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WEC and a Canuck crew person (LONG)

First, I'd like to thank the UAE for hosting a fabulous event. To do it, in
short notice, and with a whole country backing the event, deserves a big
round of applause.

Second, I'm very proud of our Canadian Team. We got there with 6 excellent
horses and riders ready to really ride, and a crew to die for. We had some
bad luck, maybe a couple of things coulda been done better...hindsight is
20/20! I sure learned a lot.

I'm sooooo proud of Christy Janzen. She rode so well. She managed her horse
beautifully! Her crew did everything so well. Just to finish this race was
an incredible accomplishment...we came from a real winter...and very short
days...shaggy horses that needed to adjust from below freezing temps to
over 100 on race day in a very short period of time. A steep curve of
adjustment. To those riders that didn't complete. My hats off to you: Myna,
Linda, Len, Larry and Barb. You gave it your best and I'm proud of your
efforts and commitment!

Arriving in Dubai meant 'I don't think we're in Kansas anymore'. Yes this
was a foreign country...but seeing bilingual signs...English and Arabic
everywhere and going into malls that would be familiar here (including
modest Christmas decorations) were an eye opener. And the overwhelming
courtesty. I didn't see any graffiti, suffered no harrasment, no loose
dogs. As a single woman, this was a city I felt safe in,

As I also paid my own way, I had to find alternative lodging and food...and
found that the group rental of a villa, coordinated by Roberta Carleton
(thanks!) was the way to go! Very inexpensive, lots of room, kitchen,
living room, dining room, lots of bathrooms, shuttle buses, AND a washer
for dirty clothes. Food shopping at the local coops was easy and prices
reasonable. But, had to really search  for 'local' food. I had the BEST
orange juice ever, which came from...Florida. The dates were local and

I was also one of the folks running around for a badge to get to the
stables, but 2, 1/2 days of patient waiting, modest nagging, and hauling in
the artilary once in a while, got what I wanted. (Maybe I nagged a touch
too hard, you should just see my picture on my pass!)I also ran around
videoing and photographing  our team. Attrition start early. One horse
showed lame early on and could not even vet in; another had a slip and fall
and inspite of excellent intervention and vetting through, ended up pulled
during the race. Yet another horse, sound throughout, showed lame at the
vet in. A big bunch of disappointments!

One of the big treats I had was helping Gayle Ecker, Guelph University, who
has done invaluable research for endurance. After a brutal training program
<vbg>. I gave her a hand in working up the numbers from blood samples taken
from the horses before and during the race. That research was
fascinating...and could become a very useful management tool for teams that
want their hot shoes to finish well.

Race day was amazing. ESP was required to get to the vet centre and it was
an adventure to scoot across the dessert, in the dark, at rally speeds,
bouncing over the washborard camel tracks (?) and watching cars sink real
deep if they read the sands incorrectly. And clouds of dust...this was NOT
the type of dust to use your windshield washer on...instant concrete.

We got there before dawn, and set up our rest area. It was cool and I
enjoyed it, 'cause I had a sneaking suspicion that it would be HOT (during
the day, there were times I felt stupid with heat outside the rest areas,
like how on earth did our riders do it?). I looked around the site which
was set up in expanding circles, like a bullseye. In the centre was the vet
check area, with an arc of vet-in 'toll' booths, a wide traffic lane for
the horses and riders around that, then the circle of rest areas and the
time-in/out booths at the 'front'. In the 'back' were the vet tents for
problems. Lots of elbow room. Looked like line-ups were non-existant or
short. Some good planning set this up...ensure that crew and competitors
could keep as cool as possible and be able to do their jobs in the shortest
time possible. The rest areas had thatched roofs throwing lots of shade.
Each country had their own station, flag on top, with a huge misting fan at
the back that really dropped the temperature. A tight squeeze if all horses
were in, but doable with two/three at a time. There was also a horse shower
feature if you wanted to do a monsoon and soak your horse to a prunelike
finish. Bags of ice were delivered; food and drink were freely available
throughout the day. Chairs provided. Even trailers of toilets were set up.

Announcing was done in English, but later on, a helpful translator (German)
was also on board--never heard one word of Arabic! Of course the computer
crashed after a power outage which really spiked stress levels into the
ozone. But, ER being what it is...we cope, not lynch! We react on our feet!
Not enough markers? follow the rider in front. No rider to be seen? look
for hoof prints (good thing camels don't have hooves!). I think we can all
learn from what worked and what didn't.

Of course, everyone was waiting for the finish. And watching the end,
during daylight, was thrilling. To see Valerie Kanavy come galloping in
flat out, closely followed by a very determined Italian and a 'dark-horse'
Japanese competitor a couple of minutes later was amazing. Twenty minutes
later, two UAE competitors raced in together--doing their country proud.
What a finish!

I also went to the closing ceremonies and I saw an incredible display of
national pride. At first I was taken aback by the booing. But, I also know
what happens at other big, international events when the home team doesn't
win...even in North America. And, while I had NO idea what was happening
because it was 99.9% Arabic, I really enjoyed the sound and light show. We
were even able to hang our Canadian flag over the balcony!

One of the most FUN moments was going to the stadium. As we bussed into Abu
Dhabi, Nationals, with their cars full of UAE flags, were driving around
like mad, hoking horns, hanging out of their cars, laughing, yelling and
waving at us! And we waved and yelled back; what a welcome!

This was an international event. People and horses arriving from all over.
The fun of mingling, laughing, competing. Discussions on training,
breeding, past races...! The ups and downs of communication in this diverse
group. The stresses and disappointments. The joy of completion. But, was
this really all that  much different from the races at home? This was a
community I am familiar with. From this experience, I know that ER is truly
international and can't be owned by any one person or country, it belongs
to all of us!

A big cheer for all the horses!

Monika Smith
A proud crew member of Team Canada

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