Would you jump at the chance to ride the Tevis 100-mile trail in California, with the previous year’s winner as your mount?
8 August 2015, California ~ At age 22, Dace Sainsbury already has her head and heart into the equestrian world. Her skill and talent riding endurance in the UAE drew the attention of Hillorie Bachmann, owner of the 2014 Tevis Cup winner, French Open (Hadeia). With an invitation to come ride by Hillorie, Sainsbury set her sights on the 2015 Tevis Cup 100-mile endurance trail in California.
“I first met Hillorie Bachmann whilst racing in Abu Dhabi for Emaar stables. I had been with this stables for only half of the season in the UAE so was really getting to know the people, horses and the track. Emaar looked after me so well in the races and I put a lot of trust in the trainers, grooms and the horses, which was invaluable for a newcomer. Hillorie gave me sound advice and supported me throughout the races, and our friendship soon grew to outside the endurance scene. I had never met such a strong, smart and still beautiful woman and I admired her in every aspect. She is my role model.
Hillorie and I had talked about me coming to the USA, but work and my own endurance commitments made it difficult. Early in 2015 however, Hillorie sent me an entry form via the web with my name and French Open as an entry for the Tevis Cup. This was 2014’s winning horse and this was the world renowned Tevis Cup challenge. I was going to make sure that I would be there.
I am extremely fortunate that my father works for Emirates Aviation so we have access to their wonderful staff travel scheme. My journey began from the UK on the 21st August from London to Dubai where I met my Mother. We continued onward together on the 23rd to San Francisco. What a beautiful place to be.
I had to take a moment to consider how lucky I was, a twenty two year old who decided to take a giant risk to focus on an endurance career and reach for my dreams. I work at home in the UK for six months of the year with my own horses and also that of a few clients. During the winter months I live and work in Dubai in endurance.
From the age of six I lived and breathed horses. I started off on ponies doing the usual Pony Club and Eventing and had a go at showing. My father bought me my first Arabian when I was eleven years old and she is my main reason for entering the endurance scene in the UK. Ballota took me up to 4* level, where we represented Great Britain twice and were invited to the Presidents Cup in Abu Dhabi where we completed the 160km *** course. This mare is now retired and is enjoying life as a broodmare. Just this year she gave us a beautiful colt from the Arabian race horse, Madjani, owned by Shadwell, and we hope for great things in the future.
French Open (Hadeia) is one of the most intelligent, accomplished horses I have ever had the pleasure to ride. I beamed from ear to ear for the duration of our first training ride and this soon became a habit whenever I was in the vicinity of this amazing horse. At fifteen years old, he has a fair amount of miles on his legs, in actual fact he had 89 starts on the flat track when Hillorie acquired him at age nine. Since then he has certainly made a name for himself on the endurance circuit. He is somewhat of a celebrity as I was soon to realize when we got to the Tevis venue and people were flocking to take photographs. He deserves every ounce of that status as throughout the ride he gave me an education I would never forget.
Although we have tough terrain in England, it is simple molehills compared to the trail at the Tevis Cup. It is no wonder it has become notorious for the most challenging ride in the world. The terrain was nothing I had ever experienced before, but I couldn’t have asked for a better horse to carry me through. He just knew his job. I let him decide his own tactics, he walked when he needed to walk, trotted when it was safe to do so, and cantered when he could see a nice stretch. Not once throughout that ride did I feel unsafe or be concerned about the sheer cliff edges. I was determined not to look at these as we flew round what I can describe as goat tracks. We had no intention of going to win the race, it was my first time ever riding in America, first ever race on Hadeia, and all I wanted was to cross that finish line with a horse still fresh.
That being said, we reached the thirty-six mile mark, unbeknown to me, in first position. This was the first time I had met the majority of our crew. Never have I come across such a friendly, positive and quite simply incredible set of people. Not only the crew but all the officials and volunteers were so willing to be of help.
After sailing through the first vet check, we left in first position and Hadeia kept on doing his thing. It wasn’t long before Potato (Richardson) caught me up and we just had the most wonderful time trotting along and having a chat about his life, his Tevis experiences and his horses. By the time we came to Foresthill (seventy mile mark) we were running in second place, around 25 minutes behind Potato. There were a cluster of riders that left that vet gate and we let a lot run on as Hadeia is all too happy to trot and in no way was I going to start pushing him beyond his comfortable gait. He knew the job and it would be stupid of me to start tutoring my teacher when he had done this trail three times before and I was merely his riding companion.
A muscle cramp at 96 miles put an end to their race
Passing the second from last Gate and Go, we were so near the finish and Hadeia felt as fresh as he did when we set off at 5:15 am that morning. Effortlessly he cruised into the final Gate and Go just six miles from the finish. We had passed Potato whilst crossing the river (belly deep and refreshingly cool). This meant we were lying in first position with a strong horse. I had to pinch myself as his HR fell to below 64 within a matter of seconds. However endurance is what it is and as I came back from our trot out the chief vet told me that he was in fact slightly lame behind. A slight muscle cramp or a pull. I think this is the first time in the whole duration of the ride that I wasn’t smiling. Yet as a long-time endurance rider we learn to deal with disappointment, and all I could do was giggle as Hadeia dragged me over to his tack expecting to be going back out and finish. What a horse!
Despite this I still say that the ride was the most wonderful experience of my life. I certainly got over my fear of heights pretty swiftly. I am so impressed with how well it was organized, and the professionalism of all riders and officials, yet everyone still managed to have fun. It makes for a refreshing atmosphere when absolutely everybody – vets, competitors, volunteers – are all working with you to achieve your goal whilst still maintaining the highest level of welfare for those horses. I would definitely jump at the opportunity to do it again.
Now to the future for me. My main objective now is to focus on finding and preparing a horse for the 2018 Montreal WEG and represent once more for Great Britain. In the meantime I will be continuing to fly between the UK, Dubai and USA and reach with both arms outstretched for absolutely every opportunity that comes my way. We only get this one shot at life and right now I am enjoying every moment from the best seat in the world. From a horse!”
Hillorie Bachmann races and trains race and endurance horse at her ranch, Les Pintades, in Northern California.
“I met Dace two years ago on an endurance course in Abu Dhabi. As we pulled up next to her my first thought was, ‘That is one talented young rider. She rides tight and clean and has a natural ability to read her horses which she combines with her unflappable nature under pressure.’”
“She is a true talent and I wanted her to get a chance to ride at the top and continue to do so. I paid her entry and expenses in the US, and her father works for Emirates so she gets great tickets, and it worked out perfectly.”
Bachmann also arranged and helped to sponsor the Dreaming of Tevis Essay Contest, which gave the opportunity for another young rider to come to the US to ride the Tevis Trail. The winner of the 2015 Essay was Chantelle du Plessis and she was slated to ride Quick Sands, another horse owned by Bachmann. Unfortunately, Quick Sands was not able to start the ride and she crewed for Dace, however Chantelle will be invited to come back for the 2016 ride.
Bachmann is deeply committed to the encouragement and the development of cross – organizational country programs to provide more opportunities for young and international riders to experience the sport around the world.
Bachmann: “Was it a success? In every sense of the word! Seeing those two talented young women enjoying their passion and experiencing something like Tevis is what it is all about. I will certainly continue to host young/ international riders in the future; 2016 is already on the books.”