A Dream Come True
by Melissa Ribley, DVM
Since sitting in a school library at age 11, reading a book about the Tevis Cup Ride and looking at the pictures of riders going over Cougar Rock, riding in the Tevis has been a lifetime dream of mine. Of course my parents put a reality check on that and did not let me actually compete in the Tevis until I had replaced my pony with a horse and had at least finished a few 50 mile endurance rides first. Since finishing my first Tevis at age 16, I have never lost my passion for being involved with this historical ride either through riding, crewing or vetting.
August 1, 2009 is a day that will be forever clear in my memory. Everything came together perfectly and with a lot of luck and help from my friends, Monique and I had a super day. From the start to finish, words of encouragement and positive, smiling faces from the ride volunteers, spectators and my crew kept both Monique and I floating above the trail towards Auburn.
All through the high country I kept reminding myself to take some time to take in the spectacular beauty of the Sierra Mountains. I could not get over the feeling of how lucky I was just to be there and be able to appreciate the trail ahead of me.
The section of trail between Robinson and Foresthill was as testing to me as it always is. The canyons lay there in wait – a challenger and worthy rival. These canyons I tackle on foot, using up what feels to be most of the breathable air around me. Arriving in Michigan, with more than just a “little dew” covering me, with my cheerful crew in wait was a big uplift for both Monique and I.
Leaving Foresthill, I realized that this was my first Tevis in which I would actually be riding the California Loop in the daylight. I decided as I peered over the steep edges down toward the river far below that I really preferred riding this section in the dark – blind ignorance is bliss.
Departing Francisco’s alone with now just Monique for company and riding along the serene American River gave us time to regroup and reconnect. With just Monique and I alone I could really feel how she was moving and sense how she was feeling. All signs were good. On we moved, picking up the pace the closer we could feel getting to Auburn. The helpful volunteers at the Quarry made for a quick in and out vet check. Just what we needed as Monique and I could see the first two horses just leaving that vet check. Leaving the Quarry vet check, Monique could sense the urgency and really got into what was now a race. Racing through the dark at a hand gallop, past the crowds at No Hands Bridge and up and over Robie Point was the thrill of a lifetime. I believe I had a glimpsing feeling of what it felt like to be Willie Shoemaker. The feeling of strength and power below me with 97 miles of trail behind us was breathtaking. Monique, being the true athlete she is, gave her all and we arrived at the finish line just behind a very gracious winning rider.
During the night after the ride, Monique’s never wavering, voracious appetite helped her to recover. With a good nights rest and lots of food, Monique’s “I can do anything and do it well” attitude was returning. She felt strong and solid during the Haggin Cup presentation and her calm attitude helped to calm my jitters. Waiting for the presentation of the Haggin Cup, Robert, Monique and I all stood next to each other with our fingers (well, not Monique) crossed. When LD Moniques name came across the loudspeaker, I’m not sure who was more excited – me, Robert or Monique. Monique seemed to sense a great elation and just pranced and floated her way back into the stadium for the placement of her Haggin Cup Ribbon, and for a few snacks out of the Haggin Cup itself. What a day and what a lifetime experience.
Never in my dreams as an 11 year old in the school library did I envision this kind of day when picturing in my mind riding the Tevis. If I learned anything from my experience, it is that no matter your preparation and ability, it still takes a heck of a lot of “Tevis luck” to have the kind of day I experienced.