Veronica B. Spadafore

Veronica B. Spadafore on Fly Away Joe and partner, Rachel Grimm at the finish line. Photo by Annie Betts.

It was the day of the Ride and Tie Championships in Humboldt County. Although not as popular as any mega racing event like the Melbourne Cup 2020, the Ride and Tie Championships has its own charm with countless people and its devoted fans. I woke up to the sound of hoof beats on the road outside my tent. I was worried I had slept too late, but the clock only read 5:45 a.m. The night before, there had been lots of wind and some rain. Between my waking up from the noise of the storm and dreaming the tent was going to blow away, I hadn’t gotten much sleep. I admired the early risers who braved the cold to get their horses out before everyone else. Then I felt guilty that I was still in my tent, and I quickly got dressed and stepped out into the overcast morning.

Hurriedly I grabbed some breakfast, but could not eat much because I was feeling anxious about the race. As race time got closer, the campsite was beginning to bustle. I recognized the voices of a select group of women, all loudly calling suggestions to each other from different horse corrals. I soon realized that my hopes to get ready in a low stress environment were dashed. Horses were calling to each other, people were calling to each other, and some riders were already on their horses trotting around the circular road. The added noise of truck engines starting, pots and pans clashing, kids running, and dogs barking really raised my stress level.

I remembered a drama teacher who took stress pills before a performance and wondered if I needed a few. Susan came running over to me. “Are you ready? Get ready!” After that, I decided I needed to find some of those pills.

I rode Fly Away Joe to the start line, and my partner Rachel walked next to me. Finally, the horses were lined up in the field, and the runners were on the road.

“Ride and Tie-ers, get ready, get set, GO!” the announcer shouted. We were off into the drizzly, redwood forest.

Joe Cortez was our hand tie and our main crew person. I swung off Fly Away Joe, tossed Joe Cortez the reins, and was on my first run of the race.

A Ride and Tie friend once told me that she feels like a crazy person for about the first two miles of every Ride and Tie. When I started running, I knew exactly what she was talking about. “Who in their right mind would do this for fun?” I thought. Low and behold, after the second mile, I was wondering who in their right mind would not do something like this for fun.

On the trail, chaos seemed to pass us by, but some of the others were not so lucky. It was only the fourth mile when someone had passed their tied horse and had to go back. After the long and short course split, I was catching up to my runner when I saw people coming my way. Some long course teams had been blazing the short course trail by mistake. I made a mental note to pay extra attention to my trail. When I got to the meadow overlooking the valley full of redwoods, I wanted to stop and take in the scenery; too bad I was in a race!

Fly Away Joe passed the vet check thanks to his great endurance capacity. It was a relief to have our wonderful crew help with the horse for a few minutes. The last part of the race was all downhill, and at one time, I could not catch Rachel for quite a while, who was running faster than we were riding. Finally, Rachel and I were almost finished.

Rachel and I crossed the finish line to complete the short course in a little more than three hours. For our second Ride and Tie, we were quite proud to finish in fourth place.

There was really only one thing that we should have done differently. Unfortunately for her, Rachel had been on foot through all the stream crossings. I felt bad that I had happened to be riding every time we came to a stream. I promised her that it was not premeditated.

I am so happy that Susan Smyth introduced me to Ride and Tie, and I am thankful to have Rachel as a partner. We have been having so much fun with this sport and hope to compete in many more in the future. I have met new friends and even a family member of a very special person who mentored me during my childhood.

Ride and Tie is new to me, but it already seems very familiar.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ride and Tie Association.

39th Annual World Championship

This year’s Ride & Tie World Championship was held on June 20, 2009 in California’s Redwoods at Humboldt State Park. It was the 39th year for the Championship. The race had two course lengths teams could choose to compete in. The long course was 35 miles, and the short course was 19 miles.

Winners of the 35-mile course were Michelle Andreotti and her sister Susanne (Andreotti) Rowland, who crossed the finish line with their horse Maury (aka Over a Mile) with a time of 3:57. Following just three minutes behind the winners was the Man/Woman team of Jim and Sara Howard on horse Magic Sirocco.

Winners of the 19-mile course were Carrie Barret and David Tarpinian on horse River. Coming in second place were Dave Andreotti and Jon Root on Laramie.

What is Ride & Tie?

Started in 1971 as a sports promotion by Levi Strauss, Ride & Tie is a combination of trail running and endurance riding. Teams of three–two humans and one horse–compete on a cross-country course. The humans take turns riding the horse and running. When the rider is ready to run, he or she dismounts and ties the horse along the trail. The runner comes upon the horse along the trail. The runner comes upon the horse, mounts, and takes off riding up the trail. The humans continue making these exchanges over the course. The first team of three across the finish line wins. All ages and abilities compete. For information, visit