YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE!!
WORLD ENDURANCE CUP, QATAR 1997
by Teddy Lancaster
Why? Why not!
1/3 of the way around the globe, more than 24 hours of traveling (believe me,
airlines travel is NO fun). Customs clearance, security clearance, Visas,
passports, lugging baggage, trying to communicate...heck, trying to get a cup
of coffee or even getting into a restroom while you hurry since your luggage
is still outside the door.
A stranger in a strange land...the Middle East to boot!!! What!!! Are you
crazy? Clinton is going to bomb Iraq.....but, Iraq is on the other side of
the Persian Gulf you say...why worry? You have been told that Dubai and Doha
are the Hong Kongs of the Middle East. You anxiously look for travel alerts
from the US State Department all over the internet. In the meantime you hear
50 tourists are murdered in Egypt. No one says..at least officially....you
What about hotels, cars, money exchange? What to wear? You are a woman.
Don't they wear veils? Should I bring my shorts or stick to long skirts? How
about water? Is it safe to drink water over there? Should I pack a case of
bottled water? How about a can of bug spray? After surfing the web, you are
reassured. Women aren't raped, the exchange is nothing to worry about, they
LOVE U.S. dollars. Leave the shorts to the beaches and dress conservative.
Yes, there are plenty of ATM's to accept your Visa card. No, the hotels are
modern..no roaches. Water is safe..everyone serves bottled water anyway.
Pack the Rolaids and aspirin just in case. Bring summer clothes for their
winter season and be prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.
Arriving in Doha at the International Airport you pick a line to stand in,
pull out your Visa and Passport and are prepared to wait and be questioned,
screened and inspected, But, NO!!!! Someone in a long white robe and
headdress politely says "World Cup Race?" You say "YES" and you are promptly
wisked away, your Passport and Visa plucked from your hands and you
wait...with armed guards (yes, with machine guns and funny green uniforms,
dark-skinned, not smiling...EVERYWHERE). This is one place where wearing a
cowboy hat paid off. I didn't see another one outside the USA (except for Ray
Randall). So I stood out to say the least, among the turbans and veils.
Suddenly you are handed your Visa and your bags are handed to a funny little
man with a turban (?) and a cart and you're escorted to an awaiting car driven
by another dark-skinned man who hardly speaks English. You have NO idea where
he is taking you, no directions...only knowing that the World Cup Headquarters
manned by the Qatar Equestrian Federation is at the Sheraton Doha where you
are eventually dropped.
All this time, you are anxiously looking at your watch. It is vet-in day and
you wanted to see the vet-in. Try to explain this and the scenario is almost
always the same: Whatever the question or concern, the answer is "no problem".
Well, "no problem" is never a concern to anyone but you. Eventually we got a
ride in a bus somewhat like the one in Black Stallion Two (driven by the bad
guys)..in need of paint and upholstery and driven by a madman who hardly
speaks english. An hour later I am plopped in the middle of the desert at the
end of the line (the blacktop stops here..nothing but sand in sight as far as
the eye can see). But, there was a long row (miles) of banners, representing
the flags of many nations down a palm tree lane with signs at every
intersection (bigger than the one at Kansas) showing the way to the FEI World
A HUGE tent is in place, seemingly millions of banners, oriental rugs spread
out over the sand for the dignitaries to walk on, plush couches under the
bedouin style tent, buckets and buckets of flowers, a band with bagpipes, a
big hot-air balloon with "World Cup Finals" in big red letters, another
balloon with "Jeep" high in the air, a grandstand full of people and lines of
riders on horses standing in the middle with national flags and flag bearers
and someone giving a speech. You look for good the old USA Flag and find it
with three US riders and Grace Ramsey standing there with two other people you
never saw before. After about ten minutes Grace and Steve Rojek notice us
and give a big Whoop!!! USA has arrived like the cavalry to the rescue.
We meet after the ceremony, the other two unknown people turned out to be the
grooms for the leased horses ridden by the US. Both speak french only...a
third back at the barn can translate some. The horses are three BIG french
saddlehorses, undoubtedly with NO trace of arabian blood and VERY hairy. Big
feet, big bones, grey..all three. Nicknamed "bucketheads" for their non-arab
appearance. A bit undisciplined, but tough-looking. The owners/grooms
supplied practically nothing. No buckets, no electrolytes (they don't seem to
believe in them), no blankets, towels. Just some old bits and leather bridles,
simple nylon halters and lead ropes. Making the best of things, especially
after much time was spent on convincing the french grooms that shaving was
absolutely necessary in the blazing hot winter sun of Qatar (85-90
degrees...NO shade) in order to even THINK of finishing the 100 kilometers, we
arranged to meet at the start the next morning at the sane time of 7 AM to set
up our crew area. All vet checks except the last are conveniently back at the
The entire set-up was one of incredible professionalism. Every amenity was
provided. The vetting area was SO efficient that they even arranged to have
the trot-out strip (minding that EVERYwhere is nothing but ankle deep white
sugar sand) packed down by a motorized rolling machine between every vet
check. Did I tell you that the course consisting of two 25 kilometer loops
was ENTIRELY roped off? BOTH sides were roped off into a wide lane (maybe
60-80 feet wide)...yes, the ENTIRE course!!!! That's 100 kilometers of ROPE,
WITH flagging!!! Now, this IS desert as you have always imagined desert to
be...sand, sand and more sand, more sand than one could ever envision..and
FLAT (except for the dunes). But DEEP!!! EVERY step of the course was WORK
for horse and rider. Believe me, 100 kilometers in the sand is like 100 MILES
back here...no question about it.
Believe this, not only did the Qatar people PAY the riders and grooms to come,
not only did they provide first class accommodations and FOOD, they also
provided EVERY team with a 4WD vehicle...mostly Jeeps (as Jeep was the sponsor
- Jeep banners EVERYWHERE). Our "Team" consisted of Steve Rojek from Vermont,
Jan Worthington from Illinois and Ona Lawrence from Oregon. But Ireland had
only one rider, Helen McFarland (the ONLY rider to finish the Ireland pre-ride
to the world in August), so to round us off, we adopted each other. Helen
rode a french trotter, a big chestnut gelding with a funny gait who made the
oddest faces at the TONS of electrolytes we syringed down his throat during
The race began with a flurry of helicopters and jeeps and dozens of people
leaping into vehicles to follow along the course. It was, of course,
impossible for anyone to get off course. And, with the flat desert sand and
4WD vehicles, all riders and horses could be seen and handed water every step
of the way. It was almost funny...the mad leap-frogging of vehicles meeting
riders every kilometer or so, handing out the bottles of water (amply supplied
by the organizers for FREE); and at the water stops every 5 kilometers or so,
we were allowed to offer water to the horses.
The first vet-check was as frenzied as they always are, but it was so well-
planned there were no glitches and no waiting; plenty of vets including Ray
Randall from Montana, plenty of assistant vets, pulse takers, timers, etc.
Everyone maintained their cool, there was no shouting, just TONS of water
being poured on horses already feeling the effects of an ever-warming day.
The blessing was the persistent gulf breeze. The site was less than 1/4 mile
off shore. No need for rump rugs or coolers. The eliminated horses were
promptly ushered all day into one of the tents for treatment in the capable
hands of many experienced vets including USA's Nancy Loving. We were
delighted not to see her all day.
Our riders opted to start slowly since the sand was deep. Rumors were that of
the 63 starters, only 18 were expected to finish. We wanted to be among them.
All day long, we slowly moved up, partly because many a horse was eliminated
at each check. We kept mixing up electrolytes, begged from the wonderful
Australians..some bright pink stuff that we mixed with many flavors of yogurt
(all we could beg, borrow or buy). Each horse got two syringes at each vet
check and another dose or two along trail. We discovered that the fruit in
the yogurt goes through the syringes just fine. When we ran out of yogurt, we
used chocolate pudding and lastly water...our grey mounts almost looked like
they were bleeding from the mouth they were so pink.
The organizers also wisely supplied a huge truckful of crushed ice which we
dumped in our water buckets to sponge off the horses. 30 minutes was all that
was allowed to reach a pulse of 60. Unaccustomed to non-arabs..we worked extra
hard. Grace says she has NEVER used so much water or so many electrolytes as
here. But, we made it everytime....thanks to tons of ice water poured on,
then scraped off. It worked like a charm...our riders were off again..riding
conservatively and slowly moving up.
At 3:30 PM we saw and heard 100's of Jeeps and three helicopters seemingly
arriving all at once in a huge cloud of sand and dust. The first horses were
expected to finish within minutes!!! When they came into view, #17 (Germany),
who lead the entire day by at least 15 minutes at every stop was side by side
with #33 (Saudi Arabia). 200 yards away they trotted together, 150 yards away
they started to canter, 100 yards away saw someone handing the German rider a
flag and the two riders reached out to hold hands as if to finish in a tie.
With hands held high in a very emotional moment of a mutual love for this
sport, conveying the spirit of cooperation seen all day among all peoples of
all nations, they crossed the finish line together. It was a moment to have a
lump in your throat and a pride for all those wonderful endurance riders and
crews throughout the world. It was a moment of joy and celebration for the
love and glory of these wonderful horses who carry us with grace and
enthusiasm over the toughest courses to prove their worth and might. Ties,
however are not to be allowed and #33, the Saudi, had a nose length over the
German at the line. Both passed the final vetting with flying colors and were
duly celebrated by dignitaries, officials, news media and onlookers.
The next horses were not far back and there was an audience for every
finisher...many into the darkness of night. Riders and crews whose horses had
finished or been eliminated all chipped in to help every finisher. It was
truly a day of celebration and cooperation. Language was no barrier, for the
care of the horse came first and was universal among us.
The next morning came the judging for the best condition. 7 horses were
presented in front of an appreciative audience. Then came the waiting, then
the preparation for the closing ceremonies at 3PM. It was another moment of
glory for all with Tareq Taher, the Saudi whom we all came to know as the
"playboy", winning first place honors; Alexander Stadler, the German who lead
all the way to the end on his little black mare only to lose by a nose placing
second; and Miguel Moreno, the Spaniard, taking the bronze. The team medals
went as follows: Gold to Spain, finishing their top three riders in 3rd, 9th
and 20th place; Silver to the USA, finishing all four riders (the ONLY team to
do so) in 6th, 10th, 16th and 24th place, only 7 minutes combined time behind
the Gold team: and Bronze to Sweden, finishing 17th, 19th and 22nd place. Only
three teams finished enough to qualify. The coveted Best Condition went to
Bilhab Abdullah of the UAE riding a grey arabian gelding who finished in fifth
Prize moneys were awarded to the top 17 riders with $9000 to the first place
down to $1000 for the 17th place. Beautiful trophies and belt buckles went to
the individual winners and the teams.
At the gala festival that evening certificates, plaques and other ornate gifts
in lavish quantities were awarded to officials, dignitaries, riders and the
organizers. Food was plentiful and the entertainment varied, with music from
many nations and dancing galore, all in the setting of the fabulous facilities
of the Sealine Resort around a beautiful pool alongside the Persian Gulf.
This was a moment that will be difficult to surpass. It was an event far
beyond the expectations of most of the attendees. I cannot believe that the
hospitality and graciousness of the hosts of the first World Endurance Cup can
be excelled. The memories will be with us and the friendships formed lasting.
I was one who was blessed to be there. And all I can say is: YOU SHOULD HAVE
The press coverage was unsurpassed. Look for photos and videos of this not-to-
be-forgotten moment in endurance history. I, for one, will have many photos
to share at the AERC Convention and wherever else I may travel this coming
year. See the complete coverage of this unparelled event on the Internet at: