Friday, March 24, 2000

Unwritten Rules

The Golden Unwritten Rule is:
--If you are confused, ask! Find the vet or the manager or one of the un-rude longer distance people--they will most likely steer you in the right direction.

1. Always be as courteous as you can. This will get you further than anything. Then if you are in a really bad mood or things are going bad, your courtesy level drops a level and it still doesn`t seem too bad to people.:-)

2. If you come to a water stop and horses are drinking, either wait for them to finish, or ask if you may go through them.

3. At a vet check, never ever walk your horse through the area where they are doing a trot out.

4. When you are getting a P&R, look around and see who else is there. If you finish your P&R and they haven`t, don`t just walk your horse through the group. You will probably raise the heart rate of the others by leaving. You don`t necessarily have to wait for everyone, but when you do leave, be just a little curtious, and maybe even ask if it is alright.

5. If there is a group of horses stopped on the trail, ask if you can pass or if there is something wrong. There may be a horse or rider in trouble up ahead, or there may be a washed out trail that you`ll go sailing off if you push through.

6. Inform the vet if you think there is anything wrong with your horse. The vet will not pull you automatically. They will help you.

7. Inform the vet if your horse kicks, bites, doesn`t like to be touched there, or what ever. A vet that has been kicked at isn`t going to give you a BC.

8. At the vet check, if waiting in line (or where ever horses are bunched up) give space around you. Don`t crowd. I really hate to have some horse back into my horse because the handler couldn`t handle the horse. And the vets get really upset when a horse runs into them.

9. At a gate, if some one must dismount to open the gate, wait for that person to remount before leaving. And always leave in the order that you arrived at the gate. Once underway, you may change the order.

10. At a water tank, don`t dunk your slimey sweaty sponge in the drinking water. Put water in a bucket and sponge from the bucket.

11. At a running stream, it`s ok to sponge from the water. Also look where your horse is putting his feet. Don`t step on some ones reins. And look where the muddy water is coming from.

12. The horses and riders of a higher distance usually have the right away at the vet checks. But, if there is an unoccupied vet, be sure to wave and tell him/her that you are waiting. Generally there is one vet who will do all the BC vetting, so they may not want to deal with anyone other than those presenting for the BC.

13. It is your responsibility to make sure that when you hand over your rider card, that you get *your* rider card back and not some one else`s.

14. Don`t take all the free stuff - water, hay, ice, whatever. Leave some for the next horse and rider.

14. Common, or not so common, courtesy to everyone.

15. And for the helpers and volunteers out there, please forgive us all and not take it personally when DIMR (distance-induced mental retardation) takes over.


1. To feed and condition as we all know we should.

2. Not to push too hard as a beginner or a pro.

3. To start slow and finish as a winner to yourself.

4. To be friendly and courteous on and off the trail.

5. To encourage new riders and help riders in need of it.

6. To be courteous to P/R volunteers, officials and to ride management.

* Now, "do unto others as you would have do unto you", doesn`t always hold true. Can you imagine stopping before the finish line and letting your competition win?

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Egypt`s First Organized Endurance Event - Maryanne Gabbani

Cairo, Egypt

March 11, It`s really happening:

We`ve gotten upwards of 70 or so riders registered from all over Egypt, the tents are up, the poles for the trails are being laid today, the Dubai contingent is arriving this afternoon and the press conference is set for the Mena House Oberoi Hotel at the base of the pyramids at Giza.....and the organising committee is almost dead!! But not so dead that we aren`t all riding as well. The response to this has bee wonderful here and we have riders of all ages and social categories, something special for Egypt which is still a pretty stratified society. I want to thank all of you on Ridecamp, because without all the things that I`ve learned from you all over the last year, we wouldn`t be here. I`ve been relatively comfortable advising all these guys because I`ve had some of the best endurance riders and vets and managers in the world to back me up.

Tomorrow morning is the big day. I`ll be out celebrating my birthday from 6 am until whenever and hopefully everything will go relatively smoothly. We have lots of volunteers to help and should have a training group of about 4 vets and 15 final year students on hand. I went out along the track yesterday just fooling around with Radar...he`s fit and sassy and will be quite the handful tomorrow with LOTS of horses to keep up with. Mr. Sociability just loves having lots of equines around. Then I went out again with our "ambulance/first aid" manager...a friend who is recovering from a broken hip from a horse kick and can`t ride but can do desert driving very well, to go over the route and look for any potential trouble spots. On our way back, I was looking around and I had at least 10 pyramids, temples and monuments spread all around within about 15 km and the sun and cloud on the desert. Quite frankly, I was awestruck at the beauty of the place. I can`t believe that I`m so lucky to ride here every day and I hope that this is the beginning of opening the area to riders from all over the world.

I`ll post again when it`s all over and then I`m off to New York with my 16 yr old daughter so she can visit college with her brother for spring break. I`ll be ready for some room service.

BTW, we found some great non-toxic (more or less) washable kid`s markers at a stationery store. I tried them out on my hand and it took a number of washings till they came off, so we will probably use them. Then people can have their choice of colors. Unfortunately, we don`t have much lumber to mark here, and the only livestock they mark are sheep with spray paint.

-----------March 13-----------------

It`s over and was actually pretty much a success. The FEI/UAE crew was supposed to fly in yesterday afternoon and meet with the organisers and local vets about 4 pm then go to a press conference at the Mena House Oberoi at 6. They flew in ok, but their luggage flew on to Katmandhu, so rather than meet with us they filled out lost luggage forms and bought toothbrushes and other necessary items. The first we saw of them was the press conference at the hotel and I was delighted to find that one of the vets was Tony Pavord, who had visited with us in the fall. Jim Bryan was another and Dr. Bobby was a third. Feisal Seddiq was the UAE man and all of us got to hear the plan together, which didn`t allow much time for us to tell him what we had. They were expecting about 25 riders, mostly foreign. We had 100 riders, mostly Egyptian and mostly stallions. They were planning a mass start, we were figuring on staggered starts. Was interesting. At the dinner after the press conference, I sat down with the vets, stewards and ground jury right away to let them know what we had so things wouldn`t be a total shock. They were not wild about the fact that we had so many stallions, but I told them that they were regularly used for work and were used to dealing with people and mares, so they hopefully wouldn`t be too bad.

This morning I was up at 6 am brewing pots of expresso to take some decent coffee for people and headed out to the club with my daughter and a friend of hers. We already had a group of horses by the time the vets arrived at 7:30. Yas (my daughter) got pressed into service as a translator, photographer (for horses without photos) and butt marker. As the other young help arrived, I assigned translators to the UAE crew to make sure they could talk to some of our unilingual riders. (Bet most of you ride managers don`t have to think about THAT one!) By 8:30, the place was a nuthouse. We probably had about 75% stallions and just enough mares to make things interesting. Luckily, all the club horses could be vetted through and returned to their boxes until ride time and there was enough room to keep everyone separate. We only had one loose horse before the race, a stallion that some moron was walking around in just a bridle whose reins broke. He ran up to a couple of horses including Radar and was chased off without too much trouble. I`ve found that if you act like a seriously miffed mare and yell at them, they back off quickly. Radar, as a previously unmanageable stallion who lost his family jewels, found the whole thing wonderfully exciting but was a good fellow even so.

Most of these horses have never been vet checked, trotted out in lanes, or had large numbers inscribed on their hindquarters. New stuff for everyone. By racetime, at 11 everyone was checked and numbered and split into two groups of fifty for the start. I was number 49....Yas thought they should have given me 51 for my birthday, but I figure that I got two years off for good behaviour... so I went in the first group. A bunch of us from Sakkara were in that group and we left a little late because we knew that the wind would be at our backs and on the way out, the front runners would be eating dust. (Mind you we ate it on the way back, but by then we were all so filthy that it didn`t matter any more.) It was so great to see a line of riders snaking across the desert. At one point a bunch sang me `Happy Birthday`. They had water at the 5 km mark, but few of the horses wanted to drink, tho` the riders were happy to, and at the 10 km stop. They checked heart rates and had a trot by there. Discovered that Radar DOES NOT like hand held HRM`s for whatever reason, but he was at 56 at the halfway point anyway.

The way back was lovely with the wind in our faces and we met the second group on their way out. The horses were all having a wonderful time and there were some great flat places for long canters. We had one horse get loose from a rider on his way back and come careening into camp after I`d arrived. This was a particularly hard-mouthed stallion that had been ridden by a 61 yr old man, a former jockey... so on the small side... and the rider had injured his hand in a accident before the ride. I told him later that if he`d had to be vet checked, or if I were his mother, he wouldn`t have ridden. But people were watching the desert and saw the horse coming so everyone was ready. Luckily the rider had dismounted to check the horse so we had no falls.

Results: Congrats from the UAE on our turnout and organisation (we take a bow). Out of 100 horses registered, only 2 didn`t pass the initial vet check and one was withdrawn by a rider who felt her horse was borderline. No one timed out of qualification, and only 4 horses didn`t pass the second check. We are delighted and incredibly sunburned and about 2 kgs lighter after a shower to wash the dust out. The route was gorgeous, but not one of our really stunning places, so there`s nowhere to go but up.

Now I`m off to dinner at an excellent Chinese restaurant, where I will be properly surprised for my birthday party...which I could easily skip except that I`m STARVING.

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani

Egypt`s First Endurance Ride: A Pheromonal Perspective - Richard Hoath

I think my first mistake was entering Sam under his full name Samarkand. Much as with a Chow called Rover on a day to day basis who is then elevated to his pedigree name Supreme Emperor Yung Hua of Hanan for the purposes of parading at Cruft`s, it went straight to his head and, most strikingly, to other baser regions of a stallion`s anatomy. The 20 kilometres I had no qualms about. He could eat it up. But here was a horse with a sexual appetite not just for his own kind, and at times gender, but also with a tendency to confuse four wheels for four legs. The mere scent of engine oil, a jeep in heat, will send him just as wild as the most coquettish mare. Whereas we all had to cope with our horses` reactions to 100 of their own kin and kind, I had the additional worry of scores of owner`s cars that Sam found deeply attractive. There was the additional tease of three very attractive ambulances and a number of horse trucks playing hard to get.

So out comes Sam(arkand) for his vet check. For him it was birthday and Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Eid, Independence day and Sinai Liberation all wrapped into one. At 21 he should be doing the horse equivalent of getting kicks out of a bit of gardening, sucking on a pipe and thinking fondly of times past. But then Sam`s biological clock has a chronology of it`s own. It is April and he has just developed his winter coat. He went through puberty at around 15 and has had every intention since then of making up for lost time. This was an opportunity he was to grab with both hoofs. Khamis, my groom who with Sam`s libido had a role more akin to head e unuch at a harem, wove between the other horses and assorted vehicles with as little impact as possible. Little is relative. Prancing like a dancing horse on coke he snorted fire at anything wheeled or legged that came within scent shot. My main fear for the vet check was a dope test for Viagra. I don`t give it him but I`m sure he gets it from somewhere. Anyhow as Khamis negotiated the minefield of sexually irresistable objects of desire, animate and inanimate, I did the necessary paperwork. The actual check went fairly smoothly though he did fall in love with a small table (four legs - what their made of doesn`t matter) and while a vet without clipboard is just a vet, a vet clutching a clipboard becomes a challenge to his virility. His heart was 50 and his gait A though whether his trot was on four legs or two was difficult to ascertain. He got his number written on his backside by a tentative assistant. "Does he kick?" she asked having seen him do so at various targets in the previous 15 seconds "Not normally" I replied with perfect honesty. But today was not normal. 37 was successfully emblazoned on each buttock and after making unreciprocated passes at a couple of Jeep Cherokees and challenging a Land Cruiser and a First Aid vehicle to a fight he was taken back to his box.

We returned to the field of competition (or conflict?) at about 11.00. A few minutes before the off there was apparently a brief. I watched from afar as a huddle of numbered riders listened intently to someone in obvious authority. I got as close as I dared, Khamis having disappeared for a well earned nervous breakdown, but figured I would just have to pick the brains of my fellow entrants once we got on the trail. While the briefing took place Sam rose to the challenge of a lawn sprinkler and neighed loudly and furiously at two white chairs and a goalpost. For me the ride could not start soon enough.

Then came the part I was dreading. While up until now I could either leave Sam in Khamis`s capable hands under the excuse of `paperwork` or keep him far enough away from the other equines as to render him relatively calm, there was no avoiding the start, a start where he was surrounded by 50 odd fellow members of the genus Equss. Surrounded by seductive mares, confrontational stallions and another man with a clipboard his neighs drowned out the mild, background drones of lowflying aircraft. Not knowing whether to buck or rear or with what leg to kick out with he took advantage of having a limb at each corner and used them all with equal abandon. I imagined a view from directly above, a desert seething with horses and in the middle an empty circle of sand in the middle of which is a single horse snorting and prancing mounted (in the innocent sense of the word) by a rider apologizing and uttering conciliatory statements such as "He`s really not like this normally." Or "Careful, he`s a bit excited" - the latter being an early entrant for the Understatement of the Year 2000 contest. I felt like a rodeo rider in a dressage competition and was amazed that I had not received similar advise to Kate who was told she ought to geld Massaoud. I might have done had Sam let the vets get a word in edgeways.

We start. Thank God! I thought but the gratitude was premature by at least 20 kilometres. For me this was to be a 20 km ride done just as we had trained, mostly trot with walk and canter. A sensible, calculated ride, a ride we had done hundreds of times before but just a bit longer. A ride to enjoy and relax. Sam`s take on this was different. For Sam this was a chance to perform for 20 km and not one second was to be missed. It was a ride where the desert was not mere terrain but a stage and Sam had no intention of being and understudy or bit part, no ambitions to be part of the chorus or a walk on, walk off. He was to be a Hamlet, a Macbeth, a towering Lear or simmering Othello. So neck arched, nostrils flared he strode across the desert like an equine colossus I`m convinced utterly aware that the vehicles driving past at intervals contained cameramen. We got to the 5km point more slightly slowly than our usual rides but whereas normally at 5 km he would not have broken sweat he was now lathered up to the point that he looked like a wedding cake with a mane. He took water before taking offence at the bucket and then more alarmingly at all the other horses around him, even horses he knew. We left the rest point with his pulse rate considerably higher than when we entered it and continued our ride/performance. My last recollection was of a vet kindly offering the advise that I should get him clipped. Or was it snipped?

For most people the second leg of the race was just that, the second leg. For Sam it was Act II in a four act drama for which he was the only main character. The other 50 were bit parts, mares to be seduced, stallions to be challenged, cars to be put in their place. We tried riding with `friends` but for Sam they play must go on. We tried riding alone but Sam was not one for soliloquies. For once he had an audience and boy was he going to milk it. And so we advanced towards the half way point. We paused briefly to proposition a railway signal and do a little play within a play for a group of rather bewildered railway workers and then continued on to the 10km point. I`m new to endurance riding and was willing to take advise from anyone who knew more than me - which was everyone. But I should not have listened to the person who advised that I pour water over Sam`s head. He took offence - deep offence - and having just done 10 horizontal kilometres we added an extra vertical one. Another lesson. Sam does not like water poured on his head even with the kindest intentions. Rather optimistically I was passed a bottle of water for myself and took advantage of a brief lull in Sam`s libido as he sized up a particularly attractive pile of jerry cans to grab a few drops for myself. We then did the trot test which Sam passed and subsequently rewarded his vetinarian adjudicator with a friendly buck. The poor man had one of those clipboards again. I asked how long we had to stay at the checkpoint to be told that we could go when I felt the horse was ready. Sam was ready the moment he arrived and every second we stayed there with other horses coming in right left and centre his pulse was going up and up. You see, for him, hard work though he made it, the 5km stretches between water stops were the rests. Come the stops he could get in some serious stallioning (my own verb) in with an audience that was, if not appreciative at least close and paying attention to him and not to whoever was on top of them or on where they were going.

As we left the halfway point I informed Sam that he should at least try to look a little tired and perhaps, as a bonus for me, pretend to feel a little tired. But no way. Acts III and IV were played with all the enthusiasm of a young thespian on the first night of his first major role. We briefly renewed our aquaintance with the railway signal and gave another feisty performance for the railway guards. A helicopter passed over, its throbbing rotors deafened by Sam`s neigh. At the 15 km stop there were more buckets to kick and I refused the advise to pour water over Sam`s head at this stage on the grounds that I was sane. The steward insisted it was a wonderful idea. I insisted that as ideas go it sucked while Sam leapt up and down as other horses joined us, substituting horizontal momentum for vertical momentum. By this time I had lost (I hoped temporarily) all my friends from Saqarra. They say that in the States one of the best ways to meet new people is to go out walking a dog. I think that probably depends on your dog and how it behaves. I can assure anyone looking for a companion in life that riding Sam in an Endurance Prance is a short cut to social pariah. Wind in our faces, hormones rushing round his body at a speed and concentration one can only wonder at, Sam and I danced our way along the last part of the course. Maryanne, Molly and Zena in a fit of insanity or bravery or for a bet, joined us. Babsi drove past in a jeep yelling "Go Sam! Go!". It was a deeply attractive four-wheel drive. I cannot remember if horses can see colour but I have always admired the dark blue. Sam now admired it and Babsi`s encouragements were misconstrued as he took the vehicle to be a large mare. Walk your horse in had been a piece of advise. Keeping Sam to a walk on that final stretch, or Scene to continue the theatre analogy, probably raised his heart beat to double that that it would have been if I had let him gallop. Still advise is advise and we reached the finish.

Prior to the ride I had assumed that he would have been a little tired and anxious for a rest and a graze. Not so. For Sam if this was the end this was going to be a dramatic exit, Prospero`s farewell to the stage as the curtain falls on The Tempest. He finished much as he had started, as though the 20 km had been an annoying little interlude. I dismounted and Khamis was there to help with Mr. Stallion as he pranced and neighed and danced his way amongst the assembled throngs. We finished at 12.57 so the time limit for the vet check was by 1.27. I went to see Maryanne while Sam asserted his manhood to a pile of saddles and asked for advise. "Well normally you try to get the vet check done as soon as you feel the horse is ready." Pause. "But having seen Sam over the past few kilometres I recommend 1.27. Finding a quiet corner for Sam to `calm down` was impossible. By 1.17 he had fallen in love, or rather lust, with the same horse box twice and was now proclaimed his sexual rights to the steward`s table. I could almost see his pulse going up the longer we waited so I decided to go for the vet check. As fate would have it just as he was about to have his heart monitored a particularly attractive purebred mare appeared, in his eyes no doubt like manna from heaven, in the vet booth right next door. He felt it necessary to go ballistic, a feeling compounded, I am convinced, by the fact he now had a sizeable crowd of `admirers` keeping a healthy distance and probably wondering why the horse was being checked as he clearly could not have been on the ride. "He`s excited" I explained rather unnecessarily repeating my entry for the Understatement of the Year competition. The vet took me to one side. `Look` he said ` You`ve still got ten minutes, take him round the back.`

If there is one thing that Sam appreciates more than an audience it is food. Khamis had conjured up a pile of berseem from I know not where but while his stomach for a few precious minutes took precedence over his libido his heart rate came down. By the time of the vet check it was a miraculous 58 and his gait A. We passed. I was proud.