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Haggin Cup for runner-up

TEVIS CUP: Ribley’s horse LD Monique helps her win prize more coveted than that awarded to winner of endurance ride
By: Ray Hacke, Journal Sports Writer
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It wouldn’t be fair, or even accurate, to call the Haggin Cup a consolation prize. Dr. Melissa Ribley rode her horse, LD Monique, to a second-place finish in Saturday’s Tevis Cup endurance ride, finishing 11 minutes behind winner Sarah Engsberg and a minute ahead of third-place finisher Marcia Smith. At Sunday’s post-race awards ceremony at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, however, Ribley was awarded the Haggin Cup, given to “the rider whose horse is in the ‘most superior physical condition’ of the first ten horses to cross the finish line,” according to the Tevis Cup Web site. Suddenly, second place felt like first to Ribley. “It’s one of the most coveted awards, most honored awards for the entire ride,” the Auburn veterinarian said of the Haggin Cup. “It shows you have good horsemanship and a very athletic equine. It’s probably equal to winning the Tevis Cup.” The endurance ride’s Cup Committee selects the Haggin Cup winner on the recommendation of the race’s Veterinarians Committee. LD Monique was the unanimous pick of the Veterans Committee, according to Cup Committee chairman Chuck Mather. “A horse that wins the Haggin Cup is one that if you had to go out and ride somewhere, especially in a hurry, looks like the best one to get you where you had to go — even after having gone 100 miles,” Cup Committee member Roxanne Greene said. “(The horse) looks like it can keep going and keep going at a great pace, which is why it’s so coveted by riders.” LD Monique is a 13-year-old, chocolate-brown Arabian mare whose muscles are so well-defined that if she were human, she might be referred to as “ripped.” She even has veins popping out of her neck. Ribley credited her husband, Robert, for handling much of the horse’s conditioning and preparing her for the rigors of endurance riding during the six years leading up to Saturday’s race. “She used to be what I would call ‘spooky’ — a very nervous horse,” Ribley said. “She’s now a very brave, solid horse.” LD Monique’s lack of jitters proved especially valuable to Ribley in the last part of Saturday's race. “In the last four miles we were galloping down a very dark, treacherous trail, and she was very forward and brave,” Ribley said. “She handled a challenging course.” The Haggin Cup — which LD Monique drank out of, just as an Indianapolis 500 winner takes a celebratory chug of milk — was also awarded to Ribley because of the horsemanship and sportsmanship she displayed during the course of Saturday’s ride. According to Mather, 12 Cup Committee members were stationed along the trail to observe whether riders were adhering to the rules as well as how the riders handled themselves and their animals during the race. “(Ribley’s) horse came in looking the best of all,” Mather said. “Appropriate pacing, hydration, an electrolyte program, and she had no problems with any injuries.” “Melissa’s a very seasoned and experienced endurance rider,” Greene said. “It helps that she’s a veterinarian because she knows a greater range of parameters (of a horse’s abilities) than a layperson would. But she has years of excellent horsemanship behind her.” Ribley was one of just three riders to finish before 11 p.m. Saturday and one of five to finish before midnight. Placing fourth and fifth, respectively, were Bronwyn Swan and Kathie Perry, who each came in at 11:41 p.m. Only two male riders finished in the top 10. Christopher Baker of the United Kingdom came in seventh, crossing the finish line just behind Tennessee Mahoney at 12:58 a.m. Sunday. Mark Engemann rode to a 10th-place finish behind Megan Doyle (eighth) and Jennifer Nice (ninth). Ray Hacke can be reached at rayh@goldcountrymedia.com.