Sarah Rinne has wanted to ride in the Tevis Cup Endurance Ride since she was 9 or 10 years old.
“...And thirty years later, it finally happened,” said Rinne, who is from Steinauer.
Rinne was among one of the 42 percent that finished on July 29, 2018, in the horse-riding competition. Riding Silver Valley Tate, Rinne finished in 23 hours and 47 minutes, earning a coveted belt buckle.
The Tevis Cup Endurance Ride has been held every year since 1955 in northern California on the Western States Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It's a race of 100 miles of trail in 24 hours and is touted as one of the toughest endurance rides in the world.
Tate is a gaited Morgan owned by Dwight and Mary Hanson of Ithaca, Nebraska. He is 16.1 hands tall and 9 years old.
The majority of the horses competing in Tevis are Arabians. Rinne said that Tate was the only Morgan and only one of two gaited horses registered.
“When Dwight and Mary asked me if I’d like to ride Tate at the Pony Express Competitive Trail Ride at Rock Creek Station in August of 2015, I reluctantly said yes, mainly because I was to a point of not wanting to ride horses I didn’t know," Rinne said. "But when I rode him, we just clicked and I just thought to myself with more development, Tate had Tevis potential.”
Rinne planned to compete in Tevis in 2017. However, Tate had lameness issues. They had both been training for two years.
She said that she has been building up running distances and lifting weights. She did targeted plyometric (jump training) and core training. She also changed her eating and supplementing habits preparing her body for performance.
Rinne said that preparing Tate was not a lot different. His feed and supplements also focused on fueling his body for performance.
Preparing for mountain riding when you live in a flat land region is a challenge. However, the two did interval and hill training to prepare for the mountainous terrain.
The team has also competed in seven North American Trail Ride Conference rides this season as an open rider, ranking first as a horse and first in horsemanship in the nation.
“Tate has 5,000 NATRC miles and 100 AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference) miles,” said Rinne.
“We were the last of 152 horses out of Robi Park at 5:15 a.m.,” said Rinne. “We averaged 5 to 6 miles per hour throughout the 100 miles."
The ride has two mandatory one-hour rest stops and various vet checks on the trail for the horses and the riders to get a chance to eat. Crews of multiple people are positioned at the stops to help care for the teams.
Shari Parys of Gretna served as a crew member for Rinne and Jonni Jewel.
“It was amazing," Parys said. "It couldn’t have been a more special Tevis, with Sarah riding the horse owned by my other good friends, Dwight and Mary, and having such a good mentor Jonni, and her experienced crew chair, Sara, to help with the success. Seeing them cross the finish line was beyond words."
Rinne said the toughest part of the ride was the canyons.
"It was not at all what I expected," she said. "It was about 125 degrees in the canyons and because of the fires, very poor air quality. You can’t realize the full effect until you’re on switchback number 35 and knowing there are about 37 to go. It’s 13 miles of trail."
Part of the competition happens overnight.
"Between 12 and 1 a.m. I was thinking'I could fall asleep on my horse,'" said Rinne. “There were glow sticks on his [Tate's] shoulders, but I couldn’t really see much. We did 32 miles and eight hours in the dark.”
Rinne's favorite part? The beautiful high country dotted with wildflowers, cresting Cougar Rock, fording the American River under the moonlight, and finally reaching that last hill and the waiting crowds.
And, of course, the victory lap.
“Perhaps the best part was riding and finishing with my mentor and friend, Jonni Jewel," Rinne said. "...I loved watching my horse do his job throughout the entire 100 miles. He is amazing and I completely trusted him."
Mary Hanson, owner of Silver Valley Tate, said she was thrilled to be a part of the experience.
"We were pleased with Sarah’s dedication and weren’t worried about Sarah and Tate because they had both trained so intentionally in preparation, but there were things that could go wrong that we couldn’t control," Hanson said. "I worried about accidents and luck.
“We had friends from Nebraska, Georgia and Texas who gave of their time and finances to help crew for Sarah and Tate. They worked so hard and it was so hot, humid and smoky. They cared for Tate as if he was one of their own” said Hanson.
Rinne returns to Steinhauer to her husband, Seth, and four children between the ages of 3 and 20. Sarah works for NATRC. She also operates Rinne Hay Service and raises cattle with her husband.
“I am just so blessed to have been able to do this,” said Rinne. “I would like to do it again. I’m always up for an adventure or challenge. Maybe the Mongol Derby? I don’t know.”