Tevis Cup Part 1

Whoa, Gara! Calm down. Sorry, Marol!” Jen exclaimed, squeezing her legs together to keep her horse from backing. “It’s okay, boy,” she reassured the lean, muscular grey Arab gelding, realizing how wet his neck was when she patted him.

Agitated, Gara was not tired. Despite trotting, cantering, and galloping the last twenty miles, he remained in tune with his task, moving his head back and forth, scanning the terrain while traveling forward, turning his ears this way and that, independent of the other. The perspiration Jen felt was from the adrenalin rush, the thrill of the race. Gara’s anticipation started as soon as Jen placed a saddle on his back. He was sweaty even before the person in the front yelled: “Go!”

Jen’s personality exacerbated Gara’s tendency to super-amp. Her eyes displayed a steely will; her strong jawbone suggested stubbornness accompanied the determined actions. Jen was a lovely young woman shaping her short brown hair in a pixie-style, long enough to show everyone she was a girl, but short enough not to have to fuss with it.

Jen held her toned body taut as she rode out Gara’s little tantrum. “Whoa!” she repeated. It was now mid-morning, three hours into the ride, and the temperature was rising. Any remaining morning coolness vanishing with the unrelenting onslaught of the harsh, ascending sun.

The group moved in the predawn darkness through Squaw Valley and climbed twenty-five hundred feet to Emigrant Pass. Now they bunched together at a bottleneck in the trail.

“Whoa, whoa,” Jen yelled, as Gara backed into Marol’s horse, again. Babe was an elegant brown and white Tobiano paint filly, a thoroughbred and quarter horse mix. Jen owned both Gara and Babe.

Marol, a charming blonde in her late twenties, had long, silvery blonde hair and a British accent. Marol and her brother Hugh were visiting from South Africa. Jen allowed Marol to use the young filly for this uniquely American endurance ride.

When Gara backed into her, he pinched Marol’s left leg against the saddle. “Oww… that hurts, Jen,” Marol complained.

“Sorry, Marol.” Jen’s eyes traveled over the group of riders ahead, and she sighed. “We’re waiting to get over Cougar Rock.”

“Calm down, Jen,” Marol said. “You’re the one who has done this, remember? Where’s that rosewater we’re supposed to be drinking for calmness?”

Sometimes Marol didn’t know if Jen’s friendship was good fortune or a wicked curse. Jen’s intensity was hard to handle sometimes, and Marol wondered how much she wanted to invest in the nascent friendship.

Jen, edgy and irritable, leaned away from Marol, first focusing on someone ahead of her, and then looking downward at Gara’s hooves. She looked everywhere but at her friend while still registering her complaints.

“Afterwards, this fellow comes up behind me… and he wants to tell me about his riding history. But, we’re in a race. I told him I needed to catch up with my partner. I didn’t know if you were in front of me or behind me, but it didn’t matter. I just pulled off the trail and let Mr. Talkie talk his way right by me.”

Marol liked horses as much as Jen, and despite their differences in everything else, the two got along well.

“I never realized you so competitive, Jen,” Marol said. “Your stress is causing Gara to work up such a sweat.”

“Probably so,” Jen agreed, still irritated by something.

“Jen, calm down and enjoy this, please? You’ve told me every two hours for the last three days we have a hundred miles to go, and we have twenty-four hours to do it. What happened to that thought? We’ve gone twenty miles in three hours so we can do eighty more in twelve hours. That plus two one-hour waits puts us in at eight-thirty, nine-thirty, ten-thirty tonight if we continue at this pace,” Marol calculated, as they made their way single file on the spine of the mountain. Looking to either side of her, she could see the tops of rock-covered and forested mountain peaks scraping the cloudless, azure sky. She slowed Babe and stopped until Jen caught up, so they could ride side by side.

“Are you ready for Cougar Rock, Marol?” Jen pointed to a large grey rocky volcanic outcropping at the peak of the trail. A fellow was standing a hundred feet in front of the summit where the path branched into a Y.

“I guess. Why is that guy there?”

“He’s pointing to an alternative path, a longer one you can use if you think this way is too hard.”

“You mean, I take the flat way?”

“Inexperienced riders go that way. Do you want to follow the sissy path?”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, I don’t think so.” Marol liked Jen’s ballsy manner, but sometimes it forced her to make decisions too hurriedly, like now.

“Okay, I’m ready,” Marol said before she was ready.