ST. GEORGE — A mother and her young teenage daughter from Leeds recently teamed up to compete together in one of the most prestigious horse endurance rides, the Tevis Cup.
The annual event, which started in 1955 and is staged by the Western States Trail Foundation, gives competitors exactly 24 hours to complete a 100-mile trail ride across the rugged terrain of northern California.
Natalie Law told St. George News that she and her 13-year-old daughter Kyla have spent the past three years preparing themselves and their horses for this year’s Tevis Cup, a challenge that neither of them had ever attempted.
Laws and her daughter started off at 5:15 a.m. on July 24, leaving from the Robie Equestrian Park near Truckee Pass, west of Lake Tahoe.
The following day, after completing the full 100 miles, they crossed the finish line together at 4:33 a.m. at the Auburn Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn, California, thereby completing the challenge with 42 minutes to spare.
Kyla and her mother were respectively the 36th and 37th riders to finish; only 63 of the 133 entrants who started the race successfully made it to the end within the 24-hour time limit. Kyla was also one of just four children under age 18 who were entered in the race, only two of whom finished, her mother added.
Natalie Law said her horse, an American Saddlebred named Brave, was the tallest horse in this year’s event, while Kyla’s horse Flash, a Hackney pony, became the shortest horse to ever successfully complete the Tevis Cup.
“Kyla’s horse is just 46 inches tall at the shoulders or withers,” Law said. “Mine is 21 inches taller than that, so you’ve got almost a two-foot difference.”
Law said the Tevis Cup is a challenge comparable to dog racing’s Iditarod.
“It’s one of the most technical and challenging races around the nation, and people travel from all over the world to come ride this ride,” she said.
“One of the things that sets it apart is that you’re looking at 14,800 feet of elevation climbs and 20,000 feet of decline,” she added. “It’s just an insane amount of change in terrain. And, it’s gorgeous.”
Law said the hot and rugged landscape of Southern Utah proved to be a good place to train.
“The big things that will take the horses out in the ride is the heat, the rocks and the elevation climbing,” she said. “You know, we’re set up for the perfect kind of training grounds for that. Because for us, 90-100 degrees was cool compared to what we’ve been dealing with.”
Law said all of the horses had to undergo regular veterinary safety checkups throughout the race.
“You carry everything you need to survive on your saddles,” added Law. “You stop about every 7 to 10 miles for quick vet checks, and there are two one-hour holds, where they give the horses time to recover. Then, you continue on. That all counts in your 24 hours.”
Law said as she and her daughter entered the fairgrounds arena for the final lap, the big question was who was going to get to cross the finish line first.
Law wrote in a Facebook post recounting the experience
Our only squabble was who went on the victory lap first. (Kyla) was mad because she wanted Brave to go first so she could hold back that fiery pony and run the lap. And I was so worried that if that happened, nobody would be able to see him behind my big ol’ horse. So we ended with a totally boring victory lap under the banner. But you know what, we BOTH finished. We both vetted through. And we both had happy, healthy ponies in the end.
Flash, who hates wearing shoes, won’t allow anyone to ride him besides Kyla, Law said, adding that her daughter purchased Flash as a feral pony with her own money about four years ago. Flash now even has his own Facebook page with more than 2,000 followers.
Natalie and Kyla Law each earned a coveted commemorative belt buckle for finishing the race.
Law said she and Kyla wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the feat without the assistance of her support crew, led by crew chief and instructor-trainer Shelah Wetter. Joining Wetter and serving as a mentor to Kyla was fellow teenager Kacey Oar, herself an endurance rider with dreams of competing at Tevis.
Another key member of the support crew was Natalie Law’s husband Adam Law. “He’s allergic to horses and hay, but he’s my No. 1 fan and there to support me and do whatever the crew chief says.”
Also helping out were Natalie Law’s parents, Jim and Noni Mayer.
“They never doubted we would finish, despite all the odds against us,” Natalie Law added.
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