Sunday, Apr. 21, 2024

King Ali Gold Rules At Fort Howes

Valerie Kanavy’s speed demon gets the job done in Montana.

Valerie Kanavy didn’t have much choice about winning the Fort Howes 100-mile ride.

She and King Ali Gold crossed the finish line at the Fort Howes, Mont., ride on June 8 more than an hour ahead of the rest of the field.

“I knew when I passed everybody in the first loop this was going to be a long day,” said Kanavy. “It was fun to win and win by a nice margin, but it’s not much fun to ride 85 miles by yourself.”
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Valerie Kanavy’s speed demon gets the job done in Montana.

Valerie Kanavy didn’t have much choice about winning the Fort Howes 100-mile ride.

She and King Ali Gold crossed the finish line at the Fort Howes, Mont., ride on June 8 more than an hour ahead of the rest of the field.

“I knew when I passed everybody in the first loop this was going to be a long day,” said Kanavy. “It was fun to win and win by a nice margin, but it’s not much fun to ride 85 miles by yourself.”

Notoriously difficult to rate, King Ali Gold has been known to be less than controllable at the start of a ride, or even beyond. “His breeder, J.D. Fountain, took him to the racetrack, and when you get on him, he dead-out runs,” Kanavy explained.

“He ran away with me at the [Carolina 100-mile ride (S.C.) in November 2007]. I finally got him into a field and circling. When I got back at 25 miles my hands were bloody, and I was wearing gloves!”

In his next 100-mile attempt, the 12-year-old gray Arabian gelding added to his reputation. At the New Years In New Mexico ride in December 2007, he did the first loop so fast that Kanavy didn’t recognize the turn back into camp and did the entire loop twice, putting the pair miles behind the entire field. Amazingly, the pair made up the lost ground and won the ride.

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Despite her horse’s unruly reputation while mounted, Kanavy had nothing but praise once she dismounts.

“I gallop into every vet check, step off of him and he’s totally calm. He travels well, eats well and is a professional in the vet check.”

At 15 hands, he is the smallest horse in her barn but her first choice of four nominated horses to take to the World Endurance Championship in Malaysia on Nov. 6.

“He really wants to win, and so do I. I just want to do it my way and he wants to do it his,” Kanavy explained. “I’ve been trying to convince him my way is the better way. Malaysia will be perfect for him. The entire race will be run in the dark, so he won’t be able to see other horses.”

A large number of endurance riders hoping to represent the United States converged on the Fort Howes ride in hopes of meeting their FEI Certificate of Capability requirements for the World Endurance Championship.

Next to finish after Kanavy, Suzanne Hayes didn’t appear at all stressed by the high-profile competition. She even took the opportunity to mentor first-time 100-mile competitor Lynda Brown.

Though also nominated for the World Endurance Championship, Hayes’ mount—Tezero’s Gold—had already met his Certificate of Capability requirements. “I didn’t intend to win the ride,” explained Hayes. “I went to do it in 11 or 12 hours. We did it in 11:05.”

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Hayes, of Ovando, Mont., is well known in the sport. With 17,705 American Endurance Ride Conference miles and 72 100-mile completions to her name, she and her great horse, Kootenai Zizzero, were a dominant force at rides in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Now riding a half-brother to “Kooter,” she is continuing her winning ways.

Tezero’s Gold, a 3⁄4 Arab, 1⁄4 Quarter Horse, stands out in a field of gray Arabs with his distinctive palomino coloring. “Quincy” has an impressive 10-for-12 record on 100-mile attempts and was on the U.S. team at the World Endurance Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2004.

“He’s 13 and I’ve had him since he was a yearling,” said Hayes. “He’s intent, professional and loves to go down the trail. He has good recoveries; consistency is his strength. I started a little slower and crept up. In the middle of the ride I was probably in 10th place.”

Finishing with Hayes and placing third was Brown, an experienced 50-mile competitor attempting her first 100-mile ride on her mare, Clever Tryxz. “I had ridden with Lynda and her mare on 50s, and I knew they could do it,” Hayes said. “I’m always trying to help new people because I’m really positive, and we need more 100-mile riders.”

Also on hand at the event was the U.S. team’s chef d’equipe, Becky Hart, herself a three-time World Champion. “My primary role was to observe riders, coach them as needed and to give them at least one task to perform during a loop of the ride,” Hart said. “The goal was to finish horses in the CoC time of 13 hours and 20 minutes. In talking with riders, I am finding that many are embracing the team concept. Without exception they have said, ‘We want the U.S. to get back to winning medals, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal.’ ”

Angie McGhee

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