Veterinarian Kathy Broaddus loves to go fast — she started running in high school, but horses deliver the best locomotion. Her sporting enthusiasms include foxhunting (she whips in at Snickersville Hounds), ultra marathon, adventure racing, pairs racing, Ride & Ties, and endurance riding. In August, Broaddus tackled the 100-mile Western States Trail Ride, aka the Tevis Cup, for the first time and finished 10th in 16 hours 25 minutes on Cowbboy Bob (aka Cowboy), 8-year-old Arabian, bred and owned by Terryl Reed.
Given the Tevis is the father of all endurance rides worldwide, to complete, let alone finish in the top 10 was a huge achievement. Broaddus, however, is a very accomplished horseman, in the old-fashioned, uber-complimentary sense that implies versatility and great skills, on and off horses. She knew that the Tevis was a true test of horsemanship and that the demanding and technical trail required a solid game plan.
In lieu of riding various segments of the Tevis in advance to get a feel for the terrain, Broaddus watched videos on YouTube, but quickly gave that up as a bad idea. Much of the trail is accessible only on foot, on horseback or by helicopter.
The course starts at Robie Park near Lake Tahoe, winds over the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort where the 1960 Winter Olympics were held, and finishes at the Auburn fairgrounds. You are literally climbing up and down rugged mountains. The Tevis isn’t for the faint of heart.
The wellbeing of the horses is of paramount concern. There are two mandatory 60-minute holds for rest and veterinary evaluation and many check points staffed by volunteers, offering food and water for the horses, beverages and snacks for the riders. Of the 201 starters, only 90 finished. Some were spun at the vet checks or retired along the way.
“I studied the statistics from last year—who finished, when they got to the various checkpoints, all of it,” said Broaddus. “I wrote all the stats on my arm in permanent marker. I had the names of the checkpoints, when to do what. I took a GPS with me to figure out pacing. It was two miles off, so things didn’t go according to plan, but Cowboy was doing well.”
“Cowboy is an amazing, great horse,” continued Broaddus. “I had done two Ride & Ties with him and Lani. A friend got us connected with Terryl for a Ride & Tie. She bred Cowboy from her stallion, HR Aflame. Last year, with another rider, Cowboy finished his first Tevis in 15th place. I wasn’t going to do the Tevis this year. I wanted to crew for someone else and check it out, but Terryl insisted. She did a super job training him. Her daughter Shannon was my coach while I was in California. Lani was a great support manager. Nothing went wrong from the time I left Virginia on the plane. The Tevis was the hardest thing mentally I’ve ever done, but I had a great horse. Cowboy was phenomenal. I also have to thank Sharon White—my dressage lessons came in handy, especially on trails that were narrow with a sheer drop-off on one side.”
In the early 1980s, in Blacksburg, Va., Broaddus was studying for her vet degree at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine when Lani Newcomb, another vet student, needed help to exercise her endurance horses when she ran home to northern Virginia on the weekends to help at the family farm. Then, Newcomb asked Broaddus if she wanted to try an endurance ride and the rest, as they say, is history. Broaddus loved it.
In 1986, the two vets established their practice in Herndon, and in 2006 moved Broad Run Equine Veterinary Services, Inc. to Bluemont. Newcomb bought the Bluemont Store where their office is in the lower level. Thanks to entreaties from the local community, they re-opened the Bluemont Store. Items include fresh eggs from Newcomb’s free-range chickens, grass-finished beef raised by her brother, household necessities, homemade soup, pizza and freshly made sandwiches, sleigh bells, crafts, novelties, and much more (no alcohol, lottery tickets or cigarettes).
Being a veterinarian doesn’t mean much time left over in the day for sporting pursuits, but the Broad Run vets have it down to an art and a science. Newcomb handles the business while Broaddus tends the 18 horses at the farm.
“I hunt as often as I can and I love whipping in,” said Broaddus. “I started about four years ago with Snickersville and it’s been great. I don’t know about going back and doing the Tevis again. It was great riding among the best horses and riders in the nation, I loved how my plan worked out, and Cowboy was fantastic—it doesn’t get any better than that. There are so many things I want to try. Maybe polo, maybe driving…”
Broaddus grinned. It doesn’t take much to imagine her careering cross-country during the marathon phase, performing a well-planned but hair-raising equestrian version of Mr. Toad’s wild ride.
Tevis done and dusted. Next pinnacle, please.