Check it Out!
[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]
[Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index] [Subject Index]

Re: WEC: The View from the Pits (long)

As with most adventures, my Dubai adventure began before even arriving there.
I had to dovetail the trip with a veterinary meeting in Baltimore, hence had
to figure out how to pack for business meeting as well as being part of a
desert support crew.  Was pleased that I managed with just one suitcase in
addition to my carry-on duffle.  I arrived in Baltimore with some extra time,
and had the pleasure of making a side trip up to New Brunswick, NJ to meet
ridecamper Sarah Ralston at Rutgers University--heck of a nice lady.  

My first jolt came when I was perusing my flight schedule the day I was to
leave Baltimore for Dubai--somehow I had been scheduled onto a commuter that
gave me only 40 minutes to transfer to an International flight at Dulles
airport in Washington, DC.  Was able to dash out to the airport and get on an
earlier commuter on standby, which turned out to be a godsend as all the
commuters were running terribly late.  My transatlantic flight to Frankfurt
was uneventful, with a lovely early morning view of western Ireland before we
hit clouds over Europe.  Ironic, when one thinks about the fact that the UAE
was hosting this event because the planned '98 WEC in Ireland had to be

The "endurance" part of my trip began in Frankfurt.  I had a very short
layover, and came galloping off my plane to use the restroom before heading to
the gate where my Dubai flight departed.  I blew my nose, and presto! had one
of the worst nosebleeds of my life.  Could not get it stopped for anything, so
in true endurance fashion, I packed both nostrils and headed for my gate,
feeling like some version of Frankenstein's Monster, but not willing to miss
my plane!  Got aboard, and got a stern lecture from the flight's purser and
first aid officer about how if it was not stopped, they would have to land,
and it might be better if I waited for a later flight!  Guess these guys don't
understand that endurance riders don't wimp out over a little bit of
hemorrhage...  Did try to unpack it about halfway through the flight, but it
started up again, so repacked it, and had the embarrassment of getting myself
through the Dubai airport, customs, etc. with a grotesque packed nose.  (One
person politely asked if I had had nose surgery...  Most were kind enough not
to stare...)

At the airport, I got my first taste of what sounds like "marvie
moshkollah"--haven't the faintest idea how it is spelled, but it means "no
problem"--a phrase I think we all came to love, hate, and endure during our
stay.  There were no drivers with signs for the Oasis Hotel, where our support
crew was staying, and having been assured that I would be met, and being too
innately Scotch to hire a taxi if there is a cheaper mode of transportation, I
persisted until I found a lady with a badge for the ride.  She was to pick up
a group of people associated with the ride who were also staying at the Oasis
and nearby hotels, and took me under her wing.  Did not realize that this
would mean FOUR HOURS of waiting, but what the heck, they knew where I was
going, and I didn't, and the price was right.  Turned out that we had more
people in a Japanese contingent than she had planned for, and also picked up a
gentleman from India who was coming to the ride as an FEI delegate--had a
mixup over his bag, and one of the Japanese had lost a camera, and so it went.
She eventually rang for a second car, and the gentleman from India and I were
ferried away to our various accommodations.  Was never so glad to see a bed in
a hotel room in my life!

When I woke up the morning before the ride, it turned out I had landed in a
room on the 10th floor of the Oasis with a balcony overlooking the
beach--wonderful view of the Gulf, and we were able to listen to the ocean all
night through the open door.

The first day was taken with getting one of the infamous badges--at most FEI
events, only those credentialled to get into the barn area have badges
(officials, riders, grooms, chefs, team vets, etc.), but at this ride it had
been decreed that EVERYONE would have a badge.  Fortunately, most had already
gotten badges, but I heard tales of people waiting hours on multiple days
before getting theirs.  Teddy Lancaster had already scoped out what needed to
be done, hence I was able to get my badge in a mere two hours of waiting in
line--some sort of record, I gather.

The horses were stalled in a barn at the Ghantoot Race Course--an absolutely
phenomenal facility.  To make the quarantine situation more workable, North
American horses were housed in one area, South Americans in another area,
Europeans in another area, and so forth.  If someone from Europe had a North
American horse leased, or some other combination, that person became a bit of
an orphan as his or her horse would be housed in the barn from its own
continent, and had to vet in with them, etc.  A bit awkward at times, but it
boiled down to the fact that by doing so, the various agricultural people from
various countries would then agree to let the horses come home with very
little quarantine time--well worth the hassle.

I had been pre-assigned to work on statistics with Teddy Lancaster, but upon
my arrival, I was drafted by Nancy Elliott, Mike Foss, and Rick Stewart to be
a part of a "road crew"--one of many who would crew for the riders at various
predesignated p-stops along the trail.  At 3 a.m. on ride day, the road crews
assembled in the parking lot of the Oasis, were sorted into our assigned
vehicles, and off we headed for the desert.  We arrived first at the central
veterinary check, and were able to watch the first few horses arrive before we
piled back into our rigs and sallied forth.  I had the good fortune to be
paired with Lucie Hess from Missouri, who turned out to be a delightful lady.
We had a Pakistani driver named Rias (no guarantee on the spelling) who spoke
reasonable English, was a devout Muslim who stopped to say his prayers at
appropriate times, and who was a self-educated deep thinker, thrilled to
discuss comparative religion, family life, etc. with two wacky lady American
endurance riders.

Enroute to our first stop, we got stuck in the sand, as did many other road
crew vehicles.  We all managed to get extricated with a little work, less air
in the tires, some pushing, etc.  We held the fort at the first p-stop on the
second loop as an earlier crew went on to catch the front runners--first
Shirley came to us, then Patty, then Ona and Darla.  Ona had had some early
bad luck with a broken bridle, and Darla had stayed with her to effect repairs
and help her get to the first vet check without having a complete wreck with
RC trying to chase everybody to the check.

Endurance rides are really the same everywhere--our next problem was a faulty
fuel pump, followed by a flat tire--we managed to keep restarting the rig and
get it back to camp, and fortunately the flat was at another p-stop where
there was another American rig, as ours did not have a spare, so we were able
to borrow theirs and get our rig back to camp.  We were assigned another rig,
so had to transfer all of our stuff, and then go out to the highway and fill
it up, most of the gas cans were empty.  We got back in time to be the p crew
for the "neck" of loop 4--riders came by us a few miles after leaving the vet
check and again a few miles before returning to camp.  By this point in the
ride the desert was beginning to take its toll on those who had hurried too
much; loop 3 was deep sand and rather difficult terrain, even worse than loop
2 had been.  Our riders went by in good order on the way out, and Valerie and
Wendy were obviously among the first few past on the way in.  This loop had
better footing, and Darla and Ona were making a move--they had passed Shirley
and Patty, as well as an awful lot of other riders, and Rams Z in particular
looked like a million bucks going past us.  RC looked great on the way into
us, but was shivering a little, and did not want to keep up with Rams Z when
they left--no hint of the lameness that would stop him at the upcoming vet
check, but had the awful feeling that something was brewing.  Wish I could
have had a video of Rams Z galloping off over the horizon, though--what a
horse!  Was so sorry to learn on the phone that she was pulled at the check,
but was also relieved that it was for a stone bruise, not for any major
problem.  We had really hoped we could have the opportunity to complete all 6
of the squad, and it was tough to come just 7 miles from that goal.  Also,
Ona's pull meant the difference between gold and silver--but on the bright
side, almost no teams still had four riders in the hunt at that late point in
the ride, so we were still in the medal chase providing Shirley could finish.
According to stats, we were at that point 4th and 5th in the medal chase with
New Zealand--UAE was ahead of us, along with France and South Africa, but all
of those squads were down to three team horses, and all were eliminated from
team competition late in the race.  The bad news was that Shirley's horse had
slowed down, was not eating, and had poor gut sounds at an earlier p-stop.
Lari Shea's road crew had helped her there, and Patty Pizzo had stayed with
her, showing how an individual rider can still make or break the team effort.
Dusty made good use of his rest time at the previous p-stop--after walking to
us, he had B gut sounds and an appetite, and stayed a bit longer with us to
make sure that all would be well when he got to the vet check.  Meanwhile, a
call to the check assured us that despite Ona's pull, we were STILL IN THE
MEDAL HUNT, so we passed the word on to Shirley to "make haste slowly" and to
just do her best to finish!  She got through the check in flying colors, and
we were able to be at the finish line to greet her and Patty when they came in
together and to see them through the final vetting.  

It was the general concensus of those who have been to several World events
that this was the most team-oriented squad we have ever sent.  They worked
together the entire pre-ride time, worked on strategies, and supported each
other throughout the ride.  Patty had the heartbreak of a tie-up after the
haul to Dubai and bowed out of being a team member as a result, but rode a
smart ride and got through; her help to Shirley illustrates how important
EVERY squad member can be in bringing home team medals, be they team members
or not.  Our silver medal is a tribute to outstanding horsemanship, smart
riding and hard work in the face of adversity (Sam's tie-up, RC's stone
bruise, Dusty's problems on the trail) and is quite an accomplishment
considering that no less than TEN teams posted team times, and many more were
in the hunt for team medals right up to the bitter end.  I know the team
rankings are likely somewhere on the Net, but for those of you without Net
access who might be curious, the ten qualifiers, in order, were:  1) New
Zealand, 2) USA, 3) Australia, 4) Argentina, 5) Belgium, 6) Brasil, 7) Great
Britain, 8) Jordan, 9) Sweden, and 10) Germany.  Personally, I think EVERYBODY
that managed to complete a team deserves hearty congratulations.  (UAE,
France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, and Poland all posted 2-rider times.)

The BC judging and the Closing Ceremonies have been pretty much discussed by
others, and I have already put in my .02 about the closing ceremonies.  Will
only add here that the pageant was certainly different than what we would
expect from a similar happening here, and was quite interesting if one did not
try to judge it on the basis of a Broadway production.  It was as much of a
treat to watch the crowd at times--primarily a black-and-white panorama of UAE
locals in their usual garb (men in white, women in black).  The UAE is
"progressive" in the sense that men and women are not segregated.  (I swear,
though, I was about ready to deck the next American who said anything about
civilization only arriving recently in the desert--these cultures had
irrigation systems, lighted streets, and codes of law when my European
ancestors were still wearing skins and trying to keep the fire lighted in the
cave in the winter.  Am still hard-pressed to make up my mind which were more
"civilized" in Dubai and Abu Dhabi--the folks in their dish-dashes, head
covers and sandals or the obese "pink people" lounging in the deck chairs at
the resort hotels with no clothes on, marinating in suntan lotion.  No contest
as to which were more polite, I am ashamed to say.)

Spent the following day with Teddy Lancaster and Heidi Siegel visiting the
Camel Souk and touring downtown Dubai--the Gold Souk, the clothing merchants,
etc.  What a fascinating place, and what an opportunity to simply immerse
one's self in another culture and enjoy.  Every nook and cranny of every
street and alley contains a tiny shop, bargaining, bargaining, bargaining...
We each came away with a few small purchases to remember our trip.  Most have
signs out in English, and all have calculators and know the daily exchange
rate--the downtown merchants actually give a slightly better rate than the
airport, and a MUCH better rate than the hotel.  My favorite sign was at the
Camel Souk--a feed store with the English subtitle "Live Stock and Fooders."

Had planned a trip to Hatta on our last day, but unfortunately Teddy L was ill
and also had still not run her passport to earth (her visa did not come
through, so they had taken her passport at the airport)--with considerable
help from Jim Bryant, she finally got it late in the afternoon, so was able to
come home on time.  I spent some time on the beach (hadn't had time to do that
earlier) and pretty much relaxed for the day.  I hope I have the opportunity
to return to the UAE sometime and explore the historic areas
inland--fascinating place.

After checking out of the hotel, Teddy and I spent some time at Creek Park in
downtown Dubai, and finished off our tour at a little hole-in-the-wall
restaurant having fried rice and tea, waiting for our middle-of-the-night
plane departure--one problem in a hot country is that it is very difficult to
land or take off in large planes when it is extremely hot (no air density)
hence most flights are scheduled to arrive and depart in the middle of the

I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to share in the tremendous
success of our USA squad at this event as well as to see such an interesting

Heidi Smith, DVM--Sagehill Arabians (Oregon)

    Check it Out!    

Home    Events    Groups    Rider Directory    Market    RideCamp    Stuff

Back to TOC