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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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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.

The UAE went out fast to win and stayed in front for the entire time. Qatar moved up a bit, having started out at the back of the front runners, so to speak, while the Egyptians hung back and moved up quite a bit at the end as many of the competitors between them and the front dropped out. The pace set in the first few loops by the UAE was hot. The winner did the first loop at 23.01 kph and the second at 22.28, with each loop progressively slower for an average speed of 17.82 kph. The fastest Egyptian rider, in contrast, made 18.26 kph on the first loop and an overall average of 16.36 kph, a much steadier pace. Recovery times for the horses started at 1.5 minutes to 2 minutes at the beginning to 6.75 minutes to 8 minutes at the finish. The printouts from the timers at these races are a wealth of information.

The venue for the race is a small place and basically everyone was at each other's elbow all day. This was great for those of us who were photographing, watching and otherwise trying not to get in the way. Despite the relatively cramped quarters, much of the atmosphere was that of a large very messy picnic for much of the day, with emphasis on the mess as the grass down in the area for the cooling of the horses grew boggier and boggier as the day wore on. The club isn't going to have to water that lawn for a month. The areas for the horses and riders to rest and eat were on a higher elevation so they stayed quite dry and comfortable for everyone. The organisers had a large tent set up with catered food for riders, crews, and press, which was much appreciated, especially the breakfast at 6:30 am. The crowd at the race wasn't terribly large, mainly because there had been virtually no publicity for the event. Plenty of the riders in the area were completely unaware of the race, but some showed up to watch for a while. Endurance is not a very high profile sport in Egypt. I had to laugh at the comment of one woman who'd never seen an endurance race before that she'd never spent so much time watching people bathe horses.

If I have one main complaint about the race it would be the timing of the awards ceremony for the individual and team gold and silver. Maybe I'm just really old-fashioned but it seems to me to be a bit rude to give out some of the awards before the others, even if this is the pattern that we've grown accustomed to with the UAE organised races in Egypt. I have a very hard time being comfortable about giving out awards before the race is over, but maybe that's just me.

The horses that most of the countries brought in were beautiful. We had the Egyptian National and International Halter Shows out at the EAO over the four days preceding the race, and for my money the graceful, athletic healthy creatures inhabiting the club and visiting our desert at the time have the halter show ponies beat hands down. I have had visitors from the US this week who simply went nuts with cameras at the event and once we sort out some of these millions of photos we will get them up on the net for you. There are some beauties.

There were surprisingly few glitches at the race as well. One Jordanian horse cut his coronary band during the first loop and had to wait quite a while to be trailered back to the club. Depending on where he was waiting, this is pretty understandable since trailers are in pretty short supply in Egypt in the first place and moving one around in the desert is a major problem in the second. Most horses here travel in big trucks that can't navigate sand, or on foot. But the horse made it back just fine. The winning horse Omani Iman looked a little rocky at the finish and was rechecked by the vets. There was the usual huge cheer when the UAE came in from the last loop, followed by about half an hour of dead silence, followed once more by a cheer when the horse was pronounced ok. He later came in second for BC behind Dalton Du Capimont. The Libyans, who had come to Cairo almost totally in the dark about the sport, had a major eye opening, but I hope that they don't find the learning curve too daunting. They were pretty nice guys who gave it a try...a lot like the Egyptians in 2000.

I personally was very proud of our Egyptian team who have come a rather long way from the early days. From a position of knowing absolutely nothing at all about endurance in the spring of 2000 and being smacked in the face by teams from the UAE with horses whose names I'd read in articles, they've matured a lot. It's one thing to be told that it takes time to bring along a good endurance horse and another to actually do it. Their pacing of their ride this time showed me that progress is definitely being made and I'm happy that they are seeing a reward for it.

My stirrup and saddle never made it past the first loop. Oh well, there's always another race.

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani