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Egypt Equestrian Federation

El-Estad El Bahary Street
Nasr City
Federations Building

Tel. (20 2) 2402 92 65
Fax: (20 2) 2261 65 75
mailTo: info@eef.com.eg
http:    www.eef.com.eg

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Maryanne's Complete Stories

2007 Pan Arab Endurance - Egypt


Vet Check Pan Arab

Race Day 1

Race Day 2

Race Day 3

Race Day 4

Preparations - November 11 2007

I went over to the Sakkara Country Club yesterday to see what was happening and the state of the informational black hole. It is indeed black. There is a huge sign saying "Help Desk" but I have to assume that the desk put it up in a plea for assistance because there were no humans nearby. When I went to the reception desk at the club, they told me that someone from the Egyptian federation would be manning the desk. "Is anyone from the federation around?" "No." "Has anyone from the federation been around this week?" "Well, no." Great start.

I saw one of the trainers/stable managers sitting with a couple of guys wearing black baseball caps with roughly cut leaping cats in white stitched onto them. I was introduced to two of the Libyan riders who had trucked their horses 3000km to participate in the race. They were a bit concerned because, not surprisingly, the horses are feeling the stress of the trip.

I chatted for a while with Nour el Din Fendra and Hassan el Kilani from Tripoli. They are competing as individuals with a few horses (6 to 20) rather than being from an industrial stable. They it really funny that everyone in Egypt kept asking them if they are riding for Col. Gaddafi. The model of endurance in the UAE leads to such an expectation...


From a Club to a Village - November 14 2007

Most of the time Sakkara Country Club is a fairly quiet place where Cairenes come to get away from the city smog, let their children have riding lessons, and read or chat by the pool. The past few days it has been undergoing a major transition to become an endurnance village in the style of the UAE under the guidance of a team from Abu Dhabi. The grass paddock where mares and foals used to graze or children would be led on ponies has had pristine white trot out lanes erected for the past two weeks. The vet gates are placed next to the wooden playground with the sign warning that the equipment is only for children under twelve, but no one is taking time to sit on the swings with tents for the press and important visitors to be constructed. As the teams arrive, the sounds of drills, spray painters and hammers are wafting on the autumn breeze in place of birdcalls and horse chatter from the stables, but the work looks good to be finished in time for the Monday race.

Many of the members' horses have been moved to neighbouring stables to afford some boxes for the visitors. The Qatar team have been here for almost two weeks on their way home from France. Interestingly, this weekend is the Egyptian International and National Horse Show at the EAO (the Egyptian government stud in Ain Shams) and the line up for the International show is said to be spectacular as many of the horses have come to Cairo en route to a big halter show in the Gulf. Cairo is filled with horses right now.

I stopped by the lonely help desk to find some young people there who were more than happy to help, but who didn't know much about the technical issues I wanted to follow..I suspect that it's going to be much more of a generic help desk. But as I spoke to them I spotted an old friend who works with the Dubai team and the informational log jam broke. He was able to confirm that the set up and the track are being supervised by an organisational team from Abu Dhabi. He was on the team that was arranging the races in 2000 when Egypt was introduced to endurance racing, and said happily that he was enjoying just competing this time. He couldn't stop to chat as he had to meet people. Everyone is hustling now.


The Stage is Set - November 17 2007

The transformation from a country club to an endurance village, while not complete, has reached a point of being fairly convincing. The tennis courts are covered over and temporary stalls are there for horses from Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and I imagine Egypt. The Egyptian horses and the Saudi horses are in the neighbourhood but I believe will be moved in after the vet check tomorrow afternoon. The trail has been set and a map will be available tomorrow as well. Basically, the cast is here, the stage is set, and the production starts tomorrow.

Yesterday (Friday) morning I had some clients in from the UK who wanted to do a long ride, so we left the farm early in the morning to ride to the lake at Dahshur, about 20 km south of here. This is a glorious ride through the desert with views of about twenty pyramids in various stages of disrepair and marvelous long stretches for canters (ok, actually gallops) across the sand. The vistas of pyramids were a bit surreal, however, due to heavy fog and as we rode part of the trail that had been set for the race, I found myself wondering how the riders were going to be coping in the fog at 5 am on Monday. The flags are set far enough apart that they weren't that easy to see in daylight, much less in the dawn murk of a Nile Valley fog. Maybe the riders will be relying on cars to lead the way; we'll see. I told my clients that they could go home and brag that they'd ridden at least part of the Pan Arab championship trail. Once I got home and finished my lesson and farm chores, I went to the nearby farm where the Egyptian team has been working and training. There are seven horses from which they will be choosing six for the race, most of them from stables near the Giza pyramids, and two from farms in this area. They are all locally bred and trained, unlike the horses from the Gulf and apparently Syria. I don't know about the Saudi horses' origins yet or the Jordanian.


T'was the Night Before... - November 18 2007

This afternoon began the tests with the initial vet checks. They started at about 2 pm with each team walking its horses as they waited for their turn, which gave everyone a chance to size each other up. As far as I could see, about the only teams running home grown horses are the Egyptians and the Libyans; everyone else has horses collected from all over the world. Very athletic, beautiful horses from all over the world. I think that we are basically looking at two races tomorrow: the international horses and the local horses, but I could be wrong. For most of the teams, once the vet check was finished the issue was which horse and rider would be cut to make the six horse team for the race tomorrow morning. Once that was settled there was nothing to do but wait for morning and hope that nothing went wrong overnight.

All the horses are now gathered at Sakkara Country Club/endurance village waiting the race tomorrow. It will consist of five loops out from the club to the south. The first, the red loop, is the longest at 36 km down to the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid of Dahshur...great photo ops. The second loop, the blue loop, runs south through the gap just west of the Japanese Hill like all the loops, further west to circumnavigate an east/west wadi, then east along the Fayoum/Cairo railway track to Mastabat Pharoan and north again past the Step Pyramid at Sakkara and the pyramids of Abu Sir, a distance of 28 km. Again, there are plenty of nice spots for very cool pictures of riders cantering past antiquities. The third loop, the green loop, leaves south to the Japanese Hill, runs along the north wall of the east/west wadi and then cuts southeast to the railway tracks along the same track as the red loop, but then doubles back to the club with an eastward bow towards the pyramids of Abu Sir for a distance of 21 km. The fourth loop, the yellow loop, was one that we rode part of on Friday and it parallels part of the blue loop southeast from the Japanese Hill towards the Step Pyramid and then cuts northwest of Masabat Pharaon to the railway tracks to make rounded turn back north to the club for a distance of 20 km. The final loop, the black loop, is a straight shot to the railway tracks and back for a distance of 15 km. The black loop is the most suited to a straight out horserace with long stretches of fairly flat sand covered in flint. Most of the other loops contain parts with deep soft sand and the more firm flint covered sand. In many respects, this is not at all an easy course. It is almost exactly the same race as was run in May 2000.


More cars than horses on the first loop - November 19 2007

It's 7:15 am and the computer in the press tent is bloody slow. There were 42 starters just before dawn here and 53 jeeps that set out in the desert for the first round. Watching them all leave was like looking down the slow lane on a highway. The first loop was fast for the front runners, mostly from the UAE with one Saudi in the first few minutes. The Egyptian team was coming in as the first horses were setting out on the second loop.

There are 6 horses each from Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia started. The Jordanians started 5 horses, the Libyans 4 horses, and the Syrians only 3 horses. Syria and Bahrain both have women riders on the team, so naturally I'm cheering them on. I'm afraid that my saddle didn't make it into the race...the poor rider still couldn't make weight...but apparently my EZride stirrups did, so I'm also cheering for them. I've seen one Libyan horse come in but I haven't seen the vet results yet.


First Loop finishers - November 19 2007

The first four horses for the first loop were from the UAE: Salem Rashid Ghadier, Maktoum Stable on Dalton Du Capimont recovery time 1 min 9 sec HE Sh. Majid Mohamed Al Maktoum, Maktoum Stable on Omani Iman, recovery time 3 min 9 sec Mubarak Khalifa bin Shafiya, Maktoum Stable on Kaysand Farrazah, recovery time 1 min 46 sec Mohamd Ahmad Ali Al Subose, Maktoum Stable on Kevin De Narthoux, recovery time 2 min 38 sec


Loop Two results - November 19 2007

After the second loop, the front three runners from the UAE remain unchanged. Hazaa from Bahrain who was 7th has moved up to 4th place, Subose (UAE) who was in 4th is now 5th. Huzaim (UAE) who was 8th is 6th, Sulayem (UAE)who was 6th is 7th, Mohlesi (Saudi) who was 9th is 8th, Al Hawas (Saudi) who was 5th is now 9th, and Hamad Ali Rashid Al Marri from Qatar, riding Tequila for the Al Shaqab Endurance Team has moved from 19th to 10th place.

All of the Egyptian horses are still in the race, trailing...but no one here is terribly worried about their placing. If they can finish the team, everyone will be delighted. Yalla Misr!

There seems to have been an accident involving a Jordanian rider and I'm trying to find out details. Shakib Wahib Qabbani riding Al Andalous was eliminated on the first loop before the vet gate.


Through Loop 3 - November 19 2007

It's 2:30 pm and I'm feeling a little schizophrenic. The internet connection is so glacial that I could easily spend hours in the press tent. Then I have to hike to the vet gates for the in/out times and the variation between the front runners and the back of the pack is so huge that there is at least a loop's difference between the two. Right now, as far as I know based on my last print out, the UAE, Qatar and Egypt are the only teams in the running for team medals. Everyone else has lost too many horses to qualify. The UAE are running hard and fast with one rider from Saudi Arabia chasing them at the end of loop 3 (they are going to be out on loop 5 soon however) and one from Bahrain before a trio of Qatari riders is moving up. Of course, by the time I actually get this posted and trot down to the timers, the situation may have changed. AND correction, the two Syrian women were not out of time, they were just running at the back of the pack.


This is Actually a Horserace - November 19 2007

Preliminary results from the 4th loop show the UAE firmly in control of the first five spots. Hazaa of Bahrain is fifth and in a real surprise, Mohamed Salah Ibrahim has moved up from 13th to 6th. Half of the Egyptian team is in and we are waiting for the other half to clear and finish the 5th loop to see if they will qualify for the team Bronze.

The first riders have arrived from the 5th loop, a straight flat shot out to the railway tracks and back...perfectly suited to racing... and they are from the UAE. No surprise there, but let's watch the vet check. The Individual awards are sitting right in front of me and in typical "hurry up and finish" style, they are probably going to be awarded even as the later riders are still finishing the course. This really is a rather bad habit...looks totally rude.


And the Winner Is.... - November 19 2007

For once I'm in the right spot for something as the awards ceremony is just about to begin within the regulation time after the arrival of the front runners. Tables are being filled with boxes and bags of gifts and tasteful silver and gold plate trophies line up in front of a sign for the sponsors of this event, PMA, which is some kind of investment company. The platform in front of the cafeteria is full of white robed men with either glistening white or red and white head scarves carefully folded back over their shoulders. There are, in fact, horses standing not 10 feet away who have not yet gone out to do the final loop but what the hay? There are people here who, I suppose, have seen enough endurance today. Everyone is waiting to award the individual prizes in the competition.


Wrapping up the Sheikhs and all - November 20 2007

At the end of the day of the 42 riders who started the race, thirteen finished, about a 31% finish. The rules stipulated that three of the six riders had to finish for the team medal and the UAE took the gold medal, while Qatar took the silver. Egypt ended up with two riders finishing, as did Syria and it was decided to give them a joint bronze medal. The awards ceremony for the bronze took place separately from the other awards this afternoon at Sakkara Country Club, all the other awards having been given yesterday afternoon at the time of my last post.

This was a very tough race. The weather wasn't an issue with cool breezes and high clouds so that plenty of these extremely fit horses barely broke a sweat during the final short loops. The important aspect of the race for these horses was the desert itself. Over the past few years there has been quite an increase in four wheel drive traffic in the area and this has disturbed a lot of the sand leaving large pockets of very soft sand mixed in with a lot of rocky sand. Most of the horses were wearing pads to protect their feet but judging by the large number of pulls due to lameness, especially on the first two loops, feet and legs really took a beating. There were also quite a number of riders opting to pull their horses as well. I talked to one Jordanian boy who told me that his horse just didn't feel quite right and he didn't want to risk another loop which might seriously injure him. I told him that he was showing good horsemanship and he should be proud of himself.