.
The route is designed to test competitors to the maximum, with a few points that really stand out. Cougar Rock is an iconic part of the Tevis Cup, resulting in some incredible feats of horsemanship as riders and their horses leap up a steep outcrop of volcanic rock. Whilst the photographs of this point are truly spectacular, Cougar Rock certainly has the potential to cause injuries to those attempting it, and as such, it’s an optional part of the route, with many riders joking that ‘it’s Cougar Rock or completion’.
The Swinging Bridge is another section that tests partnerships to the limit, with riders dismounting before leading their horses over a bridge suspended across a fast-flowing river. Of course, many horses may not be used to the sensation of a suspension bridge moving underneath their hooves so riders again have the choice of an alternative, but longer route crossing the river in the canyon below.
The average time for winners over the years has been around 13 hours and 50 minutes. This year, 172 riders started, with 92 successfully completing the route. This year’s winner was Tennessee Lane and her horse, Auli Farwa.
As for any endurance ride, well-fitting equipment is paramount for the comfort of any horse taking part. GHOST saddles are proud to say that our American dealer, Badlands Equine, helped fit a competitor and her endurance horse with a GHOST saddle prior to her taking part the 2017 Tevis Cup.
Here’s a roundup of her overall experience:
“Three months prior to Tevis, I was having serious saddle fit issues. We had tried every treed saddle we had in two different households, and nothing was fitting as it should. There was only one saddle left to try, my friends GHOST saddle. I was very hesitant about trying it. I have not had good experiences with treeless in the past. And I knew that during Tevis I would get tired and depend on my saddle to spread weight evenly when I couldn’t.
The GHOST fit her and I was actually pretty comfortable also. I rode in it for two lessons and out on training rides. No issues noticed. The next big test was a 50 mile ride at Renegade. Lots of ups and downs. She came out of that ride 2nd, and with all A’s for her back/withers on her vet card. Ok, looks like the GHOST treeless will get me through at least the first two-thirds of Tevis. Yes, I’m still skeptical that I can complete a full grueling 100 miles in a treeless.
The day of Tevis arrives and we start in the GHOST. 1st hold – Robinson Flat, all A’s on back and withers. 2nd hold – 64 miles in, Forest Hills. I was planning on switching out to a treed saddle, but her back and withers were still all A’s. I’m not changing anything if it’s not broke.
Finish line, yes, I finished :). 100 Tevis miles, 23 hours 52 minutes, and still all A’s on back and withers. For those of you that are looking for comfort for both you and your horse, give the GHOST a try. I’m glad I did. I’m getting my own GHOST now. My friend wants hers back.”
A huge congratulations from the whole team at GHOST for the amazing achievement of completing the founding ride of modern endurance and we look forward to watching next year’s event!
Whilst it’s true that GHOST saddles do not have a tree as such, it’s our revolutionary flexible base that really sets us apart from other brands of treeless saddle. We often say that in using a GHOST, it’s important to forget everything you thought you know about saddle fit, and prepare for a new saddle experience which can provide both you and your horse with another level of comfort, fit and security.
Thank you to the Western States Foundation and Flickr for the ride photos used here. For more information, check out these websites: