By Camey Kimbler
The 1st time I trained a horse for Tevis I was a still a Junior and knowing what my sister Kelsey had gone though (5 sponsors, one at almost every check) I decided to do a Tevis/Quilty exchange with an Australian rider. So I trained my horse for Tevis and crewed for him, he completed! Then I got to go to Australia, and what an amazing trip that was! So I knew what it took to train a horse for a Tevis completion, so now that I could ride unsponsored I was ready to make my first attempt. This marks our families 4th trip to Tevis and the 1st attempt for both Tessa (still a junior) and I. Since we train together my sisters and I hoped to ride together, but we would ride to benefit the horses. I was selected to be in the first pen and Kelsey and Tessa (Kelsey was sponsoring Tessa) would have to start in Pen 2. We were separated before we even started, and maybe that attributed to my horse Cody going a little crazy at the start. You wouldn't have known he had started the Tevis before or that he was 17 an experienced endurance horse with almost 2000 miles, quite honestly I think people thought I was on a green 5 year old the way he was carrying on. To all those around me I truly apologize, Cody never gave me any reason to think he would be giving me such a hard time. We had pre-ridden the start and the finish and not a single issue.
He was bucking and putting on a small rodeo for about the 1st 20 miles and when we got to cougar rock and were about to go around, I decided because of all the bucking he had done he surely would not get a completion today so I better get that photo. We turned around and made our way over to the path….then up up and away! Wow that was amazing and Cody was focused, we got the photo but more than that it was exhilarating and it seemed to get Cody's attention. He finally settled in just as my sisters caught up to me and we rode into Robinson Flat together. Cody pulsed down quickly and now to the vets to see if he had pulled anything during our rodeo, nope trotted out perfectly getting all A's on his vet card. All the horses did great so an hour to try and figure out what in the world was going on…maybe it was the spare boots I was carrying on my saddle? Take those off, check the saddle pad and girth for burrs or anything that could be causing pain, nothing. That had literally been the hardest ride of my life, I was mentally and physically exhausted and we were only 1/3 done. I refueled and joked with my family to get pumped up and ready to tackle the rest of this trail. As we saddled up for our next 30 miles with no crew I contemplated what to do if he started up again, nothing I could do except ride my best and hope that riding with my sisters would help. Into the canyons…wow the trails were narrow and the drop-offs steep. When there were opportunities I would get off and run next to Cody. He really likes to stay shoulder to shoulder and that wasn't working so well on the narrow trails. I was trying to stay in front of him but he kept budging up to be next to me, as I tried pushing in front again my foot slipped and the next thing I know I was off the side screaming for Tessa to grab Cody as he was trying to follow me down over the cliff. Tessa caught Cody just in time and as I scrambled up, grabbing on to bushes and digging my nails into the side of the mountain I realize we are now holding up riders on this dangerous narrow trail. I decide for the best interest of both Cody and myself, I would not dismount again. Could this day get any worse, I thought to myself. Well just as we came out of one of the canyons I could feel that Cody was off, so I got off to see that his shoe was twisted and he had a rock wedged in between the sole and the shoe. Riders were trying to help offering boots and such, but his shoe would not come off so a boot wouldn't help. I told the girls to go on as we were close to the cut off times and I did not want them to get DQ because of me. I got the rock out but the shoe was still twisted and tight so I could not get it off. Just then Paul Sidio (fellow Quilty exchange rider) rode up beside me and got off to help. Paul rides cavalier when it's offered so he is used to interesting possible problems and had the solution to mine in his pack. He carry's cast tape for emergency shoeing problems. He worked quickly and soon we had Cody's hoof and shoe wrapped in casting tape. He was sound again so we got on and rode into Michigan Bluff. Quick story to my Mom and Dad while they helped cool our horses and off we went. When we got to the Chicken Hawk vet check the farrier fixed the shoe quickly and we were back on track. Coming into to Foresthill we made pretty good time about 20 minutes behind my sisters. What a day…Cody still getting A's on his vet card and not showing any signs of fatigue. I knew with night coming on that he could get fired up again and as my sisters left the vet check he was clearly agitated that he was not going with them.
Paul's Australian rider had gotten pulled and he was just a couple minutes behind, so I waited for him at the out timer so we could leave together, I really did not want to ride into the darkness of the California Loop by myself. Paul was really fun to ride with and our horses got along great together and after the day I had I was really relieved to have company. All was going well and we were making great time passing lots of horses that were getting tired. Then for no apparent reason Cody decided to start bucking again. Really? Ninety miles on the Tevis trail and you have the energy to buck? OMG…I just wanted to cry, but I sucked it up and just continued on riding through an occasional buck. It was great to see my Mom and Dad just before we trotted across the bridge in the moonlight. We had ridden out to here a couple of times, Cody knew the way to the finish and he was finally focused again. Paul had picked up the pace so much that I actually had to ask him to slow down just a bit. Surprising we had closed the gap on Kelsey and Tessa and finished right behind them only minutes apart. Did I say that right…finished! Yes, we had done it, I never expected the day to be this extremely hard, but it was and we preserved! We completed…I got the buckle (a legacy buckle) and the cougar rock picture, and stories to tell for the rest of my life. Both my sisters completed too, 100% for my family, not bad for 3 girls from the upper great plains of South Dakota! The Tevis gods were very gracious to us and for that I am grateful. A special thanks to Paul for saving my ride with his casting tape and to my family for crewing & cheering me on…you are the best! About the Author Camey Kimbler is the current AHYA Vice President