At 5:15 a.m. Natalie Law and her 13-year-old daughter, Kyla Law, depart Robie Park east of Squaw Valley, California, mounted on their horses, Brave and Flash. In the next 24 hours, they’ll attempt to complete a 100-mile ride to Auburn.
The rocky terrain that traverses the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains is difficult, with drastic elevation gain and loss. Brave and Flash will climb a total 14,800 feet and drop 20,000 feet. Temperatures will top 100 degrees.
Only about 50% of the approximate 130 riders in this year’s race will finish the Western States Trail Foundation Tevis Cup 100-Mile One-Day Trail Ride, recognized as one of the world’s best tests of endurance and horsemanship.
After conquering High Camp, Devil’s Thumb, Chicken Hawk and beyond, the mother-daughter duo arrives at the Auburn Fairgrounds at 4:33 a.m. the next day — 42 minutes to spare within the 24-hour time limit.
“After every vet check, after every climb, we thanked our Heavenly Father, and we asked Him to help us to the next spot. … I feel like we were able to accomplish this because of Him,” said Natalie Law, a member of the Leeds 2nd Ward, Washington Utah East Stake.
As part of Kyla’s participation in the Children and Youth program, “we set a goal to go to Tevis,” Natalie Law told the Church News. “When the time started getting close, she started getting anxiety and getting nervous and getting stressed and wanted to not do it. … I didn’t let her quit.”
Kyla added, “I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Finishing the strenuous race was a lesson for both of them about relying on each other and the Lord.
Kyla said the hardest part of the race was riding in the dark, exhausted. Fear crept in. But talking with her mom helped her forget her fears.
“We had a lot of time together and so we got to talk about a lot of stuff and grow closer together,” she said.
Natalie Law said of her daughter, “She’s always been tough.”
Kyla’s testimony of prayer also deepened during the 100-mile race. “I was having trouble praying a lot … and during the ride, I prayed almost every hour to help get the horses through and get me and my mom through. And I just felt better after the ride,” Kyla said.
For Natalie, the biggest challenge was getting enough calories and staying fueled — not an easy thing to do while on horseback for hours on end. She and Kyla slept for a total of eight minutes during those 24 hours.
Brave, an American Saddlebred, and Flash, a Hackney pony, were well trained for the rugged journey and performed well. “[Brave] was the tallest horse in the race and Flash was the shortest horse, so it was a very unlikely pair,” Natalie Law said.
Training a horse for a 100-mile race is like training a runner for an ultra-marathon, she explained. “You train in the mountains. You train by trail riding.”
The bucket-list experience of training for and finishing Tevis together is one that both Natalie and Kyla said they’ll remember for years to come because of how it strengthened their relationship.
“Training itself, we spend a lot of one-on-one time,” Natalie Law said. “We climb up to the highest mountains and we’re able to look out and see God’s creations. We’re able to talk about the spiritual things in life. …
“I think people forget to take that one-on-one time with their children and dig deeper into it and find out what they’re struggling with and how they are emotionally and spiritually.”
Inspired by the impact Tevis had on Kyla, Natalie Law said she is looking forward to spending more one-on-one time with her other three children, doing things they enjoy. Next up is a daughter who loves to fish. “I’m going to go out and get her a fishing boat and we’re going to do some fishing,” she said.