Little Khemali'i In School

The Beginning...

I don't remember the exact year, or the exact magazine cover, but I do remember where I was and how I felt about it. It was a photo of either RT Muffin or Easter Charm going over Cougar Rock and it was in the mid to late -1980's. I was living in a single-wide trailer with my boyfriend Don with no electricity or well. Our water was shipped and stored in a holding tank and if I forgot to turn off the water for the horses, our tank would run out and we couldn't shower or flush the toilet, until the next shipment. I learned that the bottom of the holding tank still had water in it and it'd drip out of the fire hose hook-up into a trough that could be scooped out with a bucket to flush the toilet. Minor details and to me, not a life or death problem. I didn't care about my lack of fancy living because I had land, dogs & horses. Bliss was my life.

When I saw this Cougar Rock photo and read the accompanying article I felt this incredible rush of wanting to be "who I was". Getting there was just, again, minor details, because I already "was" a Tevis Rider. It was born in my heart ~ that Cougar Rock thing. I just had to figure out all the in-between stuff. The idea of tailing my horse "up the canyons", battling heat & fatigue (& knowing me, nausea), risking my life at the start, riding narrow, cliffy trails in the middle of the night....100 miles in less than 24 hours in the High Sierras.... This challenge, all on horseback appealed to me. I wanted to suffer. And conquer. And it was in my genetics to suffer per my Estonian father. He was the Master of Suffering and Conquering. But more than all of this was knowing how I'd feel about my horse, no matter if I even finished the ride. I knew that riding Tevis would be an experience to last a lifetime and my horse would be forever My Hero..

By 1991 my husband and I were driving up every summer to "watch" Tevis.  We'd leave late Thursday evening and get up to Lake Tahoe Friday morning, have breakfast in North Lake Tahoe, then go to Robie Park in Truckee to watch the vet checks and camp in that fluffy Robie Park dirt. My husband wasn't really a camper, but we stayed nevertheless; me sleeping in the same down sleeping bag from the Suffer & Conquer backpack trips of my youth, and my husband in the car. The next morning we were off to Robinson Flat & Michigan Bluff, the 2 one hour holds. After immersing ourselves since zero-dark-thirty in gorgeous, sweaty horses, exhausted riders, crews and volunteers we'd eat dinner in Auburn then go the finish line at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. The next day, after being up nearly the entire night, we'd walk around looking at vendor stuff, photos, breath in a little more Tevis, and then off for a 7 hour drive home. Back then, it seemed like such a far off dream, but I didn't expect it to take some 25 years to get to the starting line.

That first year at Robie, we must have screamed "Tevis Groupies & Willing to do ANYTHING" because Leonard & Heather Davis walked up to us as total strangers to ask if we would be willing to drive their rig from Robie to the Gold Country Fairgrounds. Where, in our world, do we hand over keys to our truck & trailer to perfect strangers and know our rig will be delivered to the destination of our choice? We said yes, of course and I drove the rig, because my husband didn't have the "something something" (??) to do it.  Having never driven a long LQ, much less a small horse trailer before I knew as long as I went in a straight line, I was bound to make it to Auburn in one piece. That year, 1991 or '92 was my first volunteering experience. The Davis's gave us a little laminated card with all their checkpoints & times on arrival and lo and behold if they weren't within 5 minutes stated on the laminated card. But they were experienced Tevis riders, Leonard having some 8 buckles (and 10 or so starts), Heather (9 for 9).

My husband and I went nearly every year after that for several years and as the years went on, we started to "train" for endurance, having gone thru a few horses that didn't work out and two that we both rode in our first 50's, Sabi & Tahoe (who still are in my pasture as I write this). By the early '90's I was looking to breed, specifically wanting Khemosabi offspring. I leased a beautiful Khemosabi daughter and bred her to her 1/2 brother and on June 18, 1998 my future Tevis horse was born. I named him Khemali'i. (Khuchullin x Khemadorrable).


Ali'i was a darling foal and I found him to be very biddable, curious and quite trusting. When he was a year old, my husband and I split and I took Ali'i with Sabi & Tahoe to my new home. Life happened over the next 7 years, having met a man who would later become my 2nd husband. Pierre was the love of my life and with him came 3 beautiful daughters and a very incredible and passionate part of my life. Pierre worked as a motor officer for Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and on March 23, 2006, after 6 1/2 years together he was killed while chasing a speeding van. My whole world came to a screeching halt that Thursday afternoon and I was thrown into an existence I was sure I didn't agree to. It was truly the worst day of my life.

2 days after Pierre's death, I received a phone call from my cousin Cheryl. I was not taking any calls, except when LASD's Sheriff Lee Baca and our California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called so when my friend Lori said this was important I took the call. Cheryl was an extremely beautiful and highly spiritual woman and while we rarely talked I knew she had a good reason to speak to me over and above a voice of condolences. She told me earlier that day she was ironing and she heard a voice that said "Diana Ride the Horse". Cheryl said she didn't know what it meant, but said she needed me to know. I told her I knew it meant, that I had a very bad fall and I needed to get back on my horse. And that horse was Ali'i, who, at 8 years old was unbroke. It was time.

My Khemali'i went into training a month or so later and by August he went on his first camping trip to the High Sierras with my brother Brian and his horse Bandit. In December of 2006 I moved to Northern California and Ali'i was boarded for the first time in his life. Soon after, it was suggested by Pierre's captain Carl, in his infinite ways of always looking out for me, there was a place closer to me where I could board Ali'i. I met my friend Donna at this barn and we became close riding buddies.

Donna & I rode our first endurance ride together at the Gold Country 30/50 miler in July of 2007. I had only done 2 50 mile endurance rides before, in 1999 on Sabi and in 2000 on Tahoe. I was quite inexperienced, as was Donna, she, never having ridden a ride before and I seemed to have forgotten some of the trail marking meanings. We went over the "no no line" within a mile or so of the start (a lime marking across the trail which means "Do NOT jump over this line you 2 dumbshits!!!") and in 7 miles we were meeting up with the front runners of the 50 miler. We had gone too far already in the wrong direction and were going to be disqualified for being over-time. Regardless, the ride & camping was perfect. I will never forget the first thing Donna said that morning as we drank coffee in my Toy Hauler ~ "This is the best day ever!". And it was. Horses, dogs, camping, endurance. And friends you adore......

In August 2008, Donna and I rode our first Nevada ride, Tour De Washoooo and placed 6th on the Limited Distance. We didn't know anyone but I do remember the proceeds from the ride were going to go help Dave Rabe's doctor bills (whoever HE was....) because he broke a leg. I also got my first official ride photo from Gore/Baylor. Kinda sorta the start of a very secret stalking that I didn't acknowledge to even myself for many more years.

Gore/Baylor Photography ~ Tour de Washooo 2008

Two months later Ali'i & I rode our first 50 miler and after that I put him in training for 3 months with Janine Esler. I felt I needed help with him as far as conditioning for rides and Tevis and also wanted to know if he was going to make a suitable endurance horse. Ali'i&Janine2009

My association with Janine had actually started years before at Khemosabi's 31st or 32rd birthday party in Bonsall, CA. Janine was there with her most stunning Khemo son, Khemistreetu. Ali'i was about 2 years old, and I loved the doubling up on Khemosabi so my goal was to lease another Khemo daughter and breed her to Khemistreetu. 13 years later, after I moved to Northern California, I re-connected with Janine and told her at some point I would make good on my promise to breed. In the meantime Ali'i and I worked with her for a year to prepare for Tevis.

This is where my blog continues with old posts from my original blog "ColliesHorsesArtLove" re-posted here.

(Newest post will always be first so if you are not acquainted with blogging you will have to scroll all the way to the bottom and keep hitting "previous" to go back in time.)


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Ashley Wingert

Hi Diana ~ I had previous read some of your posts on the "ColliesHorseArtLove" blog and am thrilled to see this one and to read about the continuing journey! I was bit by the Tevis bug about 15 years ago, reading a Horse&Rider article about it...and have been trying to get to the start line ever since. I've further cultivated that Tevis obsession with almost-annual treks for crewing for friends, and every year, that bug bites a little harder. :)

Diana Hiiesalu

So I love this comment.....tearing me up.......if this blog helps it will make my year!

Kathleen Hammer

Looking forward to the next installment, Diana! I LOVVE your writingsblogs
as you process your thoughts/memories and setting up your future!

Diana Hiiesalu

Thank you Kathleen! Aura will be in there too. My plan is Tevis for her next year. It's nice to be back writing. I realized I really missed it.

Diane Ryles

Love are simply amazing...and makes me realize the only thing holding us back is our thoughts!!

Diana Hiiesalu

What a wonderful comment and so completely true!!!

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