Editor's Paddock -Events Being Cancelled Due To COVID 19
We all know there is a new normal today for all of us due to the COVID 19 pandemic which means so many events have been cancelled to help prevent the virus from spreading, which is good of course, but it still seems so strange not having those events.
This weekend would have been the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby. I have had mixed feelings for some time about the horse racing industry in general, but to know that there will be no " Run for the Roses" this year makes a me sad.
For years it was a family event watching the Kentucky Derby and I have so many bittersweet memories of that first Saturday in May. In 1977 I visited Churchills Down with my Mom, my sister, my older brother and his daughter, who was just a year old at the time. There was no racing going on that chilly early spring day, so we got to walk across the track near the pole. The place was so quiet with nobody around. I remember looking up at those historical spires on the grandstand and feeling a little bit in awe of it all. We walked through the saddling area and it was still and quiet. I guess thinking of Churchills Down being still and quiet on May 2nd like it was that day makes me sad.
Another event that will not take place this summer is the Tevis Cup One 100 Mile -One Day Trail Ride. This event was first run in 1955, so this year would have marked the 65th running of the Tevis. While the Tevis Cup might not be as well known as the Kentucky Derby to the general public it is well known in many equestrian circles. It's certainly a well known event in Auburn, California where the Western States Trail Foundation has their headquarters and the famous ride ends.
In 1984 I was living in Auburn, California and you couldn't not hear about the Tevis Cup. I found myself at Gold Country Fairgrounds on a warm July evening sitting in the stands waiting for that first rider to complete the ride to come into the fairgrounds under those bright stadium lights and cross the finish line. In those days there were huge expo boards set up with all the horse and rider teams listed - telling what Vet checks they had passed through, when they arrived and departed from the Vet checks and, of course, who had been pulled from the race. At that time I knew one of the riders - Dolly Decair - and it was her first time on the ride ( first time of many to come), so it made it even more interesting. At some point my older brother suggested we drive out to the road the riders would be coming into the finish on, just to see what was happening. That night the moon was full (as it always is when they hold the Tevis Cup so riders can see by the moonlight), so when we drove along the American River the moonlight was glistening on the water and it was breathtaking. I will always remember that site. I remember thinking about those horses and riders crossing that river, which is not gentle creek, but has a pretty good current in some places and thinking boy not me. I wouldn't have that kind of courage. That night we saw the first rider in and several others. It was really neat because you could hear their hoof beats coming and the crowd would start cheering them. They would ride into the bright lights of the Fairgrounds usually at a trot or a canter. I swear both the riders and horses were grinning. Didn't see Dolly come in and kind of regret that. My Mom, who also knew Dolly, had really wanted to see her come in, but I gave out. (Dolly didn't finish the ride until the wee hours of the morning.)
Several years later I got to cover the Tevis Cup as a journalist, which meant I got to go to Squaw Valley - the start of the Tevis back then and watch them leave at 5:00 in the morning. You could only see the shadows of the horses and riders in the pre-dawn light and hear the hoofbeats as they headed up the mountain trail. My sister (my photographer) and I camped out at Squaw Valley in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range along with those participating in the ride. We interviewed so many great horse people that weekend. We even went to a couple of the Vet checks along the ride. Saturday night we were at the Fairgrounds for the finish.
The Tevis holds a special spot in my heart for several reasons, so on August 1st when I look up at the full moon it will be sad thinking there will be nobody crossing the American River in the moonlight or cantering into the bright lights of Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn.
Finally let's not forget that cities like Louisville, Kentucky and towns like Auburn, California will experience a great loss of revenue when these events are cancelled. There are so many equine events that won't happen this year and that will affect the economy, because yes the equine industry does contribute to our economy. So let's hope we can get back in the show ring, on the track and on the trail again soon for the economy, but also for our hearts and souls.