Hey Green Beans and western states riders! Do I have the perfect activity for you!! Have you ever heard of Sweep Riders of the Sierra? You have? Well, why haven’t you signed up already? Just kidding! I am going to assume most people haven’t heard of us unless you are a local to the greater Auburn, CA area or you are associated with Tevis. Tevis?? Did I just get your attention? The pinnacle of endurance and we get to be a part of it… and you can too. We are a non- profit group of approximately 40 members that was founded after the disbanding of TevSweep in the early 90’s. Sweep Riders of the Sierra (SOS) is the only ham radio based equestrian group in the WORLD. Yep, that’s WORLD. Cool, huh? Even cooler is that you don’t have to be a radio operator to join us. But if you want to get your radio license we will help you and we have radio equipment to checkout so it isn’t a financial burden to get started. We also provide communication and trail support for the Western States 100 run held the last Saturday in June and Gold Country endurance ride usually around early July.
The Western States trail is one long straight line (ok, a few twists and turns… and canyons, rivers etc) from start to finish. Since it isn’t set up as a series loops it makes things a tad more difficult. We break the one hundred miles in to approximately ten sections. The shortest section is four miles and the longest is twenty three miles with the average being about ten. Each section is assigned a team consisting two to four riders- always with a team leader and a radio operator. The radio op wears a helmet that has been outfitted with an antenna on the top and we carry our small radios in a chest pack. Newbies are always paired with our seasoned riders. Each team pre rides the section they are riding so they can get an idea of what they are going to face and to work themselves into a cohesive team ahead of time. The team will arrive at their assigned staging area at least one hour early from cut off. The team leader will check in with the Head Volunteer and the radio op will establish contact with Net Control. Once the last rider (or runner if the WS100) has left , we will be given the numbers of the last few riders and will be sent down the trail. Radio contact will be established every 15 minutes so that Net Control will know our current location. If we end up with an emergency or simply a tired rider, this will be called into Net Control. NC will make a decision as to what to do and we will follow through with their instructions. Sometimes it is more feasible to pony a horse out or to give a lift to a rider/runner on one of our mounts. However if it is more serious, Net Control will alert the Rider Director to send out additional help. It is such a neat feeling to be able to help others complete their goal . Ok, it also feels pretty cool to cross the river in the dark with the full moon above you , or to go over Cougar Rock, but nothing really compares to watching the last rider come over the finish line in time with a huge smile on their face.
So, now I am pretty sure you want to know what you need to do to join us. First checkout our website, SweepRiders.org. It will give you our calendar and a more detailed information about SOS, trail sections and suggested equipment to pack. You need to be over 18, have access to a trailer, your equine ( I say equine because mules are fine) needs to be over five and a mare or gelding (sorry, no stud muffins) very well behaved and fit, and complete the qualification ride. At the qualification, your horse needs to stand patiently tied, load into various trailers, mount and dismount from both sides, and travel pleasantly in a group at different speeds. You will be introduced to tailing and ponying but neither is a requirement to pass. Wear a helmet, safe foot ware, and appropriate tack. Once you are a member then you will be asked to get yourself a reflective vest. We will have several meetings, night rides, and radio play days in the spring and summer. The radio play days are open to everybody that wants to ride with us and get feel for what we do with mock scenarios. Our year is ended with a tri tip barbeque. What more could you ask for? Fun, food and great folks. But there is more. Our members can volunteer to mark the trail, pull ribbons, and work Net Control. I will personally do my assigned section and will also do a shift in NC because is interesting to see how Tevis works from another perspective.
I have been a member of SOS for nine years now- six years on the board, five years as president – and it is just the most wonderful group I have ever been involved with. We have about fifty members including several non -riding radio people. Each is a valued member to the big team. The experience they all bring is there for the sharing. Several of our members wear Tevis buckles proudly. I always find it amazing how so many things come full circle in the SOS world. A new member last year rode on my team. Her mare is in her late teens and had several Tevis finishes including a top ten finish for Ann Hall . In her winding down years she is now sweeping. On the other hand, one of our members rescued a big ,tall arab and turned him into a stellar sweep horse. She rode SOS for years but got inspired to try it Tevis herself. She and this rescue horse got their buckle. I feel so honored to be a part of the endurance community, the Tevis and especially , Sweep Riders of the Sierra. We would love to share what we do with you.
Note from Endurance Granny: Oh...how I wish I lived out west! I would so absolutely love to be involved in something like this now that the door has seemed to close on me concerning endurance riding. I miss my sport. Even though I only got to compete a little, it was such a defining part of me. That and especially Green Bean ♥ If you get your chance to be a part of this crazy sport in any way, grab it while you can! If you are interested in becoming a sweep rider, contact Misty Tracey on Facebook. If you are interested in the Green Bean Endurance Challenge, click the link and jump onto the Facebook page for the group. Teams are still forming, and this is now a sanctioned activity with AERC. Green Bean is for new aspiring endurance riders with less than 1000 AERC miles, team building, social connections, and support as you navigate through LD to Endurance, and beyond.