Ford and the Fury take Haggin

Durango, Colo. rider fulfills dream by winning award for best-conditioned horse
By: Joshua Ansley Journal Sports Writer
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Nearly 600 people gathered at the Gold Country Fairgrounds on Sunday to take part in the awards ceremony for the 55 th Tevis Cup Ride. Following a rousing recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance that nearly provoked the horses’ applause, the festivities began by honoring Bill Patrick, who completed the very first Tevis. Patrick is the only surviving rider out of five others who rode back in 1955. At that time no awards were given out for the ride. It was a moving moment as ride director Mike Pickett presented Patrick with an honorary Tevis buckle. The ceremony itself was a special one from the start according to Pickett. Before serving as ride director, Pickett rode in the Tevis four times, and completed three. “Every year is so unique. Each has its own special meaning,” said Pickett. “This year the trail was in great condition and it made for an excellent ride.” But the ride could not have been more special, or excellent, for Garrett Ford of Durango, Colo. and his horse, The Fury. Ford brought home the 46th Haggin Cup Award after finishing in eighth place. There was little doubt about who the award belonged to as The Fury moved before a crowd of nearly 600. His powerful physique made it appear as if he could still run through a brick wall if Ford had given the command. Ford nearly took off in excitement before turning and addressing the audience with suspended tears. “I’ve got to thank my mom and dad for this,” Ford said. “I did my first ride when I was 13. I’ve always dreamed of winning the Haggin Cup.” The Haggin Cup requires a top ten finish, and the horse judged by veterinarians to be most fit to continue following the 100-mile ride. Last year’s winner was Melissa Ribley of Grass Valley, and her horse LD Monique. Like Ford, she started riding in the Tevis at a very young age, completing her first ride at 16. “Achieving it was thrilling,” Ribley said. “It was the dream of a lifetime and a goal since I was a young kid.” Ribley did not finish this year’s ride due to a mishap with her horse that left her with a slight injury. “You need a great horse and a lot of luck,” she said. Ford had both this year, and he knew it. “The first time I rode this horse (The Fury), I knew it was going to win,” he said. “It takes a great horse and I was lucky enough to find one.” What makes Ford’s win even more remarkable was the kind experience and talent he was up against. Barbara White completed her 30th Tevis and was awarded a diamond buckle. The buckle was the first one ever given out for finishing 3,000 miles. “To see Barbara White win her 30th buckle was wonderful and really touching,” said Potato Richardson. Richardson finished 21st this year, and won the Tevis Cup in 1998 and 2002. Kathie Perry, who took first place back in 1978, finished her 20th ride at 3:15 a.m. Sunday morning. Her 20th buckle was outlined with rubies to celebrate the completion of her 2,000 miles. “I’ve been riding for 35 years,” said Perry. “And this year has been the most special.” In the midst of all the greatness this year’s first place finisher was John Crandell, of Star Tanney, Va. His 12 year old horse, Heraldic, is a born winner and performer. Upon receiving the award Heraldic turned to the crowd with a proud posture, suggesting he knew full well what he had accomplished. Crandell certainly did as he addressed the cheering audience. “You don’t do this without a lot of support,” he said. “I’m just the tip of the iceberg.” The support stretches out to the local community as well. Coming in second was LR Bold Greyson ridden by Shannon Constanti of Auburn. Overall, 91 riders finished the ride out of nearly 200 that entered. According to Pickett, that number is reflective of a great year. “The whole event ran very smoothly,” he said. “We were able to get them in and out of the checkpoints, avoiding delays and back-ups.” Smooth or not, this year’s ride was something to cherish for Ford and his family. “This is a once in a lifetime experience,” he said. “It has changed my families’ life.”