Working Horses
Endurance Course

or a Magic Mountain Horse Shows His Stuff.
In an endurance world dominated by sleek, fast Arabian horses, a horse from the mountains of Kentucky shows what a Mountain Horse can do.

Remember the Tevis Cup:
A Horse Named Raven Flies
Over the Mountains and Through the Woods

by Steve Elliot and Fran Odom
Photos by Susan Walz

This article first appeared in the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association
September/October, 2001

This is not your typical farm of the month article. Instead, we are bringing you an account of the Tevis Cup race as told by Steve Elliott, rider of Odom's Raven. In August, Odom's Raven, owned by Bob Walz, had the distinction of being the first Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse ridden in one of the most famous and grueling endurance rides, the Tevis Cup. Steve first met Bob and Raven 6 years ago. As time progressed, Bob and Steve became good friends and would frequently ride together. In May of 2001, Raven was brought back from Oregon where Bob's 11 year old granddaughter had been using him in some endurance rides. (See WxNW's Sarah in the Saddle.) It wasn't until then that Steve rode Raven and gave him a "test" ride....

Steve tells our equine Cinderella story thus: "The morning before the ride, Raven was brought down to me washed and shining looking like a million dollars. I cried. It was amazing to get any horse to the starting line of the Tevis. On Friday we vetted in and the honorable rescue number "1" was placed on his rump. This was given to me for a successful rescue during the 2000 ride."

The Start: "At 4:30am I walked to the controlled start area and wanted to start Raven in the middle of the "pack". He said "no way" and gaited his way up to the top 20. At 5:15 we were off! The start was very dusty and hairy as it was still dark and the riders could only see by the full moon which lighted Squaw Valley. Raven had no brakes! He just got into gait and let me go! This horse is powerful, but we still had 98 miles of elevation and temperature changes to endure! We crested the top of Squaw Valley's hill climb where it was so windy and cold I could barely hang on. Passing High Camp and its rocky, all volcanic outcrops, we arrived at the first vet check where Raven took 30 seconds to meet the 64 bpm pulse check. We were then on our way to Robinson Flat- mile 36. After mandatory a one hour rest, Raven and I headed to Dusty Corners. After that Raven & I headed for the toughest part of the ride, the Canyons.

"As we approached the swinging bridge, we made a horse/human agreement: we'd help one another. Dismounting, I reached the bottom of swinging bridge and proceeded up the worst hill on the ride, which has a steep, heavy degree switchback to Devils Thumb. After the Deadwood vet check, we headed down the other side of the three mile canyon. I was a little tired at this point, but seeing no one in front of or behind us, kept going. Raven followed right behind me as if this were a training day.

Mile 60: The historic town of Michigan Bluff. "We breezed right through after a 15 minute rest. On to Forest Hill for another vet check. Raven's score card was 99%. It was now 8:30 pm and dark as we headed to steep switchbacks. Raven was too big to make the tight corners, and he'd get stuck between the trees that were too close."

Mile 82.9: "At Franciscos, we had the same quick recovery but we stayed a while and fueled up. Close to 1:30 am we left Franciscos. I wanted to be in before 5:00 am, so I had to get Raven moving on another high trail. After we crossed the river, we headed towards the 92.4 mile vet check at Lower Quarry. Finally, Raven and I came to No-Hands Bridge, an old railroad bridge. Raven took off toward the finish line like he knew where he was. All his energy was back, he
ran the hills and gaited toward the finish line amongst loud cheers. We finished at about 4:25 am. The vet was amazed saying 'You don't see this type of horse in this ride. He's an amazing animal.' Someone from the stands called out 'Raven the Magic Mountain Horse!' We finished 47th in the 47th year of the toughest 100 mile endurance race in the world. I'm 47, wore the #1, and Raven is the first Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse to finish the Tevis Cup Race.

"Everything went better than planned. Raven's strong will made it happen for both of us. I visited Raven at home the next day. You'd never know he'd just run a grueling 100 miles in less than 24 hours. I'd like to give special thanks to all the crew and for support of all the gaited people that stood beside us to make this special day come true."

Check out other horse articles on West By

Sarah in the Saddle: Photo Essay
Horse Neglect and Abuse in America: Fact and Fiction By Kimball Lewis
Valerie Larkin's
Cascade Camping Con Caballista or High ho, Silver: Mountain Horse Camping
Disaster Preparedness and Your Animals, Remembering the Flood(s) of 1996 by Kimball Lewis
Letters To The Editor, Late Summer, 2000
Love Thy Neighbor (but not necessarily their animals) by Kimball Lewis

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