Tevis Will Highlight Conditioning, Athletic Prowess

At dawn on July 24, nearly 200 riders from across the country and around the world will set out on a 100-mile riding adventure over California's Sierra peaks. Some will race each other, and others will race the 24-hour clock that signals the end of event. Those finishing with sound horses, as judged by a Tevis vet, in the prescribed time win coveted Tevis Belt Buckles.

The first to cross the finish line near the Auburn, Calif., fairgrounds will win the Tevis Cup. Following the July 25 judging of the top 10 horses, the horse deemed to be in the best physical condition after the journey will be awarded the Haggin Cup.

To ensure the safety of all horses involved, Greg Fellers, DVM, head veterinarian of the event, is marshaling a crew of 17 select equine practitioners.

Fellers, who is the retired owner of Loomis Basin Equine Medical Center in Loomis, Calif., has served as the head veterinarian for the Tevis ride for the past five years. At the 2009 Tevis Fellers instituted a new procedure ensure completing horses were on the road to recovery after the grueling event.

One to two hours after each horse was vetted at the 2009 finish line, its owner presented the animal for re-inspection. Veterinarians conducted examinations throughout the night, paying special attention to the horses' responsiveness to their surroundings, heart rate, gut sounds, and appetite. Of the 87 finishers, only one required further observation. "The finishers, as a group, did really well," Fellers recalled.

Was the extra veterinary inspection worth asking a crew to work all night? "Absolutely," responded Fellers. "What if it was your horse? If we catch one horse and catch it before crashing, it's worth it."

The Tevis Cup is ranked No. 7 by Time magazine on a list of the top 10 endurance events in the world, and vetting Tevis is a prestigious, invitation-only assignment for equine practitioners. Vets are selected based upon experience, references, demonstration of level-headed demeanor, and the ability to work under pressure. This year Amanda Parry, DVM, BVSc, of Brisbane, Australia, will join the group.

Last year there was one equine fatality in what was termed a freak accident; a horse being led up a canyon trail lost footing and tumbled down an incline, striking a rock. Throughout the event's 55 years the completion rate has remained steady at about 50%, and although sometimes disappointing to the contestants who were eliminated, the careful watch has protected competing equines.

Last years winner, Sarah Engsburg on 15-year-old Arabian gelding, K-Zarr Emmanuel, finished in 15:05, 11 minutes before Melissa Ribley, DVM, on LD Monique, who was the eventual Haggin Cup winner.

About the Author

Marsha Hayes

Marsha Hayes has been covering endurance, trail, and other equine topics since 2005. She believes every horse has a story.

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