Monday, August 03, 2009

Tevis 2009: We're Going Home, K-Zar! Southern Horse Wins

photo:Sarah Engsberg and K-Zar take their victory lap celebrating their 2009 Tevis win.

K-Zar Emanuel, 15-year-old gray Arabian gelding won the 2009 Tevis Cup, crossing the finishing line at 10:20 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 1). Four miles from the finish, after crossing No Hands Bridge in the California moonlight, rider Sarah Engsberg urged her mount on with the words, "We're Going Home, K-Zar."

Engsberg, from Fairburn, Ga., arrived in California early to ride K-Zar three times over the final miles in the days preceding the event to assure he knew where "home" lay. He responded by cantering most of the final four miles to win by 11 minutes. Melissa Ribley, DVM, finished second, followed one minute later by Marcia Smith, DVM.

It was the first Tevis attempt for both Engsberg and K-Zar, although they did finish 6th in The Biltmore 100 in June 2009. The Tevis ride celebrated its 54th running this year, and many endurance riders consider Tevis to be the most demanding 100-mile horse event in the world.

Alison Bailey, K-Zar's owner, waited with a tense crowd at the finish line above the fairgrounds in Auburn, Calif. Frontrunner Jeanette Mero, DVM, Mariposa, Calif., was "pulled" only six miles from the finish line. Using cell phones and internet connections, the crowd attempted to learn the positions of their favorites.

When Engsberg and K-Zar emerged from the dark, tree-covered trail to canter across the finish line, cheers and a few shouts of surprise rippled through the crowd. With owner and crew pulling his saddle, KZar drank from the well near the trail's end. They sponged him with cool water and within minutes his pulse rate had dropped and he walked across a small wooden bridge to the official veterinary check. As Engsberg ran alongside the gelding for his presentation to judge his soundness, cheers again rose from the spectators. His obvious soundness confirmed his status as the first-place finisher.

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