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[RC] Charlie - Steph Teeter

Six more horses came in this evening. Three from Dubai's stables and three from Argentina. John and I got clearance to go to the airport and cover the arrival. Very cool!! A military C-130 Hercules - big gray ugly cargo plane (but Azrin said she's starting to think of them as beautiful:) . Since the Terengganu runway isn't long enough for commercial cargo planes, Malaysia is flying the horses from Kuala Lumpur to Terengganu courtesy of the Malaysian Royal Airforce.

Yesterday we filled out forms for airport clearance, handed them off to Major Majid who promised to take care of it - he'd do his best to get us the clearance. Sure enough, plans went through. Wan picked us up at 4pm today, it had just started raining (we watched the big thunderheads forming inland while lunching and working by the pool - a big t-storm to the west, another to the east - it was bound to start raining again from some direction!). We drove through the rain to the airport, ready for the 5pm arrival. Which of course was late - the plane was just being loaded in KL. Dato Kamarudin (Awak) was there to meet the horses - the three from Argentina were just purchased by him and the Terengganu Endurance Team. It's very interesting here in that there are many clubs - or teams - being formed. There are riders who are not 'affiliated' - they just do their own thing - but there are also lots of clubs. All wearing their club, or stable, or team, colors - a lot of support and friendship. It's pretty cool. Awak said he was helping the Terengganu group get started. He took them to Argentina in August where they rode Miguel's and Hugo's horses - had great rides, and bought the horses to bring them back to Malaysia.

I still get thrills from the connections of people, friends, in the sport - around the world. Awak was one of the group of Endurance pioneers (Dr. Nik too!) that jumped on the Dubai WEC bandwagon 1n 1998. A group of riders that took whatever horses they had at the time (thorougbreds, polo ponies, whatever) - trained them, qualified for the WEC by riding a 120km course consisting of hundreds of loops around a polo field, flew to Dubai and entered the first Malaysian team in a World Endurance Championship! I was there in '98 as 'groom' for Leonard Leisens, who is here sitting next to me drinking his glass of wine, and will ride in the Sultan's Cup. And my Argentine friends - with many more adventures together, here too. Love it!

We talked while waiting for the plane to arrive - John and I, Awak, Salim (assistant show secretary, Jay - another of Azrin's recruits from the '96 World Cup she managed in KL.) Talk of horses and endurance and polo and politics and oil... Malaysia is a major oil exporter (they export an extremely high quality oil, and then have to import the 'regular' stuff) , and they are starting to reap the benefits of higher oil prices. And Terengganu is the source of Malaysia's oil and natural gas, and also starting to see the benefits as it maintains a percentage of profit of oil sold. Much of the oil is nationally owned - there are a few corporations here also (Exon, BP, etc) but the state and national government still get a cut from their production. One of the things I really like about Malaysia is that even with economic growth and expansion and building boom - they don't loose their sense of beauty. When they build something here, it is also artistically beautiful, graceful, colorful. Maybe since their land is so beautiful, the appreciation is deeply engrained. Their clothing, their architecture, gardens, sculptures textiles - beautiful.

So finally motion at the doors, the plane is coming soon. We donned our security passes and went out onto the runway. There we met Andy Pavlovsky who flew with the horses from Buenos Aires - it was great to see him! With his alpargatas (Argentine shoes), leather belt, just a touch of gaucho :) We could here a deep rumble and there it was - the big gray 'Charlie' C-130 Hercules - a vintage war cargo plane that earned the special career status of having transported something, somewhere, in every part of the world - the old Charlie plane had circled the globe.

The plane came in low, landed and made a quick stop (short runway) , circled back around and came to the waiting crew with it's precious cargo. Two weeks earlier the US horses arrived on the same plane, but the weather conditions were so bad that the commercial flight which carried the riders and was supposed to arrive just before the horses made two attempts to land but couldn't get a bearing on the runway with the 600meter cloud ceiling and headed back to KL to try again later. The cargo plane came in, made 4 circles around the runway, and pointed the nose down the runway - keeping full power just in case they had to pull up quickly - made visual contact with the runway just before touching the tarmac. I imagine this old war era plane has made tighter landings than that over the years!

The cargo boxes were unloaded - carefully - with a system of jacks and rollers- very slick. The OC had to construct their own transport boxes (pallets) because the commercial carriers (KLM) couldn't loan their boxes for use on the military planes. The Argentine horses came off first, lots of bodies helping here and there, then unloaded the big eyed horses out of the boxes and into the trailer. (the truck and trailer of the Royal Terengganu Endurance Stable - which has permission to flash blue lights (police and royalty only) on the highway, plus it can transport 6 horses. The three horses from Dubai came off next (gorgeous fit groomed beasts) - into the trailer, and off they go.

We stayed around a little longer, galking and talking, and had a chance to meet the crew - the captain (pilot) and co-pilot - a young woman! dressed in military garb with a bright blue head scarf, and the crew. Nice folks. The woman was scheduled to take her tests next week to qualify her as full captain - pilot. I heard people talking about what a good pilot she was - a special touch with the controls, smooth landings. Very cool!

We followed the horses back to the stable. Salim had to hurry back and arrive before the horses to oversee the passport verification for entry into the quarantine barns. John and I got entry into the Argentine barn for a little tour - some photos. First class. Screen walls, big airy rooms, open stalls - fans with mister.

oops - time to close the lounge - gotta go, more tomorrow!


(p.s. this email didn't go out last night, sending it this morning (malaysia time) - will have photos up soon at http:// www.endurance.net/international/malaysia/ 2007sultanscup/


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