Plumas County, Calif., July 2, 2008 -- Sara Howard of Applegate, Calif., became the youngest person ever to win the Ride & Tie World Championship June 21. She also enters the ranks of women who have won the overall event: There are only three female winners in the 38-year history of the sport. She and her partner rode their horse, Magic Sirocco, to his fourth Ride & Tie World Championship Best Condition award.
The sport of Ride & Tie combines trail running, endurance riding and strategy. The goal is to get all three team members--two humans and one horse--across a 20 to 100 mile cross-country course by alternating riding and running. Everyone starts out together. The rider, being faster, rides ahead and ties the horse to a tree and then continues down the trail on foot. The team member who started out on foot gets to the horse, unties, mounts up and rides past the runner, ties the horse... and this leapfrog continues the entire course. When, where and how a team exchanges riding for running is almost entirely up to each team to develop their own strategy.
Howard, who runs high school cross country and track and competes in endurance riding, teamed with her father Jim Howard for this, her first Ride & Tie World Championship effort. Howard declined her prize money in order to maintain her amateur running status. At 53 years of age Jim Howard is a well known Masters ultrarunner and now a 10-time Ride & Tie world champion.
"Sara has been conditioning the horse for me for the past three years. She wanted to do the championship, which is all fine and exciting, but nerve-wracking for me as a parent. It is a risky sport," Jim said. Jim's concerns finally eased when the start of the race went smoothly. "Our strategy worked. We put Sara out in the front of the team, where there would be less potential commotion with other teams. I still wasn't sure we were doing the right thing," he said.
"My daddy ran a lot of it for me," reports Sara Howard. Their best estimate is that Sara ran a total of 14 miles during the race: more than a normal workout, but certainly within the scope of her training.
Prior to this year's event, the record for the youngest win was held by a young man who won the original Levi's Ride & Tie in 1971 at the age of 17.
Best Condition is awarded by the veterinarian staff to the horse that performs at the top level of the event and still shows as most "fit to continue." While Sara thought it was "kind of a surprise" to have Magic Sirocco win the honors, she admitted that it was nice, after all the conditioning and training she put in to get him ready for the race.
"We took really good care of the horse. He had so much energy toward the end, he was still spooking," Jim said. "It's always chancy though. There is a gauntlet of rocks [on the course]."
Twin sisters Uta Konig and Miriam Schmidt of Germany accepted a free entry offered to the international team by the Ride & Tie Association, and they represented the world in "World Championship." Both sisters are athletes, riders since age seven, and competitors in the sport of Ride & Tie in Germany for the past 15 years.
Returning to the location of the 2007 Ride & Tie World Championship, the 39th annual event will take place June 20, 2009, at Cuneo Creek Horse Camp, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, adjacent to the Avenue of the Giants in California. The 2009 race will be on a revised course and is open to all comers. Again for 2009 the association will include a complimentary invitation to international teams.