In December 2009, local CHP officer Kassandra Tucker was asked by the United States Equestrian Federation to host the North American Endurance Team Challenge in Indian Valley, after successfully hosting the 2009 American Endurance Ride Conference National Championship in the same location.
After a year and a half of preparation, training and detail oriented planning by Kassandra Tucker and Greenville Rotary President Centella Tucker, the North American Endurance Team Challenge finally arrived.Jeremy Reynolds of the Pacific South Team, riding “A Kutt Above,” is the first one to cross the finish line, just slightly in front of Meg Sleeper. Photo by Bill Gore
The event happened Sept. 24 in Greenville, and it was the last of three rides that were major fundraisers for the Greenville Rotary Club. The event was good for the local community, bringing hundreds of competitors and their crews to the community for as long as eight days.
Base camp was located at the beautiful and spacious Coppercreek Camp. Although the competition did not start until Saturday, preparation for base camp began Sunday, Sept. 18, with local rancher Andy Meyers, who delivered corrals for competitors whose horses had left a week earlier and traveled across the United States to compete in this event. The first horses and competitors arrived the evening of Sept. 18.
The countries represented in the North American team competition were the United States, fielding nine teams, and Canada, which brought one team. Other countries competing in open international competition were Sweden, United Kingdom and Romania.
There were nine Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) veterinarians and nine FEI officials to help operate the six vet checks. The vets and officials were from across the United States, British Columbia, Guatemala and Australia.
Thursday before the event, there were several guest speakers throughout the day. Dr. Jeff Jones from Crossroads Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Martin Vidal from UC Davis, Larkin Greene of Vettec hoof products and Cristoph Schork, representing Easycare horse products, were among the presenters.
At the conclusion of the guest speakers, the Pacific North Team sponsored a wine and cheese party open to all competitors and their crew, followed by a dinner party catered by Southern Accent and sponsored by Adequan (a joint treatment supplement) for all the riders, officials and veterinary staff. Local band Lost Sierra Ramblers played during both events, which set the mood for great fun and dancing.
Friday began the passport horse veterinary inspections. Horses were examined to ensure they were sound and healthy to begin the competition the following morning. In the afternoon, guest speaker Dr. Langdon Fielding with Loomis Basin Veterinary hospital spoke, followed by team photographs taken by local ride photographer Melinda Cassol, and then the opening ceremonies were held.
Dr. Roberta Weiderholdt of the Chester Veterinary clinic started the opening ceremonies by singing the national anthem. After all 10 teams and three international competitors were introduced, Lorena Gorbet of the Greenville Maidu Indian Tribe spoke. She welcomed the competitors to Indian Valley, giving them a brief history of the local Maidu tribe and their traditions and care of the surrounding countryside. Opening ceremonies concluded with an overview of the 100 miles of trail, various locations of the vet checks, crewing locations and what to generally expect from the terrain.
A total of 49 riders were pre-registered, with 43 rider/horse teams starting the 100-mile endurance horse team competition. At 6:30 a.m. the competition began, and the horses and riders took off in a cloud of dust.
Volunteers from all over Plumas County, Sierra County and outside of the local community caravanned up to Walker Lake at 6 a.m. to set up the vet check area. The first riders began arriving at the Walker Lake vet check at 7:50 a.m. It was an astounding one hour, 20 minute ride up the mountain and down into Westwood for their first mandatory 30-minute rest and veterinary inspection.
After the first riders left, it was time for Kassandra Tucker and a slew of officials and vets to head back down to Coppercreek Camp to set up the next vet check, 36 miles into the ride, with another mass of volunteers.
At the base camp vet check, riders and horses had two separate holds, the first being 45 minutes of rest and the second being 60 minutes of rest. If their horses were sound and healthy, they moved on to the next phase of the competition. If there was any indication of problems with a horse’s movement or metabolics, the horse was removed from the competition. In a competition of this magnitude and intensity, the completion rate for a 100-mile distance is 50 percent or less. The Tevis Cup typically has around a 40 percent completion rate.
The vet checks ran as smoothly as could be imagined. With riders coming in three abreast at a gallop into the in-timer station, it was exciting to watch. The stakes were high, with the United States Equestrian Federation team selectors present to observe riders and their horses. Selectors were there to choose who might represent the U.S. team in England at the 2012 World Equestrian Competition.
At noon, it was time to head over to Van Swearington’s place located off Old Haun Road, where the competitors had their fifth and sixth vet checks at miles 65 and 85 in the competition. It took a while to get the checkpoint set up, but once it was, there was an anticipation of excitement in the air.
It was easy to stay ahead of the riders with the help of the Plumas County Amateur Radio Club at every vet check and checkpoint, keeping track of the locations of each rider at any given time during the day.
At approximately 6:15 p.m. the first two riders, Jeremy Reynolds of the Pacific South Team and Meg Sleeper of the North East Team, came galloping toward the finish line, one hour and 30 minutes faster than the previously set record. It was fast and exciting, and over in an instant. Ride photographer Bill Gore caught the winner, Jeremy Reynolds, on “A Kutt Above” as he crossed the finish line with all four hooves off the ground. The total ride time was eight hours, 17 minutes, with 3.5 hours of vet hold time subtracted from total time.
From a veterinary standpoint, it was an incredibly successful event. There were very few riders who didn’t complete. The ride had a record completion rate of 72 percent, which is unheard of for a competition of this level.
“It’s a testament to the riders for preparing their horses, riding smart and within their horses’ capabilities, as well as our veterinary staff for observing any potential problems and addressing them early,” said Kassandra Tucker.
Kassandra Tucker and Centella Tucker, with the help of more than 50 Rotarians and local volunteers, made the 2011 North American Endurance Team Challenge a complete success. Riders, along with their friends and family, expressed what a beautiful place Plumas County is and how hospitable the residents and local businesses were.
Organizers thank the many volunteers who contributed to the event.