June 28, 2007 -- San Diego woman Rufus Schneider, and partner Tom Johnson, repeated a feat accomplished only once before in the history of Ride & Tie. On June 16 Schneider became the second woman ever to win the Ride & Tie World Championship since the sport's inception in 1971. The 34-mile race, which combined two runners taking turns riding their team horse across a rugged, hilly course, took place in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park in northern California.
At the tail end of the race another record was set: Madison Trocha became the youngest runner to ever complete a Ride & Tie World Championship at 9 years old. Madison partnered with her horse Barbie and her father Bob Trocha to best the previous youngest record, set by a 10-year-old girl in 1983. The oldest person completing this year's championship race was 72 years of age.
Schneider said she had warned ultra-runner partner Johnson that she was cursed. In all her years racing the Ride & Tie World Championship, she had never placed higher than second in her division. Her overall win broke that streak and garnered the team $1,000 for top man/woman team and "Pat's Purse" of $1,000 because Schneider has no previous championship race wins to her name.
Johnson has won the Worlds previously, first in 1991 and most recently in 2000. As a runner, he has also won the 100-mile Western States Trail Run.
"We had a flawless race where everything clicked. The horse was amazing," said Schneider. Explaining their race strategy, Schneider said she spooked and wanted to ride their horse Koona faster in the first half when the top teams were close behind. Johnson held steady and kept her on pace, preserving the horse for later in the race.
Century in the Saddle (combined runner's age of 100 or more) went to last year's World Champions and this year's second-place team, brothers-in-law Jim Howard and Tom Gey riding Magic Sirocco. Howard made news last year winning a record ninth World Championship mere months after nearly being killed by a falling tree that put him in intensive care for a week. As the first man/man team, Howard and Gey earned $1,000.
The footing for the 2007 Ride & Tie World Championship was kind to the equestrian athletes, but the course profile wasn't easy. There were two climbs of over 1,000 feet each. In between the climbs was a drop of 2,200 feet in less than four miles. Twisting single-track trails through the giant redwood forests favored the sure-footed. At the top of the first major hill it began to rain lightly on race day, cooling human and equine athletes. Hail was reported by some. With the cool temperatures, the event was run faster than expected.
While each Championship is designed to see top teams finish in approximately four hours, this race was won in 3 hours and 11 minutes. Per tradition, and regardless of completion time, each runner whose team successfully completed the course and passed the final veterinarian check went home with a commemorative belt buckle.
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. For more information, visit www.rideandtie.org.