Fett reaches 12,000 mile milestone
By Barbie Porter
Teresa Fett knows what to expect when on a 100-mile race in Wyoming. The terrain will be rugged, the schedule grueling and her horse, Aaz, will be a steady partner. This year, the Frazee resident added another element to the race with an additional rider to race her other horse, Ice. Both of Fett’s horses are 15-years-old, but love the long distance challenge, and being by one another.
Fett noted 100-mile rides for novices are challenging. The terrain and temperatures can shift the can-do attitude to wanting to wave a white flag.
“When you get into the mountains and spend 24-hours there, you realize you are not as tough as you thought you were,” she said.
The two riders began at the same time in the high desert with the temperatures hovering around 90 degrees and the altitude about 4,000 feet. After about 10 miles they began ascending up a mountain for about 50 miles, until they reached 7,500 feet.
“Once you’re all the way up, you’re about 9,800 feet,” she said. “This is one of the few rides in the U.S. where you start at one point and never come back to the starting point until you go back to base camp after the race. Most 100-miles races you make the same loops.”
Fett and her protégé kept a similar pace for the early part of the race. But as the day wore into afternoon and fell towards night, Fett was told to go ahead.
“Ice had other plans though,” Fett said. “Ice wasn’t leaving Aaz; staying back wasn’t an option. And in the mountains you don’t turn around and go home.”
Adding to the stress for the rider was the fact Ice was playing catch up as they were descending the mountain at night, in the rain.
“It was pitch dark,” Fett recalled. “Adding that, she couldn’t take her hands off the reins the last 12 miles despite being thirsty. He was getting down the mountain to where his friend was.”
Eventually, the clouds parted and the moon appeared, allowing the riders to have visuals of the ground for the last hour of their ride. While the race was not likely a highlight of the year for the rookie rider, Fett said it is a common uncomfortable experience riders have until they grow accustomed to riding on a horse for between 16 and 23 hours.
“We get breaks, but they are one hour, and at most, 2 1/2 hours after riding 25 miles,” Fett said. “It is mandatory to take an hour, but riders can take longer if they want.”
The horses are also under the care of veterinarians, and their owners ensure they get proper feed and hydration.
Fett said if the ride itself wasn’t grueling enough, most would agree the weather adds complications. For those that compete often, the changing temperatures are something one prepares for physically and mentally. For example, at the nationals event in Montana, her rookie rode a 50-mile race when the high temp of the day was 75 degrees and there was cooling wind.
Fett went the distance with 100-miles at nationals. Her race was the day following the 50-mile event and the temperatures sky-rocketed to the upper 90s. It was all sun and no breeze.
“That one started out with 44 racers and only 13 finished,” she said. “I was pulled out at mile 87.”
She explained they have strict guidelines that if the horse is showing any stiffness in the hindquarters the race is over.
Typically, her horses have a minimum of four weeks to recover before the next long-distance race. So, four weeks after nationals, Fett and her fellow rider entered the Wyoming race that proved a formidable opponent for her rookie rider.
Fett is nearing 65 years of age, but as long as her body allows and as long as her trusty steed continues to enjoy the long race, they will continue to compete.
“I would like Aaz to get 10 100-mile rides in (during a season),” she said. “If we get one more ride in this summer I will make my 10.”
She said the next ride is slated for September.
Overall, Fett said she reached the 12,000 competition mile mark this year. She’s been riding in 100-mile events for about 34 years, and noted the help of her pit crew, her husband, Dale Fett, has been instrumental in her achieving such an esteemed goal.