In which I read a book and laugh and learn and love Sam Savitt's pictures
One thing the equipment shows, regardless of vintage and style, is hard use. All endurance riders must know and understand their gear if it is to serve them well, for a broken piece of equipment on a night trail can spell disaster.
Wendell Robie, who is generally considered the "Father of the Tevis Trail" and perhaps even the creator of modern endurance rides (the book was published in 1981; Mr Robie died in 1984).
The focus of the book is the Tevis Cup Ride itself (a.k.a. the Western States Trail Ride); however, the author also relates a bit of history of distance riding as well, including a blood-curdling tale from the Pony Express.
One chapter focused on a Tevis veteran who is also a veterinarian, and his quest to ride a Thoroughbred in the Tevis, although he had successfully ridden Arabs on prior years. I found it interesting that in order to create an endurance horse out of a galloper, he trained her as a trotter--in harness!
The sport of endurance has changed in small--but significant--ways since this book was written. Several narratives spoke of bringing their horses down to 68 beats per minute in 30 minutes or so. Our standard measure in the Northwest Region is almost always 60 bpm, and at the rides where I have pulsed, that criteria is usually met within 10 minutes or so. I would probably rider-option pull any horse of mine that took 30 minutes to pulse down! Another big change: none of the copious sketches that fill the book depict a rider wearing a helmet. Isn't it amazing how things change?
And yet, endurance remains endurance: a really, really hard thing that some people do, despite the toughness of the course and sometimes against the advice of their doctor. The book closes with a quote from an experienced rider whose physician told him that attempting Tevis would be "plain suicide":
He gave the listening audience a beautiful, triumphant grin and held up his glistening thousand-mile buckle. "But I made it"--his voice echoed over the loudspeaker--"and I'm hear to tell about it!"
So there it is, in 87 short pages with lots of pictures: a book about endurance. What a great book, and what a great sport.