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European Championship in Elvas, Portugal.... My Story

Hi American (and others) friends_

Here is my story of the European Championships in ELVAS(Portugal).

There were only 4 horses representing Belgium :
- Krizzia with Pierre Arnould
- Rabbi with Jacques Boulanger
- El Aziz with Dirk Coolen
- Orfeo, with me

Krizzia had already completed 5 160 Kms, Orfeo completed on 3 160Kms, the 2
others completed only one.

The trip from Belgium to Portugal was quite boring and tiring with a stop in
Bordeaux and another one in Madrid (in a Doma Vaquera trainer's stables, were we
had the chance to attend a presentation of this sport_ quite impressive_
something like the ancestor of western riding with spins, slidings, etc_. but
quite a violent sport!!!).

At the arrival, we were letting the horse rest for one day and we clipped them.

The next day we did pre-ride the last 15 Kms of the last 3 loops. The race was
organized in 5 loops : 38Kms, 31Kms, 25Kms, 28Kms,  15Kms with the loops 2 3 and
4 coming back to the same vetgate. Pulse was at 64 BPM, with 2 chances and
minimum time limit to represent the horse. At the finish, one got only one

At the pre-trotting, our 4 horses did very well; the british team had to
represent 3 of their horses, but they where authorized to take the start. Then
we did the parade where each country was showing their horse/riders on the
stadium_ great emotional moment!

Everyone was expecting a very fast race, with the UAE riders that everyone was
thinking that they would dynamite the race, with the 12 Spanish riders and the
12 Portuguese riders willing to win. Tarek Taher was also there riding a very
good Spanish bred horse (Java). The French were there for the gold and as a
revenge for the WEG in Dubai.

For the Belgian, we had quite a good team with Orfeo and Krizzia normally able
to complete at a speed of 16/17 Km/h and the others capable of doing some 14/15
Everyone was expecting an average speed of 20 Km/h for the winner!
The footing was quite hard in some part, but easy to manage and it was possible
to canter all the time (which was a big danger, because there were no part to
let your horse recuperate a little bit).

78 horses at the start. At the first loop, we where riding all together (the
belgian) and we completed the first loop at an average speed of 18 Km/h; Orfeo
did canter all the time (this horse doesn't know anymore what the trot is!). We
catched the UAE team (Cheikh Mohamed El Maktoum and his tree sons) and rode some
time with them but they passed us a few Kms before the vetgateAt the vetstop, we
unfortunately took 12 minutes to go down, because of the cold_ he was trembling
and this was preventing his pulse to go down_ I massaged with alcohol to warm
him up. I took the start for the 2nd loop 6 minutes behind the other Belgians
but Orfeo was in great shape and we covered this loop at a speed of 19 Km/h to
catch them.
Second vetgate was without problem for us, except that our 4th horse, Rabbi was
pulled for lameless_ too bad _ this was has never been lame, but he was very
excited at the start and the probably interfered!
So we were only 3 belgian riders for the 3rd loop. There we got 4 Kms of asphalt
in order to cross the spanish border and reach the bridge to go to Badajoz.
Orfeo did canter all the time. We catched and passed the italian rider, Sergio
Tomasi, riding Amoress, a USA bred horse I think.
At the 3rd vetgate, no problems for Orfeo and Krizzia, but El Aziz took 10
minutes more to recover and we decided not to wait for him. He unfortunately had
to stop at Km 110, the horse was exhausted!
So our chances for a medal were gone_ During this loop, we passed the british
team and catch up with the UAE team, once again; we rode with the Cheikh for
some kilometers and finally decided to pass.
At the 4th vetgate, Orfeo did recover in 3 minutes; Krizzia took some 2 minutes
There were still 2 phases of 22 and 15 Kms and the weather became hotter (30
I was waiting for Krizzia and we cantered all together for some 8 Kms. We passed
the french  Prereraud with Amelie, but from that time it was clear that Orfeo
could go faster and I decided to accelerate. He was cantering at 106..120 and in
great shape. We did the last 15 Kms alone on the trail, but Orfeo had a
outstanding spirit, so no problem. At the arrival at the 5th vetgate, I could
pass several riders, their horse completely exhausted by the speed.
Recover time at the 5th vetgate was 3 to 4 minutes, so excellent. After 20
minutes rest, we took the start for the last loop of 15Kms, still alone on the
trail. At this time, an italian rider joined us and we where riding together for
some kilometers, but he tried several time to speed up, but Orfeo did very well
and accelerated as well; after 3 trials, the italian gave up and we covered the
last part alone, seeing the 2 french riders (Frances and Dupont) a few minutes
ahead, but to far away to hope to catch up with them.
There were certainly 500 spectators at the finish line and Orfeo was running as
crazy, excited by the applause.
We finished 7th in 8hours 49, at an average speed of 18.2 Km/h, breaking the
belgian record on 160 Kms. Not to say how happy we were, my crew and I. Pierre
Arnould and Krizzia finished 12th in 9hours08.
The french Frances was pulled at the final vetcheck_ no medal for the french
team, except for Stephane Fleury riding Timadit who finished 2nd.
The team results : gold for Portugal, silver for GB, bronze for Switzerland.

At the open championship (european plus foreigners)_ gold went to the UAE team
with the horses Nelson, Horla, Ratzia d'Alauze.

The individual winner and european champion is the spanish rider Miguel Vila,
riding Diango, a fantastic horse looking perfect the day after at the best
condition showing. 
I entered the best condition too with Orfeo, because he was in great shape, but
by being 40 min behind the winner I had no chance, and anyway the spanish horse
was looking so gorgeous!
For your information, I have been told that the winner horse has been sold to
the UAE after the ride.

Voila _ this was my story.

See you in Compiegne(France) for the World Championship in August_ There will be
a pre-ride competition in April, normally on 160 Kms.

Best regards

Leonard, from Belgium

PS : I forgot to mention that there was an australian rider (Meg Wade riding
Gossip) who finished 6th.

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