In which I read a book and laugh and learn and love Sam Savitt's pictures

It poured down rain (again still) this morning during our scheduled ride time.  Sensible people would have stayed home to read a book where it was warm and dry and comfortable. 

We went riding. 

THEN I went home to read a book.
Becky at the Blog of Becky sent me this book suggestion a while back when I was talking about old horse books.  I tracked down a copy of the book at the library, and finally took the time to read it.  Talk about a learning experience!

I think I've read it before, actually.  There were passages that seem very familiar, like this one:

     In the bright light of morning, I observe all types of riding equipment.  There are snaffles and grazing bits, hackamores and half-breeds, Pelhams and jawbreakers, spades and curbs of all description.  I see stock saddles of all sizes and shapes....

   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. 

The book has an old-timey feel to it; the illustrations are classic Sam Savitt.  He quotes several people that he interviewed for this book, notably 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.

Life is good great.


  1. I know that you probably know Sam Savitt's art graced many covers of Western Horseman Magazine over the years too! One of my favorite western artists!
    Can't wait to read the book! Need you to check it out for me! Will give us an "excuse" to meet up & ride!

    Really like the added pages to your blog! The picture of the X-"Dragon Lady" is Magnificent! You should be proud!

  2. Oh, what a cool book! I should see if there's a copy on ebay or if my library can get it.

    re: 68 bpm - I don't think people back then understood as much as we do now about electrolytes. I know that Dixie's recoveries with elyte supplements are MUCH better than her recoveries without - I wonder if that's why their horses' pulses were high?


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