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Real life horse whisperer completes 100-mile ride

By: Joshua Ansley Loomis Sports Editor
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What he set out to do is what rare, but what he has done is unimaginable. Dr. Langdon Fielding has now completed The Tevis Cup Ride twice on a horse that has never done it. Since he was eight years old, Fielding has been allied with horses. His deep connection was put to the test two weeks ago. The Tevis is a 100-mile ride from Truckee to Auburn that is considered the most challenging equine endurance ride in the world. Close to half of the field that attempts the ride never finishes. Although Fielding and his horse, Kid, came in 68 out of the 93 that completed, considering the nearly 200 that attempted, finishing at all is an achievement for Fielding. “For me, even if I came out of it in last place, as long as I finish, I did what I set out to do,” he said. Fielding’s first attempt was as a 17 year-old kid without training, or a trained horse. The horse, Peanut Butter Max, had never done the race before either. Fielding planned on following a friend of his to pace and guide him. Unfortunately, his experienced friend fell out in just the tenth mile, leaving Fielding to go it alone for the next 90. He did. Fielding completed the race without training, or experience, or a plan. To complete the race after a year of training is remarkable. To complete it without any training -unheard of. Oddly, everything worked backwards for Fielding. The next year he trained for the event and was unable to complete it. For the last seven years, Fielding has been working along the trail as an emergency veterinarian for the ride. Fielding works the rest of his days as a veterinarian at the Loomis Basin Equine Medical Center. According to Dr. Jill Higgins, if he wasn’t working at the hospital, or along the trail, Fielding would most likely be found riding in an ambulance between the two. Higgins has been Fielding’s colleague at the Medical Center for the last six years. “To be honest, I don’t know how he trained for the Tevis because he works so hard so much,” Higgins said. “For him to still train and do 100 miles. We are all pretty proud of him.” He had been planning to ride it for the last three years, but in 2008 the ride was cancelled due to fires, and in 2009 he did not feel right about his horse going in. Despite Fielding’s obvious talent and work ethic, the ride is unforgiving, and he had his doubts about finishing this year. “About halfway I was worried about running out of time, and I thought I might not make it,” Fielding admitted. He continued on into the evening until his determination to finish could not be stopped. Around mile 80 Fielding encountered a bit of turbulence. “It was really dark, and I fell over the front of him in the middle of the night,” Fielding said embarrassingly. “When you can’t see anything out there on the trail, you have to completely trust the horse.” Fielding downplays the accident, and affirms the idea that so long as the horse is alright, the ride must go on. “I’ve known of other people going on with broken arms,” he said. Nonetheless, people do matter. “It really helps doing it with people around you,” Fielding said. “They encourage you to keep going.” Fielding and Kid went on to finish around four in the morning. While the goal of the ride appears at times to be rider and horse walking into misery, Fielding maintains that it is all worth it when you travel through areas that no one else ever has the opportunity to see. “My Favorite aspect is seeing the areas of land that you can’t see any other way,” he said. “We travel through some dense forest that is unreachable without a horse.” Fielding knows all about riding in breathtaking scenery. He grew up in Mill Valley near San Francisco, and often rode in the Marine Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. That was well before he ever considered riding competitively, or working as a veterinarian. “It was never a goal or interest,” Fielding said. “I was always into horses, but never considered it as a job.” Fielding carried his riding hobby to Harvard, where he was part of an equestrian team that made it to regionals in 1998. The summer before his junior year, Fielding started riding with some friends who just happened to be veterinarians. Spending time with them made him realize what he wanted to pursue. Following Harvard, Fielding went on to UC Davis where he completed his veterinary degree. He went on to intern at Texas A&M University to study large animal medicine and surgery before joining the Loomis Basin Medical Center in 2003. He has found his life’s work here in Loomis. “I live for the emergency,” Fielding said about his time working at the Center. Higgins affirms Fielding’s relentless passion. “I don’t think there is anybody out there who cares more about working with horses than he does,” she said. “He is just amazing with the horses. I learn a lot from him. He can pick up on things that aren’t always apparent, and would normally be missed by other veterinarians. He has diagnosed a lot of rare conditions.” Just last spring the center received Lepto, a young fowl that appeared sick to its owner and to the medical staff. Blood test after blood test came back without any sign of an unhealthy horse. Fielding was not satisfied. He kept at it, and finally figured out that Lepto had an organism in its urinary tract. It was a rare condition that is extremely difficult to diagnose. The center had to call in a specific type of antibiotic that it needed, and now the horse is doing fine. While Fielding is somewhat of a horse whisperer, his skills coincide with a genuine care for the horses that goes above and beyond his work. “I’ve seen situations where he takes an abandoned animal home to treat it until he can find it a home,” Higgins said. Fielding’s work is so important to him, he says he probably won’t ride in the Tevis next year. “I am kind of torn, because I love running the emergency hospital for the ride,” he said. He says he will probably ride it every few years and run the hospital in between. “I’ll probably do that next year, and in a few years ride it again,” Fielding said. “But you never know for sure. I might ride next year. I really haven’t decided just yet.”