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Sort of like Christmas dinner - so much work and's done.

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
Cairo, Egypt

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