Penn Vet's Meg Sleeper preps for marathon horse race
Veterinary cardiologist will compete this month in Pan American Endurance Championship in Chile
October 3, 2011, 10:32 pm · Updated October 4, 2011, 1:30 am·
Just over two weeks ago, Penn Vet cardiologist Meg Sleeper and her horse, Reveille, traveled across the country to partake in a 100-mile race through California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Sleeper described the course as rocky and unfit for competition. She and her main competition, Jeremy Reynolds, came to an agreement: play it safe until the rocks end, and duke it out for the final hundred yards.
“His horse used to race,” Sleeper explained, “so he sort of leapt ahead and [Reveille] couldn’t get around him.”
Sleeper and her steed Reveille came in second, just yards short of the win.
But for Sleeper — who has ranked as high as first in the nation and second in the world during her endurance-riding career — the loss was only nominal.
“It didn’t make much of a difference,” she said. “I was thrilled to have been able to ride with [Reynolds]. That’s part of why I love this sport, the people are awesome.”
On Oct. 22, Sleeper will get a second shot at the victory. Along with her husband, Dave Augustine, she will board a flight to Chile where she will compete for the first time in the Pan American Endurance Championship.
Sleeper will be joined in South America by Cadie, an Arabian pony who also happens to be Reveille’s little sister. Packed in a palette with two other horses, Cadie will fly the roughly 5,000 miles to Santo Domingo, where they will stay for two weeks.
Sleeper hopes to ride the 75-mile course in six hours — 18 minutes faster than Cadie’s last time for the same distance.
While in the past, Reveille, or “Rev,” as Sleeper likes to call her, found air travel troublesome, Sleeper is confident that the fear is not familial. Still, flying a large animal to another continent is not without its difficulties. Cadie’s airfare will cost around $5,000, Sleeper said. In this race, finding that kind of cash was half the battle.
But luckily for Sleeper, she is not the only one who believes in Cadie.
“There are actually some people who have offered money to help us,” Sleeper said. “I can’t even explain how I feel when I hear that people think we’re worthy of that. And it’s helped. It’s helped a lot.”
Perhaps it is because of her vocation, or just her merry temperament, but as Sleeper speaks of Cadie, her love for the little horse that will carry her through Chile is palpable. Moreover, it is evident that Sleeper sees Cadie as an athlete as deserving of recognition as her rider. “She’s very opinionated,” Sleeper said, laughing.
Sleeper’s entry into the championships will also allow her a tour of one of South America’s most exquisite landscapes, but when it comes down to it, this is Cadie’s big trip.
“I’m going to spend the whole time fussing over her,” Sleeper said, “but it’ll be amazing to be there.”