The 100-mile Tevis Cup endurance race, scheduled for July 19th has been cancelled due to the extensive wildfires in California. The race takes competitors on a rugged, hilly route from Lake Tahoe to Auburn. The award is given to the first horse and rider to cross the finish line within a 24 hour time period who are deemed “fit to continue.” A second trophy, the Haggin Cup, is awarded to the horse in the top 10 finishers who is in the “most superior physical condition.” This would have been the 54th continuous year of the race.
Organizers are worried that the air quality in the area would be dangerous to both horses and humans, and they worry that road closings would compromise the ability to evacuate competitors or potentially trap riders behind the fire lines.
I didn’t know much about the Tevis Cup until I saw this announcement. It’s a pretty amazing race. For the past 53 years, the race has been run on the Saturday nearest the full moon in July — an important consideration since a winning ride takes 14 or 15 hours to complete and competitors must finish within a 24 hour period to receive the coveted silver Completion Award belt buckle.
The race originated as the brain child of Wendall Robie, an Auburn business man who wanted to prove that “modern” horses could successfully cover the rugged trail between Lake Tahoe and Auburn in a single day. He and a few of his friends completed the first ride in 1955 and it has been an annual event — until now.
The route followed by the Tevis Cup riders is as close as possible to the original route. But one thing hasn’t changed: the ride is always hot and dusty and the trail is steep. The original route had 17,040 feet of climbing and 21,970 feet of descent. While the current route hasn’t been measured, it’s about the same. Temperatures can reach triple digits in the canyons, causing riders and horses to suffer from dehydration.
Looking at the trivia and statistics from the Web site, it’s interesting to see that typically close to 200 horse and rider teams tackle the Tevis Cup.
- Starting with just 5 riders in ’55, the highest number of entries was 271 in ’87.
- On average, 54% of the riders and horses complete the event.
- Not surprisingly, more than 90% of cup winning horses are at least part Arabian. A mule and an Appaloosa have both won the Haggin Cup, and a Mustang once one the Tevis cup.
- 40 geldings (71%) have won the Tevis cup, compared to 12 mares (21%) and 4 stallions (7%).
- Bays and chestnuts are equally likely to win — there have been 21 of each.
- The youngest horse to win the Tevis Cup was 6 years old; the oldest horse was 16.
- The horse with the most wins, Witezarif, won the race six times. That’s 600 miles!
- One horse has won the Tevis Cup and the Haggin Cup in the same year twice – Cougar’s Fete in 1991 and 1996.
- One horse, Fitz, is an eight time finisher of the Tevis Cup. He won twice, in 1982 and 1983, and finished in the top six seven times! He is also the only horse to win that was blind in one eye.