Saturday, November 15, 2008

Endurance: Qatar Style - Maggie Mieske

November 15 2008

Since arriving in Doha, Nelson and I have searched endlessly for the endurance people here. The horse people we found kept referring us to the local riding club for lessons, which is not what we were interested in doing. Finally, after 3 months, we made multiple contacts in one weekend which resulted in our attendance at our first Qatar endurance ride yesterday. It was an experience. I decided that the best way for me to summarize without pontificating is to simply compare and contrast endurance here with endurance in the U.S.

How is endurance the same here as it is in the U.S.?

1.. The people. Endurance people are as willing and friendly to help you, answer questions and befriend you as they are in the U.S. As a result, we made too many friends to count. We hung out with the farrier (Dormell is Nelson’s new best friend. He has promised to let Nelson ride along and see what a Qatar farrier’s life is like) and we hung out with one of the treatment vets. Both of these men were so warm, welcoming and encouraging that I cannot explain how much their new friendship with us means.. We also hung out with Dormell’s friend, George, from Arizona! See, home is never very far away! We met the two Avrils, two women from Ireland who discovered endurance later in life as many of us do and are taking the plunge. Avril #1 rode yesterday and we pit crewed with her husband along one loop. We also met some of the Al Shaqab Team, the silver medal winners at this year’s World Endurance Championships. I teased them that I wanted to try out for their team and they thought I should. They were kind and very funny young men.

2. The horses. There is nearly the same hodgepodge of horses here as in the states, all colors, all sizes, but of course, all Arabian or Anglo-Arab (about 20 of the 50+ entered). Some are quite robust and some are a bit thinner than I’d like to see. But, they smell and sound like horses to me! That in itself was a tremendous pleasure!

3. Beet pulp. I never saw very much (not in the quantities we use in the U.S.) but I smelled it in a bucket and someone said, oh, yeah, that’s beet pulp.

4. Family friendly. I didn’t bring my neighbor with her young son because I wasn’t sure how family friendly the sport might or might not be here. I saw lots of kids and even a couple of small dogs. Many of the horses are owned (if not ridden) by sheikhs and their families, so they come out to watch and soak up the atmosphere. It’s the same kind of atmosphere really.

How is endurance different here than in the U.S.?

1. It’s fast. Very fast. It’s flat.. Very flat. It’s racing, pure and simple, although my new friend, Avril #1, made a plan for herself, pacing herself for each loop, stuck to it and, when we left, was running about 22nd place in the 100 km which started with around 50 riders. The 80 km junior ride had nearly the same number of riders. This is another astonishing difference to me.

2. They have rides which are only for junior riders. They do not ride with an adult sponsor as they do in the U.S. However, they have a pit crew near them at all times, so it is like having an adult with them anyway. Which brings me to pit crewing….

3. The trail is essentially a “track.” There is a 30 km loop and a 20 km loop. Pit crews can and do ride alongside their riders during the ride. They may speed up to get ahead and get things ready at the water stop (every 5 km) for their riders, but essentially, they are right there the entire time. It is against the rules to hand off water from a moving vehicle, but in the dark, who would know? And our crew didn’t carry a tank with water. They bought bottled water (1.5 liters) for pouring on the horse and for the rider (1/2 liters). Bottled water is cheap here. I am not sure what other crews do as we only went out on one loop and it was dark. BTW, the track appears to us to be graded to keep it flat. It’s too bad it was at night because I think the nearby dunes would have been beautiful! In addition, the trot out lanes at the vet check (there were 20 lanes) are graded and leveled and packed down. I can’t count how many times we trotted out over bumpy, lumpy ground at vet checks!

4. The rides here start about 4-5 p.m. which now is less than an hour before sunset. There was a full moon last night, but since everyone drives alongside, the horse/rider has plenty of light from headlights.

5. No camping overnight. Not that one couldn’t camp, but most people (or at least those I met) go home after the ride. Heck, when we start going, I’m taking a tent and setting up camp! J

6. Nearly everyone (maybe 80%?) rides with leg wraps or support boots on their horses (mostly leg wraps though). I noticed that when wet, they weigh a ton. I asked Avril #1 why she does this and she honestly said, because everyone else does. After the second vet check, she replaced the wet wraps with lightweight neoprene Podium support boots and I think her horse probably was the better for it. Her hind legs were starting to tire and she had started overreaching. I hoped that taking the heavier leg wraps off might solve that problem. I hope to hear from them today for a report.

7. All of the rides are held at Qatar Endurance Village, near Sealine Resort and a huge petroleum plant. I was hopeful before we got there that some of the trail would go along the Gulf, but that was not the case. Darn! It’s only about 50 km from where we live, but we’re having trouble adjusting to the idea of all the rides in the same place forever.

8. All rides are FEI. I have some serious research to do if I think I want to try FEI in the Middle East.

9. The vast majority of the horses are owned, trained and ridden by different people. I noticed many are owned by members of the Royal Family and, of course, by Al Shaqab Endurance Team which is essentially the Emir, Sheikh Hamad al Khalifa Al Thani. There are many other “teams” as in many will come from various stables and call themselves teams, although I don’t think there are “team” awards of any kind. However, we did not stay until the finish because I have to work this afternoon! I could be wrong about that. The riders are basically nothing more than paid jockeys. I was surprised at the number of children/juniors riding the 80 km on horses owned by the Al Shaqab Team. One of the team members told me (when I asked if he rode the same horse consistently or many) that Al Shaqab owns over 80 endurance horses, although he said that he has one horse that he trains/rides for the jumping team. Basically, my Irish friends are the only ones who own, train and ride their own horses, although Avril #1 can’t ride both of her horses and so has a jockey ride the other. Avril #2 is currently laid up from back surgery, so she has offered for me to take a ride on her horse which I have not even met yet. They stable their horses near Al Shahania (outside of Doha) where horses are trained and ridden by the owners and trainer, a Dutch woman and her daughter, I believe.

10. The top 15 earn “big money.” I did not find out how much “big money” is, but I am sure it is not chicken feed. I have yet to learn if there is any prestige or value placed on Best Condition which is always MY goal.

These are my first impressions of endurance riding/racing in Qatar. I am sure I will have plenty more to add as time goes on. As much as I would love to bring Malik here, I think there might be issues and consequences I have not considered or that I might not even realize. Malik could do this and excel. However, who would I ride in the Shore to Shore every summer? I have finally discovered where the endurance horses are and it seems there is no shortage, so at this point, I will start searching for a possible endurance mount for myself, either to buy or lease. I have enough friends to lead the way for me and help me out now. In the meantime, I need to start getting in shape again…I was dismayed to discover that I do not have the muscling in my arms and legs that I used to have when Malik and I were conditioning and competing regularly. Duh. BUT! I did it before. I can do it again.

Does anyone know something that rhymes with kilometers? “Kilometers of smiles” simply doesn’t have the ring that “Miles of smiles” has.

Starting over in Qatar,

Maggie (and Nelson)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dell Valle Vulture Venture 50 - Nick Warhol

2008 A first for certain, or “To finish is to win!”

Endurance riding is a little like baseball, in that it’s always full of surprises; every ride has the potential for something to happen that never did before, be it good, bad, or otherwise. The DVVV ride in beautiful down town Livermore, California, had a few interesting twists this year. For one thing, it was a two day ride this time. I don’t know how many two day horses there were, but they sure got a work out. It’s a pretty difficult ride for a local 50 in the Bay Area, since the whole trail is either up or down pretty significant climbs all day. It never really lets up except for a couple of quick jaunts on a road alongside the lake for a couple of miles or so. There are a few 1000 plus foot climbs that go pretty much straight up thrown in for good measure. I like the ride, because it’s in my back yard, I ride here all the time, and it is put on by my good friends Bill and Jane Cloud, with assistance by Mike and Kirstin Bernsten.

I’ve had a weird year this year with Donnie that included starting out like wildfire- death valley, 20 mule team 100, and patriots day 100s with great results. I gave him the time off between Pats Day and Tevis, and, uh, well, no Tevis due to the fires. But lucky for me, or unlucky, or both, Mister D developed a quarter crack that I thought was a bigger issue, and would have kept me out of Tevis had it been held. That makes me lucky, or unlucky, I’m not sure, but neither was any good. As a result he did not get to do Swanton, either, darn it. The good news is the crack wasn’t a big deal, just a shallow crack on the exterior skin of his hoof, so the crack got better, but then he fell down in the pasture running his laps before breakfast. (He does this, you see. He just goes out and runs in the morning, all by himself.) The ding bat tweaked himself pretty good in the rear and had to spend a few weeks getting over that. He made his comeback at the quicksilver ride in October where we had a great ride and finished quite well, in the rain, no less, on the one day it rained in seven months. Of course. This is endurance.

Back to Livermore- Judy had to bail out of the ride at the last minute due to a shoe job lameness on Color, so I was on my own. My buddy Sally Abe was riding one of Laura Ferking’s horses, Ruby’s Tin Man, or Tin Cup as I like to call him. I started out the ride with Ace Bay Area rider and great guy Bill Coburn, but after a short while I hooked up with our friend Karen Bottanni on her veteran horse Movin ‘on Blues. Six for seven at Tevis, with five in a row? Yes, he’s a good horse. A little “surly” sometimes, but a good boy. The ride starts out with a controlled start right through a family campground, then dumps us out on an uphill single track trail called Valicitos trail that’s nice. A good climb up the twisty single track takes us to a long decent on a fire road, right back to the campgrounds, but a quick left sends us to an out and back check down a road to a spot called Deer Jaw, which they added to get the extra mileage needed, since they dumped the big climb up Rocky Ridge this year. Thanks guys- much appreciated! That’s a big pull up there and back. We hung a 180 at the smiling Bill and his ATV and backtracked all the way back up the downhill fire road we had just come down, down the uphill single track, (there’s a lot of that in this ride- go up and down the same hills all day), through camp, to the start, where we turn right up the arroyo, which is all river rocks. Serious rocks. Walk very slowly rocks. Lucky it is only an eighth of a mile or so in the wash rocks to the next climb on fire roads, and then the neat steep downhill single track to the creek that was totally dry this time of year. Another climb back up on trails to more fire roads, then more downhill single track on the zig zag trail through the trees. More roads now lead through some ranches and up a serious climb on a fire road to one of the highest parts of the park called the airplane hill. (They fly remote control gliders here. I used to, BH. (Before horses)) A well placed water trough is a relief at the top, then it’s, you guessed it, more down. Now you begin the 7 mile jaunt to the dam on the big, wide, all weather gravel road that we have ridden on a whole lot of times, as it is our standard winter conditioning location. There are bikes and hikers here, but on the road there is lots of room. This road is a roller coaster all the way with up and down climbs ranging from little to pretty big. The last hill near the dam drops down the other side to the vet check at the golf course, below the dam, for a 30 minute hold. If that dam broke, we would be swimming. It was getting a little warm, especially for the early season fur balls we called horses. Mister D and Blues made short work of the vet check and enjoyed a snack before starting back up that long hill. Now we head the 8 miles back to camp, but we get treated to the single track trails that criss- cross the road on the way back. You have to be careful, though, as these trails are a test bed of sorts, where the park allows horses, hikers, and mountain bikes on the single tracks. Most trails are okay, but there are a couple where I don’t want to meet a bike. (Barb wire fence, fall into the lake, that sort of thing!) The last trail dumps you out at the lake’s edge where we trot the flat access road back to the marina, and through campgrounds to the base camp. This is 30 miles; it’s a real 30, and not an easy one. We pulsed down right away and let the boys eat for 30 minutes and took them to the vet. It was here that I had my first ever “huh?” in a vet check with Dawn. He was 52 off the trail, and when we returned to vet in a half hour, Claude took the first CRI pulse he got 56. No, that’s not right, not after 30 minutes. This horse is a recovering fool. I trotted him out and back, and the second pulse was 40. Okay, much better. I think he must have just missed counted. He said, yeah, probably. The horse looked great. Whew! Back to eating and lunch.

We headed out of camp on time to go and do the final 20 miles, which was a bizarre figure eight sort of thing that made use of lots of already ridden trails. We had to go climb back up that first big climb and back down the cool Valicitos single track, turn right in the rock wash again, and up that same hill again. You have to love it when your horse just trucks on up these grinding hills, heading away from camp, trotting if you let him, and cantering if he can. I sure do! Back down the steep single track and up the other side of the canyon again, just like early this morning, but here’s the change- we hang a left and head back towards camp. Yep- check the map, we are on the trail, I know where this goes. But what’s this? A horse and rider coming towards us? This is no fun rider, this is a top horse here. We ask her where she’s going, she sighs, and reports she was leading, took a wrong turn somewhere, and came into the finish through the main camp, which was wrong. They sent her back out in reverse to go back to the turn she missed up on top and finish the trail the right way. Bummer, but she was a good sport about it. “Oh well,” she said, “this just happens sometimes.” We come down to the finish line spotter, a quarter mile from camp, who takes our number coming through the first time- she smiles and sends us back out to the marina and the road along the lake. I asked about the leader, she said, “yeah, she got lost.” As we get to the normal staging area near the marina a couple miles away, we see the next three leaders coming down the hill called squirrel gultch, come through a gate, and turn towards the finish. Uh oh, they are lost too. That’s not right. I know them, so I stop them and tell them “Hey guys, you’re going the wrong way. The finish is down the airplane hill, not back down through camp here.” They are focused and don’t believe me; they shoot out the wrong way towards camp, the way we just came. I yell after them and warn that we just saw the first place horse going back out to do it right, no, they are sure they are on the trail and scurry on. Nope, guys, you are messing up, but what the heck? I tried to help them. We shrug it off and continue on (after looking at the map ONE MORE TIME), I convince Karen we are doing it right. We pause at the water trough, where neither horse drinks a lot. Hmmmm, me thinks, he should drink here. We trotted the mile and a half or so along the beautiful lake on the dog run road, stopping countless times for hikers, families, strollers, portable BBQs on wheels, small boats, you name it, it is coming down the main lake access road. We pulled over at a camp site and whipped out my portable water bucket and offered the boys some water from the spigot. They both drank about 12 buckets each. That’s better- that trough must have smelled bogus to the both of them. We continue on over the nice single track that leads away from the lake, and turn right on the main gravel road for the long climb back up to the top of the airplane hill. Strangely enough, both Karen and I say at the same time, “I know where they got lost.” It’s a turn up ahead that was marked for the fun ride and took you down to squirrel gulch, to where we saw the three leaders heading for home the wrong way. It made sense! That’s why they saw ribbons- they were fun ride ribbons.

Up, up we go, trotting and walking ata great pace, with an occasional blast of canter, just ‘cause he likes it. We get to the turn in question, and yes indeed, I can see the confusion. The sign has two lines on it- fun ride, and below that, loop two. Big flour arrow on the ground, red ribbons going that way. I knew we needed to go back up to the top the way we came, but this was different. Hmmm. Loop 2? We had been following signs for loop 2 all afternoon. We went about a hundred yards to a water trough where they both drank. I was telling Karen we have to go up to the top of the airplane hill, since the map shows it right here. I also knew we needed to finish on that same trail we had come in before, and the only way was up this hill here. I thought perhaps the road ahead would intersect with a left turn that would take us back up on top. Just then Bill Cloud comes racing down the hill on his quad to fix the signage on that turn. He waves us back- yep, up this way, the same way we came. We chat with Bill and tell him I knew we had to go up- the map shows it clearly. He fixed the sign and we trotted up the hill to the top and the water trough. I looked over at Karen and told her- “You know what? We are the first two horses to not be lost. If everyone went the wrong way, that makes us first and second.” I thought we were in the middle to back of the top ten anyway at that point. She said, “No way, others must have done it right.” We cross the road, and hop off the boys for the long, long hand walk down the hill to the bottom. This is when I start playing Tonto and the Lone Ranger. “Kimosabe- There are no hoof prints going down this hill- they are all coming up.” Yes, we were the only horses going down so far. Hmmm. After walking down for a while, we look way, way down the hill and see three horses and riders heading up the massive climb, but at a slow walk. They can’t be fun riders, not after 7 hours, and it would not be much fun to have to climb back up this with an inexperienced horse. They were walking slowly, Karen thought maybe pleasure riders, but they were too far away to tell. As we got closer, I realized it was them! It was the three riders I had tried to warn about 45 minutes before. They were coming back up the hill to get back to the turn, to finish the trail correctly. Karen and I were not quite what to say, so we just walked on down, and finally met them in the middle of the hill. They were still steaming mad, and said WE were lost. I just smiled and thought “see ya” as we headed down the hill, leading our horses. I figured it would not make much sense to say “I told you so!” at this point. We only had about 2 miles to go, and I told Karen, we are in first and second. She was still not sure, but I was convinced. We trotted along the last roads, back to the spotter, who was indeed confused, as the other three horses had just passed her going the wrong way? We scooted on in towards camp, just across the road, and we hit the finish line, where the nice lady said, “Hey, first place!”

Yep- Donnie and I won the ride. Well, okay, it was a gift, and Karen certainly let us go in first, but hey, you have to finish to win, right? There was a lot of confusion at the finish about who was where, and who had to go back out, but it was clear that Karen and I had done the trail correctly, (we met the ride manager on the right trail at the top of the hill) and we were the first to finish, so we got it. That sure turned out neat- knowing where to go certainly helped, but it was pretty obvious that all you had to do was look a the excellent map, and no one else had. We were getting congratulations from everyone- pretty neat! We both went and showed for BC in an hour, and both horses looked very good, great in fact. I outweigh Karen, so heck, I have it in the bag, right? Not quite- Blues edged Donnie out by a couple of points on horse score, so she got BC! I was absolutely thrilled for her, since she and Blues have been a team for many years and many miles, and this was her second top ten ever. Karen had left, and when she found out that Blues had gotten BC, she could not believe it. I thought it was perfect; I got the win, and she got BC- it could not have ended any better than that.

What else happened? Who knows. I have had lots of top ten’s, but this was my first win in my 16 years and near 9000 miles in endurance, and it felt pretty neat. The ride time was not fast, as we were planning on a 7 hour ride anyway on this very difficult trail, and that’s what we did. Sure, it was a gift to a certain extent, but like I said, I’ll take it. This is a tough ride, and to have Donnie and Blues looking like they did at the end is all that really matters. Bill Coburn followed the right trail and sneaked in to 7th- he was pretty happy as well. There were about 40 riders on the 50 I think, with a few pulls. The best part of the DVVV ride is the dinner- Bill is a madman when it comes to feeding riders, and the dinner was no exception. I only planned to ride the first day, but there were only 12 riders signed up for the 50 on Sunday……….. No, take the boy home and let him eat and rest up and eat some more for next weekend- the Lake Sonoma 50, one of my favorite rides of the year. I turned him out in the arena at home, where he trotted across to his rolling spot. He rolls, gets, up, trots back to me as if to ask what’s next? A lot more, I hope. You are a good horse, mister Dawn.

Nick Warhol

Hayward, Ca.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Malaysia WEC: Of Horses and Riders - a Local's Perspective

by Azahar Idris

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

For the first time Malaysia, or to be more exact Terengganu, was the host of the FEI World Endurance Championship 2008.

We were all excited to be there, at Lembah Bidong Equestrian Centre. Just to be there to witness the great sporting event.

Squeezing my tight schedule, I drove up there after Maghrib Prayers. Reaching there at almost 11.00 we had to explore the entire facilities just to find a decent place to sit and watch the horses. The tiredness and the drizzling night made us somewhat lost bearing of the whereabouts of things.

I was looking for the Veterinarian centre, but just could not find it.

Finally, we did find a place. At least we were free from the drizzle. So the five of us, My wife, Amalia, Kak Long (my wife's niece) and were mesmerized by the magnificient horses and the riders too.

The Arabians were something else to see. They, with their concave face, slim body and beatifully raised tail walked or canter proudly as they left the starting point.

It was very close to the hub of the race - the starting and ending place.

It was already the end of the third loop when we arrived. We saw riders from UAE and Spain coming in. We also saw riders starting their fourth loop.

We waited for almost two hours, just to catch a glimpse of His Majesty Sultan Mizan riding his horse. According to the Policeman that joined us in the seating area, he was still resting.

Amalia was also excited with the horses. She kept on snapping pictures of the horses as they made their way (some seemed to have lost the desire to win) and also as they started the new loop.

My wife and I planned to wait it out till say 4 o'clock in the morning. But Amalia was sneezing continuously...perhaps the drizzle had triggered her rhinitis. Amirul was dozing on the empty seats.

So, we gave in. We left Lembah Bidong Equestrian Centre at around two in the morning.

We put up in Mahani's house for the night.

WEC Afterwards: I have a rash - Bob

Nov. 12th, 2008

well it was a lot more fun packing the horse gear in Canada for the trip over here....the packing for return hmmm not so much. I think we will all be glad to return to North America and i will be especially thankful for some dry skivvies!!! Seems like everything is damp as soon as you put then on..we have decided that the wering of skirts and sarongs is definitely the way in this climate! Well enough about that.
First let me thank all who have sent us notes of encouragement and congrats...very much appreciated.
Tomorrow at 6 am the horses will be loaded and we will not see them for about 10 days!!! Thankfully John Crandall from USA will be travelling with the horse. Not sure how the US manages to trump us each time ..but it may be something to look at in the future.
US was allowed to send team vet with horses on the way here and administer fluids in Amsterdam....Canadians 0 1
Now on the return trip US has a groom to accompany the horses for 3 days stay in Amsterdam...Canadians still 0 2.
Perhaps in the future ...whomever that will entail...we should be allowed what is definitely available. What do ya think????
Today at lunch I initiated a riders wrap up and synopsis of the ride. We have decided to post our comments publicly both favorable and not so much....with an effort to provide help to whomever is available for 2010. What do ya think???

Sorry it is about to rain...monsoon struck with a vengence last night. Damn near drowned in the little bean can car that I have rented. It was raining so hard the wipers could not keep up. so I drove to my new hotel....closer to the barn...staring at the white line and hoping that one of the looose cows, goats or chickens or people were not in the road at night.
Happy trails everyone

The "First" Ride - Carol Delisi

The “First” Ride

Carol Delisi, Sheridan, MT

The Helena Pioneer Cabin Endurance Ride was my 3rd endurance ride (well – a couple failed attempts before that – but those are entirely different stories). This ride was special though since this was my first ride with my new horse and it was just the two of us hauling to the ride. I’d ridden 180 miles so far in 2008 – and even rode 80 of those miles with this horse, but at the time of those miles, I hadn’t bought her yet. Now we were a team and on our own. Thankfully, we weren’t really by ourselves, as I would discover.

I’ve loved horses all my life. I didn’t own a horse until I was 35 years old, when my husband bought me a little QH Paint colt. Since then I’ve owned just 2 other horses before I bought this beautiful Arabian mare named Samrah. I believe I’ve found the horse I dreamed of since I was a little girl. She’s tough, fast and beautiful. She makes friends easily, but gets cranky once in awhile, which I appreciate, having those episodes myself. She can be very sweet and she has these big expressive eyes that show her appreciation for a carrot or a rub on the shoulder.

We arrived at ride camp fairly early in the afternoon, after a long, bumpy ride on a road I was worried was taking us to the middle of nowhere. And then when we got there I was thankful we were in the middle of nowhere with the houses of the city far away. As soon as I got there, someone I knew greeted me and helped me decide where and how to park in the nice, big open grassy field. I was worried about Samrah missing her buddies and being all alone at the trailer, but a stuffed-full hay bag and her hi-tie took care of that. She could see other horses and she was happy enough after calling out a couple times to let everyone know she was there.

After getting her settled, I set up my tent and got my camp organized. The people parked in front of me were outside their trailer, relaxing, so I thought I should introduce myself. They invited me to sit and chat and I enjoyed getting to know them and sharing some time. I was more than a little worried about riding by myself and asked about riding together and was pleased at an enthusiastic response. We agreed we’d start out together and be flexible, if necessary. I got an invite to share dinner with them and one of their daughters who showed up with her kids. I felt very at home and any anxiety I had was fading away.

The anxiety came back during the night when I heard the wind pick up enough that a couple times I thought the tent might lift off the ground. The tent fly was flapping and I heard items in other people’s camps blowing in the wind. I kept looking out my tent window to make sure I could see Samrah’s silhouette in the moonlight. Every time I looked she was calmly sleeping or munching her hay. Her calmness helped me get a few winks of sleep.

The next morning was dark, cold and windy. The mid-September day felt rather wintry, even though the forecast earlier in the week had been sunny and warm fall weather. Samrah was a little hyped up but was kind enough to stand still for saddling up. I concentrated on keeping my breathing regular, even though my heart was starting to pound with excitement and worry at the windy weather.

My partner’s horse was what I feared Samrah would be like: dancing around at the end of the reins, like a kite in the wind. I decided the only way I’d feel comfortable was to mount up, so I did and was pleased that I stayed in the saddle and only had to deal with some jigging. My partner decided to walk her horse the first mile or so, and even with gusty wind her horse was calm enough now so she could mount up. We set out at a ground-covering trot and caught up with two people I knew. The four of us ended up staying together the rest of the ride – through the rain, brief hail and several wrong turns. We saw the sun come out in the afternoon, promising a beautiful day the next day. We rode through sage and open grass, past huge boulders and through quiet forests. We rode past elk, bighorn, bear – not real ones – but 3-D targets for bow hunters. We made a couple wide circuits as the horses tried to figure out if they were real and would eat Arabians. We came in last and happy to finish. I was so proud of my mare – she was steady and sane throughout, with only a couple hissy fits at vet checks when her new buddy wasn’t right next to her. Our finish was truly a “win” for both of us.

And even though, for the first time, we traveled “alone” to a ride, we were never really alone. On the second day, when we rode a 25 mile, we found two new companions, and enjoyed the sunny, calm, beautiful blue-skied weather.

I wanted to get an early start to get home the following morning so I told a friend of mine who talked about traveling together for part of the way that I couldn’t because I wanted to leave early. I got everything packed up and then pulled away out of ride camp. Before I did though, I decided to take one more look around the rig, just to make sure everything was okay. Something must’ve told me that I needed to find the flat tire on my trailer. I tried to find the tire iron in the truck and couldn’t, so ran to get help from my friend who was one of the few still in ride camp. She calmly and quickly helped me change the flat tire and then offered to drive with me to a stop to make sure the lug nuts were tightened. My first ride “alone” with my new lovely horse was anything but, and I was very glad for the companionship and friendship we enjoyed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Malaysia WEC : Some Personal Thoughts - a Local's Take

Pearls and Gem

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Maria Mercedes Alverez Ponton and puny looking arab gelding ,Nobby : Individual Gold ,World Endurance Championship ,2008 ,Lembah Bidong ,Terengganu ,Malaysia .18.2 kph average over 160 kilometres under extreme heat and humidity ,a myth blowing feat .Team UAE ,Bahrain and Qatar :Team Gold ,Silver and Bronze .Relegating the Europeans ,Australians and Americans to the 'dustbins' of endurance history .That was Malaysia WEC that was !

I am still in a state of shock .I never perceive one could go beyond 16 kph in our conditions ,especially our high humidity .We have difficulty even breaching 12 kph .When ESPN's Lisa Wong asked me ,looking at our tired Ms Laily on Jesse James walking past the finishing line at the end of phase 5 when Maria had long gone home to her hotel room to sleep , what ails the Malaysians ?: I could only offer the best classical excuse .We Malaysians are still at the wrong end of a 'steep learning curve'.


2008 WEC: Riding with kings!!! - Bob from Canada

Nov. 11th, 2008

Hi All
Well i wrote a huge blog last night and the damn connection died before I posted here we go again!!!

I will begin with the build up to the ride which began with a good night's sleep...finally. The ride morning was spent setting up the crew area. This was accomplished amidst a land grab reminiscent of the wild west.... some countries were setting up rows of buckets in prime areas to claim territory! our few Canadian buckets were hopelessly outgunned!!! In the hold area we had two tents for our 5 horses which was just enough room to do a good job of crewing. the other grabbing was of bags of ice...despite being assured that we would be supplied all the ice necessary for the day... crews were going away with pick up boxes piled high with ice....this in the morning at 10 Am in 40C temperature with seven our eight hours before ice would be necessary...go figure!!!
The wild and crazy start was a sight to behold...there was a great deal of spinning rearing and bucking. In the beginning four of us started out together at a controlled much as our horses would allow. I am sure you have all seen pics of the start line lined with spectators by now ...but from the field the air was electric. First one then another and finally a third horse passed us ...sans rider...and we commented that we were already ahead of 3 out of 135 horses. The poor riders were left to run down the field pathetically called HALT to thir runaway mounts. There was a great cheer as the king started the ride.
things were relatively uneventful on most of the first loop and the horses finally settled in to a working trot. Despite trying to ride as a ws near impossible for me to get Galaxy to pace with the I went ahead at the end of the first loop. By now we were in complete darkness and would be for several hours. Crewing in this extreme heat and humidity was a great learning experience. We used ice water to cool out ...even on the back muscles..not sure if that was the right idea as Galaxy developed a sore back later in the ride...but it was incrdible how much cooling was required. i was very gratefull for the help Galaxy received in the holds with my crew Barb and angeal doing a great job. and a special thanks to Scott Hie with his back magic, Rob Benns for his constant smile and words of encouragement, and all the rest of the Canadian crew!!! It was especially interesting to see the temps of the Galaxy in the hold... sometimes coming in at 40.9C in the beginning of the hold definitely in the danger Zone!!! ...thnakfully he pulsed down despite the heavy panting panted and effort to cool himself. Once thru the vet area...we had to continue to cool him to get the temp down to a reasonable temp of 38-39C to be able to continue.
Loops 2 and 3 in the dark were long and unending..with the occasional strange noises from the jungle thrown in!!! The water tanks were spaced every 3-4 km with 7-10 large black water troughs usually 3 filled with ice water and all the people water you wanted. They really looked after us with water!!!
Somewhere in the night we were hit by a severe lighning storm and torrential rain...but lucky for us no incidents. Unlike the US who had two spooked by the nearness of a stike and both Jan and Meg came off their horses..perhaps there horses felt the electricity coming thru their steel shoes in the water.
Finally the light began to appear and we were able to pick up the pace...I am not comfortable cantering in the dark so as soon as it got light enough I asked Galaxy for a good canter. The track was smooth and fairly soft so good going. However the sand did a number on my shoes and they were hanging by a thread at the end of the ride totally worn out...eve though I had been shod 4 days previous to the ride!!!
On loop 5 i came upon two malaysian riders obviously with tired i made a motion to follow me and their horses seemed to pick up the pace. We exchanged a few pleasantries and complimented each other on our horses! It was only at the hold that I realized that i had been riding with his majesty!!! As we had come in to the hold together I prepared to ride again with the king ...but it was not to be as he had retired from the race. i did get to finish the last towo loops with Halim ., ammeber of the royal entourage and we crossed the line together and promised each other a shirt. So I now have the shirt to prove the adventure.
I think overall we Canadians were just happy to finish the ride. Certainly it was the toughest ride i hve ever been in and also the largest.
I am pleased that Galaxy was able to handle the conditions. As pointed out to us ...we are along way from a medal position in these conditions. However finishing 34 or thereabouts out of 135 was good enough for me. I had said all along that it was my goal to finish the ride and not go home with an incomplete!
So now we are relaxing at the beach and trying to recover from lack of sleep
most of the crew is gone and we are down to our original people.
it is now Tuesday PM at 2 and raining a monsoon!!! Time to go put the horses in the barn.
Will write more later.
Selamut tinga from Malaysia

Monday, November 03, 2008

Skymont - Angie McGhee

Wow, where were you guys? SKYMONT WAS GREAT! :-D Honestly, we do rides in sweltering heat, freezing rain, etc. etc. and then *finally* you get to go to that ride where the weather is PERFECT. You have a beautiful drive in with the fall colors at their peek, pull into a camp that overlooks a gorgeous lake with all those orange and yellow trees reflected like a mirror and have just a first class experience from the word go.

The biggest thing that happened was that General Jeb Stuart, Karen Isaac's great horse hit the 8,000 mile mark! Karen & Thomas are expecting a child in January so Karen had someone else up but was right there crewing when Jeb hit his milestone. It's great to see a really great horse & rider just keep going and going! He didn't just eek through either. I believe he was 5th place.

I had the whole family plus 2 involved so we looked like the keystone cops unloading all the stuff. I rode Seven, Josie had Cade (finally graduated from high school and no more sports to work around!!!) We even had the *other daughter* (as Bonnie refers to herself) riding since Jody Buttram offered her a mount in the 25. Talk about pulling a kid "out of the field" and doing a tough ride. I don't think she'd been farther than 3 miles on a horse in years, but she had a great time. My old pal Lynda Webber (used to be Lynda Corry) formerly of Texas fame finally got another mount and filled up the third slot in my trailer. Yee ha, splitting the gas right when prices is good! She came back in style finishing 12th with her new horse Baily...thanks to Becky in Atlanta for selling her such a good horse!

Bill was the official spotter that we passed 7 times during the ride so it was easy to keep in touch as to how everyone else was doing. That worked out great, there was that one spot you just looped past each time, sometimes twice and they had big barrels of water there. Once the horses had been to them once they knew the drill and everybody drank great. Unlike some places, they kept topping them off all day so even when you were in back there was lots of fresh clear water waiting. :-))

June and Larry Jordan do an absolutely amazing job of putting this whole thing together themselves. You'll never find a better marked trail and June did all 38 miles of it herself. The fact that this ride is held on a Boy Scout reservation means the roads are simply jeep trails that for the most part have never seen gravel. A combination of jeep roads and trails along the edge of the Cumberland Plateau with gorgeous views makes for one of those days you hope you can think back on when you can't do this sport any more. The fall colors against the BLUE sky were dazzling.

In the 50 miler I think there were 29 starters and 21 finishers. Sandy Thompson took home the beautiful oak hand made tack trunk for first place and Rebecca Nelson won BC which was a really nice rolling bale bag.

In the 25 I think there were 51 starters and ummm 45? finishers. Eddie Edwards won 1st & BC in the 25, but since he just finished fast and went home I'm guessing Susan Kasemayer is going to get some use out of his awards he left behind. (Note to Eddie, if somebody *tells* you they're not going to deliver your prizes if you just win and go home, you might ought to *believe* them!) >eg<

There's not that many rides where you can have your ride meeting, awards dinner/meeting and a Sunday morning breakfast complete with biscuits, gravy, bacon, sausage, candied apples, scrambled eggs (with or without cheese) and hash browns (with or without peppers). Oh yeah, and coffee and juice *and* a fire in the fireplace! Finish that off with Dr. Ike Nelson's Cowboy church service and you've had a weekend that sends you back to work wishing it wasn't over yet. :-)

It was a great ride and I highly recommend you all put it on your calender for next year.

Angie McGhee

How broken is too broken?! our Moab ride story! - Marlene Moss

My husband Stace and I decided we really needed a vacation and since we missed Moab last year, that ride became our goal this year. Well, 5 weeks ago Stace broke 3 bones in his left foot when a 700 pound bale fell on him - he was very lucky. Then last week I got tossed and bruised my tail bone pretty bad (still mostly assuming it's not broken except when I move wrong or my horse decides a shadow is worth jumping). Then our truck started having starting issues (no pun intended). And our intermittent trailer brakes (on a 3H LQ) became more consistent - on the non-working side!

Stace managed to get all of 17 miles on his horse in the past 2 month, but luckily she keeps her conditioning and his foot was feeling pretty good so he aimed to do the first and third days. We bought a fuel pump (hoping it was the solution to the starting problem, but it wasn't) in Grand Junction on the way to the ride and relied on the exhaust brake to get us safely down the hills. We were quite determined to get to this ride.

And it was absolutely worth it! I was riding a new horse this season and we were still learning about each other. She starting the season as a fairly sane idiot. Mostly great when riding but a lunatic otherwise. She has slowly settled in and can go from race mode to sleeping standing in an instant (except for the need to rub her head all over me) so I was having to learn what was her learning to deal from what might be a horse that was getting tired. But she did great and rode all 3 days, ending strong. Stace met his goal of riding 2 days and both horses camped well (other than a little exploration during the wee hours one morning).

This was an amazing ride, and shouldn't be missed. Each day brought new trail and different types of terrain and gorgeous views. We learned our horses can canter over slick rock. For those of you who need a place to condition for sandy rides this certainly fits the bill! On the second day when Stace let his foot recover, I rode by myself for the first time. I started out near the front runners but got tired of trying to pace my horse without creeping up on the leaders all day. So I made her walk for a bit and found a nice window. It was nice to find that she was still as forward as I asked her to be, remaining willing to suggest cantering on her own as the terrain allowed, but also, she didn’t care that we were alone and there were horses "up there".

We had one fun moment! This horse is very opinionated and a little barn sour. When we ride from home she will make instant left turns in an effort to go back home - it gets frustrating, but I still have to laugh at her. So at one point we were cantering along on the last leg of the ride and we came up a hill and she could see the big rock hill that had camp right behind it. She saw that rock and immediately dove left, plowing into a sand bank and some bushes, thinking she knew a better way back!

Aside from the spectacular views (which I can't even begin to describe), this was a great ride. With over 100 riders each day, ride management and all the volunteers had their work cut out for them. Vet checks were out each day and lunches were provided, which was fantastic. We were fed better than we would have fed ourselves. The horses had excellent hay and tons of carrots provided. And best yet, there were plenty of water stops, all very well supplied by the water trucks. Trails were well marked and dinners were excellent, along with a bonfire. Griffin's tack provided the top awards (I got the LD first lightweight award each day - a half bale bag, a crew bag and a rump rug) - all beautifully embroidered. Sheri outdid herself for the ride completion awards - the first day she bought an 8x10 photo for each rider from a local photographer. The second day was a table top grill and the third day was either a log book (which I had already bought separately) or a really neat map/ride card pack also made by Griffin's.

Next year Sheri is considering trail that goes down to the Green River. Another ride not to be missed! Hopefully we'll have less broken things next year (and we made it home by not letting the truck come to a complete stop anywhere, we're now back to researching the problem.)

Marlene Moss