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Mon, May 20

Backup plans help Tiki navigate wildfires

Tiki and Carol at the border.
Courtesy

Tiki and Carol at the border.

Wildfires in northern Arizona kept Tiki, an Arabian horse, and her rider, Carol Fontana, from the Arizona Trail near Flagstaff and Pine. While flames never put them in danger, the heavy smoke was unhealthy for humans and horses, said John Hughes, Fontana’s husband. They elected to leapfrog the area, hit the Arizona-Utah border and work back south to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

“The road and trail closures made the decision to leave very simple. We always have backup plans,” Hughes said. “As Tiki is fond of saying, ‘It is essential to have a plan. It is more essential to be ready to change your plan.’”

The three wildfires are not supposed to pose any particular challenges, he added. If all goes according to the new plan, Tiki, Carol, and the newcomer, Dude, will finish all but the Grand Canyon before month’s end.

Dude joined the crew after Bella, the mule, returned to her friends in Utah. Dude, 14, is a professional endurance horse that has completed 100-mile courses. Dude and Tiki alternate days along the Arizona Trail. Hughes said Dude and Tiki evidently are soul mates.

“They are not happy to be apart. They are both terrific endurance horses,” he said. “It is much better riding country up north.”

Fontana and Tiki previously rode through some tough conditions with overgrown trails and slippery rocks. Sometimes Tiki could just plow through the underbrush and other times Fontana needed to cut limbs to get past the brush.

The two took off on a through-ride of the Arizona Trail on April 2 and have been making their way north. Fontana is not in the saddle every day, as she has returned to Prescott for fundraising events, get cleaned up and to restock. The ride benefits Prescott Area Shelter Services, to which Fontana is donating 100 percent of donations. People can visit saddleupaz.us to donate. Also on the website are Tiki’s blog and a map of the Arizona Trail.

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