2006 Sultan's Cup Terengganu Endurance.Net

        The Ride Story

        The opening festivities started at 3pm on Saturday, with a horse show held in the areana by the main entrance. The local riding club was there and all of the students had entered the contest to test their skills. They were great! Little kids, ponies, doing jumps and trail challenges and slaloms, dismounts and mounts from the off side, and tents full of proud parents and spectators. Very much a family affair. All sorts of people. There was a group of motorcyclists parked under one of the trees, dressed in riding gear to match their bikes, looking like something out of a movie, long hair and boots, swaggering. They were actually there to ride the course during the night, riding ahead and riding drag, and being ready if called to the rescue.

        Back at the venue the royal chairs were set up for viewing of the start of the race. Several special invitees and dignitaries, all sitting on the balcony above the warmup area and starting line, national flags and banners waiving, good weather for now. John was out past the start taking photos and video, I was on the walkway built above the starting gate, connecting the two wings of the venue with walkway and viewing area. Such a nice facility! Similar to the UAE Endurance City and Endurance Village, but even nicer - the architecture has the asian gracefulness, and obviously much thought had gone into the layout.

        There were 22 starters warming up in the large area behind the line, and then Flag Off. A few galloped off to get in front of the pack, most left at an easy trot, and few stayed behind and let the others get out of sight. Sultan Mizan left with some of the foreign riders (Crandell, Sample, James) all on the Sultan's horses, and all intent on a healthy completion - and well aware of the challenge that lay ahead - they would ride conservatively. Just when everybody was starting to wander away one more rider showed up on a very excited white gelding. Dr. Nik! His 20 year old endurance horse still needed to be guided to the start and still nearly unseated him. And then he got him headed in the right direction and off they went.

        After the horses had disappeared down the trail, High Tea was held - tea and drinks and food set up in the room off of one wing of the venue. John and I snacked a little and visited with old friends and new friends, took some photos, enjoying the festivity. John was going to stay and get some more photos, hopefully the 160's would arrive at the first vet gate while there was still enough light to take photos. Paul Jeffrey and I stuck around for another hour and then headed back to the resort to try to sleep, or at least rest, before our midnight start. (midnight!)

        We arrived back at the venue around 9:30pm - the 160's had come and left again already, there were already a few pulls but most of them were still in, so far so good. I rounded up a headstall for Murphy (with all of the RTES horses in the ride, everything was being used, and Paul Brown (the trainer) had told me not to worry too much, he was an easy horse - would go in just about anything. I found a nice green zilco headstall and breast collar, a running martingale, snaffle, fitted everything to the handsome chestnut, and fiddled around until time to saddle up and start warming up. Paul and I would ride together, at least for the first loop. Our horses were friends ('mates') originally owned by Paul Brown in Australia, now they belonged to Sultan Mizan. Murphy had been a little 'playful' when we went out on a trail ride the day before, so we were both thinking he might be a bit of a handful at the start, but as it turned out Murphy was perfect, Paul's horse Zane was the one that would be a handful. Murphy and I were both really relaxed warming up, actually we were both rather sleepy, both of us thinking there was a nice warm bed back there, why were we out here heading into a dark wet night...? Paul's horse was ready! Not out of hand, just very animated and looking like he knew what was up.

        We had to go through a narrow 'chute' to get out onto the course, and Zane was balking at going through, more sideways and backwards then forwards, Murphy and I squeezed right out, no fuss. I was becoming more confident by the minute in my partner for the night. Paul had a handful with Zane - very eager to go. He was riding him in a hackamore, first time in a hackamore for Zane, and I think the pinching of his nose was different enough that in the excitement of all the other horses rushing forward he wasn't exactly sure what it meant. He raised up a few times and Paul brought him back down and moving forward, but Zane was fighting it. Then he went up and lost his balance and back they went. Zane sat back on his haunches, front legs still straight in front and it looked like they were both going to go over. I was sure that they were goners and that Zane was going to go galloping back into camp leaving Paul on the soggy ground, and Murphy would be right behind him. But somehow Zane managed to heave himself back up - so much strenght - and Paul managed to stay with him. Both athletes. But that seemed to convince Zane that it was time to listen - enough of this - lets get down the trail. No more problems after that.

        We left the main track out of camp, followed the pavement for a short way, and then into the dark. The horses were moving out, Zane at a steady trot, Murphy cantering at times to keep up with the bigger horse. Headlamps from the other riders bobbing in front, and behind - irritating Murphy - some passed, some settled in behind. Eventually we moved into a spot where it was good clear going for the horses, strong forward motion. There were water tanks set out on the trail at 5km intervals, it was a good way to guage our progress - plus lots of stewards on the course taking numbers - lights and people and steamy shadows fading in and out. The course had quite a few turns on it - straight stretches of road along a canal, wide track through the jungle, forest tracks through the palm oil plantations - jungle noises out there in the dark. It was actually fun riding in the dark. Paul and Zane were content to lead out, setting a good pace, so Murphy and I just tucked in behind and cruised along. I was a little intimidated by the dark riding at that point, so didn't have my usual urge to pass and move ahead. (must be getting older :)

        We cruised into the first hold, 2 hours on the trail, 30 km, decent pace and the horses felt great. We came in at the back of the pack, well behind the front runners - but plenty fast and still miles to go. John met me at the ingate, and we hurried over to pulse down at the water troughs. There were fans set up, with misters plumbed into the fans - very efficient cooling. We had been told there would be vets and vet-techs to help the RTES team, but when we got in nobody in sight - everybody was over at the barn with the 160km horses. So we guessed at the pulse, one fellow came over with a handheld hrm (we thought he was one of the RTES guys and were calling to him - turns out he was with another team and seemed a little miffed to be summoned - so apologies and thanks and we went back to guessing). Finally it seemed silly to be out there cooling w/o really know the pulse, so we just went on into the vetting area and hoped it was ok. Murphy was at 52, no problem, vetted through well - very hydrated - but we had wasted a bit of time out there.

        John and Roy (stable groom) took Murphy over to the crewing area and we settled into our hold. Paul and Zane were there, Paul had just walked Zane right into the vetgate when he realized there was nobody checking pulses, his horse was down right away and he gained a bit of time there. While Murphy and I were eating and resting John checked his shoes (it was mucky out there in places) and sure enough Murphy had lost a front shoe. Quite a bit of running around looking for the farrier and finally we took the horse over to the barn and got a new shoe on him. Not the most efficient first phase!

        Paul and Zane had already left when we got back to the crewing area. So out we went (gulp) alone. Murphy was game and didn't need too much encouragement. And once we got going it was a blast. My head lamp wasn't quite as bright as Paul's so I couldn't see as far ahead, but I've always loved riding in the dark, so I just settled into the horse's rhythm and kept us focused on the trail. The jungle noises were loud and made me giggle sometimes, and the rain came down in sheets, then stopped, and the steam rose up. horses passed us and we passed horses. Stopping at all the water points, calling out our number to the stewards (I had learned how to say 626 in Malay by then:). We went a little more slowly than in the first loop but it felt just right, I didn't feel the need to rush, we were already far behind and the goal was to finish. I met up with Norlaily (riding the 160km) along the 2nd loop. Nice to have a little company. Murphy couldn't trot quite as big as Laily's Jesse, so we leapfrogged along, keeping both horses amused. At one point I could see Laily up ahead slowing down and waiting for me "Steph - are you coming?" sure, a little more company. We rode together for a while, then they scooted out of sight again. It turns out that we were riding through a graveyard (too dark for me to notice) but Laily wanted a little company :)

        Back to camp - John met me at the gate. I'm so glad he decided to help me, I was thinking there would be more help from the stable, but everybody was focused on the 160km horses, and they were being crewed in a different area, so we were pretty much on our own. John took the saddle, Roy and I took Murphy over to start cooling him. He pulsed down fairly quickly, a good horse, and we moved along to the vet. He was in good shape, still very bouncy, great hydration, good gut sounds - he was handling the work very well.

        This was a 40 minute hold with a mandatory recheck 10 minutes before departure, it felt a little rushed, but Murphy ate well, peed well (very hydrated still) and I had a chance to rearrange some of my soggy clothing and tack. The stirrup leathers had stretched at least an inch out there, totally soaked through, and my half chaps were soggy wads around my ankles. Otherwise, everything was pretty good! Fresh batteries for the headlamp, vetted through beautifully, Murphy was looking fantastic, and off we go on the 3rd loop.

        This loop went in the opposite direction, towards the ocean. I had to stop and pee after a few miles, and stopped at one of the steward checkpoints - quickly handed my horse to some confused looking stewards and mumbled a few words and walked off into the dark. I don't think they understood what I was saying, but didn't resist. I thanked them, grabbed Murphy who was going in circles around the bewildered steward, and off we went. It was starting to get light just as we got to the ocean. We could hear the breakers crashing, and see the surf beyond the cedar (rhu) trees that lined the lane, and Murphy could see and hear a couple riders up ahead. He perked up and we flew along the sea - one of those moments that will stay with me forever. Strong horse, ocean sounds and smells, exotic trees, palms, warm wet air, a 'here I am riding a horse in Malaysia!!!' moment. wow. We passed the two riders, their horses were a little tired I think, but they pulled in behind us and followed us back to camp. We did the 18km loop in 1 hour, Murphy was on!

        One more vet check, another 40 minute hold with mandatory recheck, and we saddled back up and got ready to leave. It was getting a little crowded in the warm up area, where did all those horses come from? oh - right - the 40km race was getting ready to start. We looked at my out-time - 7:28, and the 40k's were to start at 7:30. So it would be me and Murphy headed out on our last loop, and 2 minutes behind us would be 50 novice riders on an assortment of horses. gulp. Oh well, got it to do. We wove our way through the bucking and milling horses (ponies, ex racehorses, polo horses, arabians, stallions, little kids, big kids, adults ... you name it) and gave the out-timer our card. Wait he said, he came back - there's been a mistake on the out-times, you don't leave for another 10 minutes. Whew!! That means we'd be behind the 40k riders, instead of right in front of them. And we got to watch a most amusing start. Riderless horses, bucking horses, horses that refused to leave camp, families riding together - very sweet really. Endurance is becoming a very popular sport here, new families and recruits from other disciplines enjoying the special challenges and rewards.

        Murphy and I left for our final 10km loop, he was perky and happy, and we actually picked up a few reluctant 40km starters and helped them head out on the trail. At the end of the 1 mile 'runway' that leads into and out of camp, the 40ks went right into the forest, and we turned left again towards the ocean. I knew when left that we had moved up into the top ten - didn't know exactly where we were positioned, but it was a little exciting to think that we had moved up so far in the pack. John said that Paul had been in first place when he left, with two others right behind him. Our slower pace on the first loop was paying off. I crossed the road, the police there to control traffic, made a few turns and headed out on the dirt lane. Perfect footing, and with the recent rain and fresh surface I could count the tracks that were in front of us - looked like there were about four sets of tracks - that meant we were in 5th position. A little more energizing yet.

        Murphy was still strong, but getting cranky when we got to forks or branches in the road, and he was certain that if we just turned the 'other' way, we would go back to camp. He still had a little buck in him - a horse with a lot of personality - but I was pretty motivated it didn't take much to convince him that we need to go 'this' way, and with energy. Another beautiful trail along the ocean, perfect footing, fresh misty air, and back to camp for the finish. We didn't pass any other horses, so I figured we had finished 5th - not bad! He pulsed down quickly, vetted through, looked great - finally I finished a ride in Malaysia (after two earlier unsuccessful attempts) and I was very very happy. Later I found out that two riders had been pulled at the finish - one for lameness, the other for taking too long to pulse down - that put us in 3rd place. I felt really bad for the riders that had been dq'd, it's so tough to do the miles and then get eliminated.

        I met up with Paul Jeffrey- he had earned the first place finish, and his horse looked great- a good shot at BC. Murphy looked great too but we were 50 minutes off the win time. We showed for BC anyway, and Murphy was bright and springy and healthy, I was thrilled - and I think Paul Brown was proud of his two home-bred horses. (he had brought both Zane and Murphy over from Australia).

        The first two 160km riders were just finishing while I was cleaning up - I didn't see them come in, but watched them trot their horses for the vets for completion. They looked incredible! A grey stallion, and a little bay - both fairly small and light of build, both looked like they could go out and do it again. The rest of the 160km's came in within the next 4 hours - some looked more tired than others, but all were surprisingly strong. The foreign riders looked a little hot and tired, but I was really impressed - 160km rides are always demanding, but the heat and the dark added a greater degree of difficulty - and most of them had been awake for over 24 hours, not to mention the different time zone (where day is night and night is day). Excellent riders. And I was also very impressed with the local riders and horses, they have come a long way in a relatively short time. Fit horses, and riders that understand how to ride 160kms. I actually think these riders have benefitted from the limitations of Endurance in the tropics - they MUST learn to pace and conserve the horse's energy. The stakes are high - there's a high price to pay for over-riding, a steady pace and gentle start is key.

        Till next time!

Images of the Day || More images of the day || Next Chapter

Contact steph@endurance.net to publish additional comments or photos on this page.

|| Back to Malaysia - 2006 Sultan's Cup Terengganu Coverage || || Back to Endurance.Net ||

Event Coverage Sponsorship:

Easycare Inc