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Can Stewart tame the trail again?

Georgetown resident won her first Tevis title 29 years ago, but she continues to ride strong
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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Just as human athletes do, horses need a certain mental toughness to get through endurance races. Tevis Cup rider Loreley Stewart realized that when talking to some of the first runners to compete in the Western States Endurance Run. “It was fascinating to talk to the runners about what they sensed was happening to the horse over the course of the day,” Stewart recalled. “You have to stay strong in the heat of the day, but when the heat starts coming in, you don’t feel strong enough to make it. … A horse has that mental state, too. The runners gave voice to that.” Stewart hopes to use her understanding of equine sports psychology — or “horse sense,” if you prefer — to her advantage in the year’s Tevis Cup this Saturday. In a sense, Stewart will be acting as her horse’s coach in the 100-mile trail ride from Robie Park in Truckee to Auburn’s Overlook Park. “I have an understanding of how to manage a horse to its highest athleticism in the heat and humidity,” she said. Stewart has finished the ride 15 times since her first Tevis Cup in 1977. She’s won the Cup twice, in 1980 and ‘86. She also has two second-place and seven top-five finishes to her credit. The Georgetown resident is one of five former winners competing in this year’s field. The others are Hal Hall of Auburn (1974, ‘77, ‘90), Marcia Smith of Loomis (‘92, ‘97, ‘01), Potato Richardson of Greenwood (‘98, ‘02) and Becky Spencer of Georgetown (‘04). Stewart competed in the ride nine times after leaving the area for 20 years starting in 1987, when her husband Rick’s job as a pilot for Continental Airlines took the family first to Colorado, then to Pennsylvania. “It’s a major addiction or affliction — it’s hard to say,” Stewart said, jokingly, of why she kept returning to compete in the Tevis Cup. “But the trail has the best of California, I think. Except for coastline, it has every kind of beauty California has.” Stewart has gotten to enjoy the beauty of the Tevis Cup trail in chunks in the weeks leading up to the race. She’s a big believer that getting a horse familiar with the trail beforehand will build up the animal’s confidence before the race. “With some horses, it’s like, ‘Rough terrain doesn’t bother me,’ and then they end up wondering what the heck happened,” Stewart said. “It’s always fun to watch a horse get more confident as the day goes on.” The horse Stewart will ride in Saturday’s race is a gelding named Radiant Raven, or Raven for short. According to Stewart, Raven has a “very strong compass.” “If you turn him in the opposite direction, he still gives you a good ride,” Stewart said. “He’s just not as happy.” Stewart won’t be the only member of her family riding in Saturday’s race. Her husband Rick will ride a horse named Bandit, a gelding Stewart calls a “hunter” — if it sees another horse ahead, it automatically wants to catch up to and pass that horse. While a win on Saturday would be nice, Stewart is simply hoping to finish before dark — and to experience the satisfaction of helping a horse perform at peak level despite the difficulties it faces on the trail. “Time and place isn’t as important to me as the (joy) that comes with having a horse reach the finish line if you race him properly,” she said. Ray Hacke can be reached at rayh@goldcountrymedia.com.