Arriving at the estate of Virginia Ingram, site of the Cosequin Challenge was a visual feast. Green hills, surrounded by the wooded mountains that were to prove a tough test for the eighty plus starters in this Masters event, lent an air of serenity to the pre-ride setting. Wrought iron entrance gates, hung from tall brick columns,led to neat, manicured fields. On the right of the long gravel driveway was the participants camp site. On the left the spacious grassy knoll was allocated as part of the crewing and vetting area and had been carefully ribboned into sections for the various vet stations required by FEI rules. The success of this layout was to be demonstrated continuously throughtout the ride, by the exceptionally smooth flow of horse and rider teams during the five vet checks which were held at base camp (only one check was away from base camp). Ride headquarters was located a short hike from the camping site in a spacious, glass enclosed building, where an aray of trophies, plaques and ribbon awards,as well as embroidered ride jackets and ride T-shirts were on display. Other than the minor computer glitch which slowed the issuing of photo ID`s to officials, riders and crew, registration seemed relatively painless.
A huge, white, open sided tent was housed the festivities which included a pre-race competitors party on Thursday evening, a pre-ride dinner on Friday evening, and a Sunday brunch complete with blue grass band and the Awards Ceremony. There were over 80 entrants with American riders traveling from as far away as Oregon,Texas and California. Eight countries were represented including Australia, Brasil, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Saudia Arabia and UAE.
The 100 mile riders started the gruelling day at 4AM. The dark and cool was to become a welcome memory as the heat of the day and the humidity rose steadily. 50 mile competitors got to sleep in, starting at a late 7AM. The first 14.3 mile loop was relatively flat and front runners rode fast. By the end of the ride, the high attrition rate suggested that many misjudged the difficulty of the mountainous terrain (over 25,000 feet of climb), and the challenge of high humidity.
Loop 2, 21.4 miles long, led riders over Indian Grave Ridge, not once, but twice, before taking them back to a 40 minute hold at base camp. Those that survived, climbed Milford Gap twice, before seeing their crews again at the 54 mile one hour lunch stop. After lunch, loop 4 and 5 were a slightly shortened repeat of the mornings loops 2 and 3. Pulls ranged from lameness to poor metobolic recovery and a few horses required veterinary intervention.
I have never seen a group of riders at any major event (and I`ve attended my share, including Tevis, ROC, several North American Championships and a World Championships), more concerned with the welfare of their horses; willing to pull them at the first hint of impending trouble or at the first suggestion of the ride vets, who included Head veterinarian, Dr. R. A Beecher, Dr. Jim Baldwin, Dr. Jim Bryant, Dr Swight Hooten, Dr. Nancy Loving, Dr. Ray Randall, Dr. Don Kiefer and Foreign veterinarian delegate, Dr. Julia Flamino. By night fall, pulls had pared down the 100 miler starting field by more than 55%. Riders had slowed their pace considerably, realizing, in this race at least, it was the stayer and not the rabbit which would prove victorious in the end. Shortly after 9PM, Wendy Mattingly on Pierez and Danielle Kanavy-McGunigal on High Winds Jedi cantered down the dirt road to the finish line and victory. While Wendy and Pieraz had a two length lead, Danielle and Jedi didn`t seemed anxious to over take the pair. Asked about her final leg strategy, Danielle acknowledged that she wanted Cash to win. There are plans to retire him after Dubi, but today he ran a great race. Even though Wendy and I rode together all day, I`m not sure he would have let Jedi pass him. He was on the home stretch and that`s were he rules. I don`t think he is ready to surrender his crown just yet. While Jedi may have had to take bridesmaid honors at the finish line, the veterinarians gave him the Best Conditioned trophy at the awards ceremony on Sunday.
Rita Swift, a relatively new comer to the sport of endurance riding and her horse Cass gave both the first and second place horse`s their greatest challenge during the second half of the ride. When she crossed the finish line four minutes behind Jedi and Danielle, she burst into tears, hugging her horse`s neck.
A tough ride, it did not go without a hitch, but the experienced managment team of Valerie Kanavy and Virginia and Tracy Ingram fought the various fires (drought strained wells going dry at base camp, trail markings sabotaged at the last minute, a shortage of water at the first check, a temporary computer failure, and an unexpected loss of key staff) so successfully, few participants knew of the problems, with the exception of the loss of the great shower facilities everyone had been enjoying all week long.
Final results for the Cosequin Challenge 100 Mile FEI Endurance Ride:
1-Wendy Mattlingley/Pierez 13:37
2-Danielle Kanavy McGunigal/Jedi 13:37
3-Rita Swift/Cass 13:41
4-Debi Gordon/Saizahra 14:52
5-Connie Walker/Tashi Ashara 16:29
6-Heather Hoyns DVM/Tinkerbell 16:59
7-Maggie Price/Ramegwa Sharli 16:59
8-Daroyln Butler/DB Conquistador 17:28, 9-Meg Wade/Ciender 17:31
10-Yvette Vinton/ENM Jadwiga 17:31
11-Deborah Deshon/PentagonII 17:35
12-Shirley Dennis/Faust 18:46
13-Nancy Beacon/Traverston Cob 18:46
14-Abelullh Saeed Alhizem/GVF
Mauzaraady 19:21 15-Rinata Farinelli deSiqueira/ Nature`s Sungari 19:47
16-Bettina Koehn/Gero 20:05
17-Roberta Harms/ Sha-win 20:05
18-Hassan Bin Ali/Bold Soldier 20:18
19-Kathy McBride/DB BabRazzmatazzi 20:18
20-Betsy Reeves/Karianns Karisma 20:18
BEST CONDITION: JEDI
Cosequin Challenge 50 Mile AERC Ride
1-Lucy Snook/Alander 7:35
2-Echo Pompilius/Shah 8:04
3-Betty Kane Baker/Corkey 8:05
4-Robert Beck/Rugby 8:09
5-Laura Spilato/Gazelle 8:09
6-Nancy Muller/Fixed Tempo 8:29
7-Dimitria Coljee/Qjuantum Leap 8:45
8-Dottie McAdams/ARR Alex 8:56
9-Shellace Williams/Zanzibar Zahd 8:56
10-John McAlpine/Merry Cashmera 8:56
11-Sue Corr/Binds Mardi Gras 9:25
12-Jane Graffam/Isusu 9:25
13-Pete Wilson/Abou Bin Adhem 9:40
14-Zoe Zollenberger/SF Nezney 10:10
15-Sharon Renken/Bozley 10:10
BEST CONDITION: Alander
The Cosequin Challenge cash prize combined with the IAHA Sweepstakes brought the first place horse $11,250.00. Second place horse took home a combined purse of $6,125.00. The Cosequin purse for third through tenth was 1,200.00, 1,100.00, 1000.00, 900.00, 800.00, 700.00, 600.00, & 500.00. Everyone completing the ride received a container of Cosequin, retail value, $180.00. Other event sponsors included Troxel Helmets, KER, Pennfield Feeds, Leather Therapy, Animal Tacker, Equine Performance Technology, Easy Care, Markel Insurance, Theraquine, Miller Harness Company, Saddle Bums, Advanced Biological Concepts. Everyone who entered received a "bucket of gifts" from event sponsors.