Thursday, January 01, 1998

WEC - UAE preride report - Lori Stewart


Lori Stewart

So much to tell, so little energy............

We (meaning Rick Stewart, Mike Foss, and myself) just returned on Sunday night from the Feb. 25th, 160 km preride in the UAE. Other weary American travelers are home or on the way, after a very enjoyable and educational trip. We accumulated mountains of information to the benefit of our team, which we will sort thru and share with all who are interested.

Mike Foss took miles of video which he plans to edit and make available to you. I was armed with a trusty tape recorder to make notes and record the ideas and observations of everyone about the venue. Mary Lutz researched lodging, food, and transportation among other things. Rick and Mary together researched the OC`s commitments and level of organization. The OC management team was very open to input before, during and after the event. The UAE is truly the Hong Kong of the Middle East- very cosmopolitan, multi cultural, trade oriented (both in goods and ideas), and welcoming. Think of it as a resort country where all is available and your comfort is a number one priority.

Why is the UAE so interested in endurance riding? Horses were an integral part of their heritage in the pre oil times. In the 1960`s they lost ALL their horse to African Horse Sickness (AHS). All of them! Shortly there after the oil boom hit and modernization in industry, trade, infrastructure, health, etc. took precedence over reintroducing the horse to the land and their culture. In the early 1990`s, the more powerful families, felt it was time to return to their heritage and reintroduce equestrianism as an integral part of their society. They are approaching this goal with no less zeal than any other project since oil was discovered. They identify with endurance riding and the Arabian more than any other horse sport or breed. Of all the sports they sponsor, this is the only one in which the Sheiks personally compete (and with their kids I might add).

What does tons of money do to our sport? It doesn`t eliminate experience over time as the best teacher that`s for sure. It does improve record keeping, ride food, the "campsite", awards, and the post ride banquet. It doesn`t protect you as a ride manager from the usual volunteer screw ups and forgotten important details.

What happens to on trail crewing on a desert trail (akin to the USA Southwest) with no environmentalists lurking about but with lots of guys with too many toys and time on their hands? And just for fun don`t get the crew maps to them until the morning of the ride and then don`t mark the crew route completely? Off -Road Rally of major proportions!! There were probably 3 SUV`s to every 1 horse out there on ride day. Ride management promises to regain control of the chaos by December. It will still be fun. Think of the movie "Road Warriors".

What happens to your budget for the trip when you hit the Dubai Gold Souk? Blown sky high!!

Is finding your way around Dubai that hard? YES. Are other drivers patient while you fumble around? NO. Can this city ever be figured out? Yes with enough time or by hiring a driver. In some instances it was the same price to hire a driver and car as it was to rent just the car.

What is the trail and climate like? I heard the trail described as like Randy Eiland`s southern New Mexico country; or like Southern Nevada. The eastern folks said the sand is worse in Florida by far. The footing is very good for the most part- some hard pack and a few well placed rocks. Most horses were shod with pads and silicon. At times the sand is over the hoof deep but not bottomless by any means. It is essentially flat. They provided water and bullets (bottled water) on trail every 5 km. In addition two to three crew spots were allowed per loop where we gave our horses electrolytes. The trail consists of multiple loops out on one vet check so your horse comes in and out of one place multiple times. I noticed some horses got pretty "barn sour" towards the end. Vetting is strict but fair. Camels are thick and enjoy following or leading groups of riders. Horses get used to them pretty fast. Camels go to bed when it gets dark so you don`t have to worry about a camel sneaking up on your horse after dark. Weather conditions for this ride day were perfect.

Modest to negligible humidity, light breeze, temps in the high 70`s to low 80`s. Actually cool in the Vet Check shade provided. During the week, we had a windy blowing sand day, a humid day, and a thunderstorm. The humid day was not the East in August type thing but more like southern Calif. after the fog burns off in June type humidity. You don`t have to chew your air before swallowing but you do feel it going down when you breath.

Our North American riders were amazing. It is not easy to arrive in a foreign country, and by riding a horse once or twice figure out how to get it through a 100 mile trail you have never ridden before. Not to mention having no knowledge of the horse`s braking system (if any) so essential to pacing for a flat out start or how much tread is really left on the tires (ie. How many miles does he have left in his legs?)

American riders included: Jan Worthington, Wendy Mattingly, Steve Rojek, Danielle Kanavy, Patti Pizzo, and Susan Anderson. Canadian riders were: Christie Janzen and Len Fox.

Ride results will probably be posted on the UAE web page pretty quick so I`ll focus on our guys and the basics.
Sheik Mohammed/Nelson I and his son Sheik Hamdan/Sharahd Lexia essentially tied with a ride time of 9:08:05 and :06.
Danielle Kanavy/Beau Diddley, 3rd in 9:18;
Patty Pizzo/Qa Deja Vu, 8th in 11:31 (Patty was one of only 5 in the top ten that qualified to show for BC the next morning);
Len Fox/Cameo Lion Heart, 12th in 12:09;
Susan Anderson/Sonney, 13th in 12:53;
Jan Worthington/Gafallas Finale, 17th in 13:51;
Christine Janzen/Pireus, 19th in 13:51.
Horses starting: 52. Finishing: 27.

The vast majority of pulls were for lameness. I don`t think this trail caused the lameness as much as too much wear and tear on the legs going into ride day. A flat, monotonous, fast trail tends to be hard on fragile legs. Jim Bryant says on this trail, it is not how fast you can ride and win but how slow you can ride and still win. Think about it.

All of us in AERC appreciate the USET`s continued support and sponsorship of the United States Endurance Team which included this invaluable research mission by the USET Director for Endurance, Chef d`Equipe and Team Veterinarian. Please, show your support; become a member of USET today!

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