I was looking over the advice to this year's Tevis Cup entrants about conditioning for the ride (which begins--and ends--today).
As if meeting a mountain lion on the trail (see previous post) wasn't enough to worry about:
When you enter, purchasing helicopter medical transport is an option. A recommended option.
Among the advice to riders is that they practice riding at night, since the ride basically begins in the dark and many stragglers are still on the trail after the darkness falls that night.
A little known fact about the Tevis Cup is that it is scheduled each year to coincide with the "riding moon" in mid-summer. Organizers warn, however, that moonlight can't penetrate the forest canopy and much of the ride is through thick forest.
They contend that the darkness won't be an issue for the horses, but it is often an issue for the riders, who need to practice letting their horses decide where the trail is (and where it isn't). They advise: "Your horse doesn't want to fall of a steep trail either, and he can see better than you can at night. You must allow him to determine the direction to go or run the risk of steering him over a cliff, with possibly deadly consequences."
My favorite tip is to tape glow-bars onto the horse's breastplate (you need a breastplate to keep the saddle from slipping when you do some of the steep verticals on the trail). I've never tried this trick but "they" say that it will shed enough light for you to see the trail.
Another tip? Extra long reins so if you are "tailing" your horse up a canyon (dismounting and hanging onto the tail as the horse climbs), you can still control the horse.
Little known fact: the trail can be so dusty (if you're not in the lead) that many riders wear goggles and masks.
Visit http://www.foothill.net/tevis/ to learn about this uniquely American endurance test. The site has interactive maps to follow the progress of riders.
And then take your own horse out on the trail. Pretend it's pitch dark out and there's a mountain lion on the trail ahead of you...