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Two Enduring Spirits is the story of a young girl named Kyla and her wild pony Flash. Both overcame insurmountable personal odds and together entered the history books of the World Famous Tevis Cup. The Tevis Cup is one of the hardest races on the planet, covering 100 miles of brutal mountain terrain that must be crossed on horseback in no more than 24 hours. Flash is the smallest horse to ever do so. Kyla and Flash's journey is one of incredible endurance and inspiring faith.
It was dark now, and the trail was pitch black ahead of them. This was the part that thirteen-year-old Kyla Law had dreaded the most. She hadn’t been worried about the one-hundred-miles of historic trail she was taking on that day, or even the overbearing heat of the infamous canyons. She had already battled through smoke-filled pockets of thick air created by raging wildfires in the distance; a diluted smokey mist that crept into her and her pony’s lungs making it difficult to breathe at times. And she had survived the dreaded five am start where one hundred and thirty-three of the fittest horses in the United States had anxiously waited to begin the toughest endurance ride in the world - their hooves beating restlessly and repeatedly against the earth in anticipation of the adventure ahead. They were now seventy miles into the ride with no daylight left to burn, and for Kyla Law, riding the smallest equine to ever compete in the famous Western States One-Hundred-Mile-One-Day Ride, it was the darkness that threatened to derail her and Flash’s effort to conquer the trail.
Up ahead, her mother Natalie, riding a 16’3 hand saddlebred named Brave, turned around and squinted into the darkness, trying to make out the shape of her daughter and the tiny pony she sat astride.
“Are you okay, Kyla?” she called out.
“I think so” came the tentative reply.
Gone was the laughing, joking young girl from earlier in the day; the one who had been happily munching on Nabisco Goldfish crackers as she’d expertly maneuvered her pony along a trail that weaved and zigzagged amongst the pine forests, eventually dropping into the deepest of canyons, the heat engulfing them the further down they went. Instead, Kyla hung tightly onto the front of the pony’s saddle for dear life, unable to see where he was stepping or how close he was to the edge of a trail that cut into the sides of the cliff, and which seemed to be pulling her constantly toward the edge like a magnet.
Natalie knew of her daughters’ fears. They had talked about it before the ride, and Natalie reminded her again of what they had discussed.
“Flash can see the trail better than you can, Kyla!” she called back. “Trust him! Relax! Let him do his job. You know that he won’t let you down. You need to have Faith. You can do this!”
Faith. The word seeped into Kyla’s brain and took hold. She had been raised in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and her faith was central to everything she did. She had prayed the night before that she and Flash would finish this race, and she had prayed at various points along the way, also remembering to be thankful for the extraordinary experience she and her pony, along with her mother and Brave, had been able to enjoy that day. Now it was time to let go of her fear and put her faith in the God she knew so well, and in this amazing creature that He had brought into her life. Faith, and the comfort and familiarity of prayer could help her overcome this, the greatest of her challenges.
She knew, also, that her mom was right. Flash would take care of her as they traversed this final thirty miles of the race; partly because he loved her, and partly because in his mind there was nothing he couldn’t do. He and Kyla had come through so much together already. For Flash, this was a joyride in the dark. He was a mountain goat, his tiny hooves moving confidently over the ground as if he had been born to do this.
Kyla felt herself relax. In the darkness she was even more aware of Flash’s movements beneath her. After fifteen hours in the saddle already today, and years of sitting astride this tiny bundle of attitude, Kyla knew this pony better than anyone. Flash was her best friend and after everything they had been through together, Kyla knew he would give everything he had to get them both safely to Auburn. The cutoff times at each vet check were always in the back of their minds, pushing them forward, constantly threatening their chance to finish within the twenty-four-hour time limit. Similarly, for Flash and Kyla it had been a race against time to even get to the start of Tevis as Kyla had continued to grow, her legs now hanging well below the pony’s belly.
Kyla heard the muted hoofbeats of the horses traveling ahead and behind her, and it reminded her that she was traveling on sacred ground, where many others had battled their own demons on this very trail to win that coveted silver buckle. Kyla would overcome whatever was up ahead because she didn’t take this opportunity for granted. It was a miracle that they were even here.
Natalie was leading the train of horses down the mountain trail that precariously hugged the edge of the cliff face, the American River flowing through the curves of the canyon below. Brave had found his groove. He set a steady pace, slowing down over rocks that could bruise the soles of the horses’ feet, and speeding up when the trail stretched out ahead. Natalie had found her groove also and was enjoying the feeling of gliding through the night, the full moon occasionally breaking through the trees and giving her a glimpse of where her horse was taking her. Never hurry, never tarry. The wise words of Kathie Perry from the ride meeting the day before kept repeating itself in her head. Constant forward motion, that’s what they needed to do, each stride bringing them closer to the finish line.
Natalie knew that she was blessed to be experiencing this with her daughter. Together, they were creating a feast of memories that would last a lifetime, not only because they were riding together, but because if Kyla and Flash finished, they would earn a place in Tevis Cup history with Flash being the smallest horse to ever complete the hundred-mile course. Natalie didn’t dwell on this; there were far more pressing issues at hand to get through first, and right now, her main concern was hoping that her daughter wasn’t about to panic in the darkness and jeopardize their ride. She glanced behind her again, and just then the moonlight broke through the trees, offering Natalie a moment she knew she would never forget. Kyla’s eyes shone brightly as she sat up tall in the saddle. Somehow, somewhere she had found the strength she needed to overcome her fear of the darkness, just like she had overcome everything else that day. She gave her mother a brief smile; a smile that said I’m fine. I’ve got this. Flash and I have got this together.
Natalie turned back to face the trail ahead. She knew that Kyla would have leaned on her Faith in this moment, but who would have thought, she mused, as Brave swept downward toward the Francisco’s vet check, that the scared, wild, pony that Kyla had first met four years ago would be the one to give her the courage she needed now, in this moment, to conquer the Tevis trail.
Check out this great video!
Check out this great video of Kyla and Flash at Tevis 2021!
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