On June 26 in Plumas County’s Taylorsville, Sara Howard of Applegate, became the youngest person ever to win the Ride & Tie World Championship. She also enters the rarified ranks of women who have won the overall event. In the 38 year history of the sport there have only been three female winners.
Sara, who runs high school cross country and track and competes in endurance riding, teamed with her father Jim Howard for her first Ride & Tie World Championship effort. Together they piloted, Magic Sirocco, to his fourth Ride & Tie World Championship Best Condition award. Sara declined her prize money in order to maintain her amateur running status.
At 53 years of age Jim is a well known ultra-runner and now a 10-time Ride & Tie World Champion. “Sara has been conditioning the horse for me for the past three years,” said Jim. “She wanted to do the Championship, which is all fine and exciting, but nerve wracking for me as a parent. It is a risky sport.” Jim’s concerns finally eased only when the start of the race went smoothly. “Our strategy worked. We put Sara out in the front of the team, where there would be less potential commotion with other teams. I still wasn’t sure we were doing the right thing.”
“My daddy ran a lot of it for me,” explained Sara. Their best estimate is that Sara ran a total of 14 miles during the race; more than a normal workout, but certainly within the scope of her training.
Prior to this year’s event, the record for the youngest win was held by a young man who won the original Levi’s Ride & Tie in 1971 at the age of 17.
Best Condition is awarded by the veterinarian staff to the horse that performs at the top level of the event, and still shows as most “fit to continue.” While Sara thought it was “kind of a surprise” to have Magic Sirocco win the honors, she admitted that it was nice after all the conditioning and training she put into getting him ready for the race. Her father had a little bit more confidence his horse might win the award. “We took really good care of the horse. He had so much energy toward the end, he was still spooking. It’s always chancy though: there is a gauntlet of rocks” on that course, he said. The pinnacle of an outstanding horse’s ride and tie career is induction into the Ride & Tie Hall of Fame. Magic Sirocco’s record, which is far from completed, bears watching in this regard.
Twin sisters Uta Konig and Miriam Schmidt of Germany accepted a free entry offered to the international team by the Ride & Tie Association and they represented the world in “World Championship.” Both sisters are athletes, riders since age 7 and competitors in the sport of Ride & Tie in Germany for the past 15 years. Nothing they had seen in Germany prepared them for their first look at the World Championship course in Taylorsville.
Repeating the same trail set in 1991 and used again in 1994, this year’s course is possibly the most rugged course in the history of the World Championship event. Base camp and the starting line are at approximately 3,500 feet elevation. The high point of Mount Jura is over 6,000 feet. The course ran teams up several mountain sides and plunged them into an equal number of ravines before presenting them with the final heartbreaking slog up Mount Jura at mile 29.
After seeing part of the course on their first day at the race-site, the German team considered withdrawing from the event. The sisters’ primary hope had been to survive the event and possibly place well. Their primary concern was the fact they were leasing a local horse they didn’t know and hadn’t personally trained.
A few days later, after they had tried out their horse-partner and practiced a few ride and tie exchanges, they were somewhat cheered at their prospects. On race day they turned in a formidable result: an overall fourth place finish, second woman/woman, 46 minutes behind the first place team. At the awards ceremony the two returned the compliment: they invited everyone to consider flying to Germany to race in their annual Ride & Tie in July.
Returning to the location of the 2007 Ride & Tie World Championship, the 39th annual event will take place June 20, 2009 at Cuneo Creek Horse Camp, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, adjacent to the Avenue of the Giants. The 2009 race will be on a revised course and is open to all comers.
For more information about Ride & Tie or to review complete results of the 2008 World Championship visit www.rideandtie.org.