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[RC] New Mexico story - Part 1 - Steph Teeter

New Years in New Mexico, Part 1

One of my favorite movies is Cinderella Man, the true story of the legendary heavyweight boxer Jim Braddock - who had a very promising early career, cut short at an early stage by personal crisis and the poverty of the Great Depression. But - through the years of crisis he never abandoned his dream of boxing again, and through guts and determination and a bit of luck, made a spectacular 'come back' to eventually become the heavyweight champion of the world. When I was at the 2005 Presidents Cup, I followed Valerie Kanavy and her daughter Danielle McGunigal during the race. Both Valerie and Danielle were eliminated at gate 3, and I could see that it hit Valerie very hard. As a previous World Champion Valerie had maintained her high profile in the sport, but had not been able to stay on top - with little success since her brilliant 1998 win in Dubai. I had just watched this movie on the plane coming from the USA, and felt for Valerie, but couldn't help but think that this is a woman with the guts and determination and work ethic to make a 'come back'. And after seeing her recover from a 90 minute set back at the ride in New Mexico, and still manage to pull off a win with a horse that could have raced on into the next state if need be, I still believe so. At any rate, she certainly has my respect.

Not every effort is successful, but it is the willingness to try, to persevere, the total commitment to the effort and the end result that will eventually define a champion. Anyone that has given their all at any endeavor understands this. Every failure along the way has a strong sting, commensurate with the strength of the effort. And there is a certain breed of people that will take the sting, and put it behind then, and try try again.

Managing a ride is an enormous undertaking, and Dave Kaden did an admirable job with his first major event in New Mexico. When an FEI sanctioning is thrown into the mix, the details and paperwork and expense increase, the number of people needed to run things smoothly triples, and the prayers to the weather gods become mantra... All in all the ride went well, but the weather gods could have been kinder. We didn't have the desert winds, but we did have unusually cold temperatures. I think this took a toll on the 100 mile horses. Working muscles, especially tiring muscles, were more prone to cramping, extra energy was expended simply to keep the core warm. The cold night temperatures left a layer of ice on the water tanks on the trail and the horses were less willing to take the deep drinks needed to maintain hydration. The constant change from running, to standing for the vets, the wet fur, the heavy blankets during the holds... many factors. And even in the best of conditions, 100 miles is the ultimate challenge for any horse.

My primary focus during this event was on the team from Malaysia, including their King - His Majesty Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin. Theirs is also a story of individual courage and determination, but I think the bigger story is about the willingness of an entire nation to entertain a dream, set a goal, and do everything possible to make this dream a reality. The entire nation of Malaysia is united in this effort.

This event was not a success for Malaysia in terms of their immediate goal: their attempt to qualify a team for the 2008 WEC. The team riders must complete 2 100 mile rides with a time of 13:20 hours or less, on the same horse, to meet FEI's current criteria for entry or Certificate of Capability (CoC). Only one rider completed this ride, he's halfway there with this horse. Although the King, the other riders and the team managers are certainly feeling the sting of failure, there is no doubt that this is a group that will put it behind them, learn from it, and try try again. I'll tell the story of this ride, but the whole story - the Malaysia story - is the most important to tell... and it's not over yet.

Another important story from the New Mexico ride is that of Sheikha Madiya Bint Hasher Al Maktoum. A young Arab woman who also has tremendous courage and determination, and the fighting spirit that must be deeply ingrained in this bedouin culture. She felt the glow of success in New Mexico. I'll tell her story too~

next - Malaysia in New Mexico -



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