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The Race - A Retrospect

Hi everyone,

It's Sunday am and everyone is getting up and moving around slowly. By now you know how disappointed we all are about the race. We have analyzed and analyzed what went wrong, what we could have done better, and we are just shaking our heads...Steve and I stayed around 40-45th position for the first 3 loops...our horses drank like fiends on the second and third loops...you couldn't get enough water into them...they were drinking at each water stop (every 4-5 km) and we had our crews meeting us with water bullets every 2-3 km...and at the water stops. Our horses adapted well to the flying/racing vehicles that were everywhere..on both sides of us, they didn't even look at them, they accepted the water handoffs at a canter with no problems - and still we ran into dehydration problems. The first loop was the worse - cars/trucks everywhere, overcast & cloudy due to sand flying around with all those cars. Horses running out of control - we tried to stay out of that, although the start was chaotic with all those vehicles and out-of-control horses running down the 2.5 km race track...My arms are at least 2 inches longers, my stirrup leathers are stretched to the max from bracing and my "water skiing" position in the saddle holding 1100 lb horse from being a dead run-away. It was tough - it was worse than tough - I told Steve I had no feeling in my fingers or hands after the first 5 miles...but those batting gloves I wear didn't allow any slippage of the reins, so I was able to hold him back, although he fought me bitterly.

The first hold was a bit of a cluster...but Steve and I got through without any difficulties - John was about 10 minutes ahead of us so we saw him in the crew box. Theatric didn't eat well that first hold, which is unusual for him this year...The second loop was much better, we could canter along without fighting the horses, although we always knew when we were within striking distance from other horses because Theatric would incrementally increas speed until we saw and then caught those riders...we would pull them back (Theatric and Savvy) and only passed a couple of horses, choosing to stay behind any we did catch up with (much to Theatric's disgust)

The second hold was horrible - Theatric dropped his pulse, then shot up into the low 70s and we failed the first vet presentation and had to go out of the vetting area and re-present - when we did (about 4 minutes later) he was down into the 50s, and we sailed through the second vet check - but still Savvy and Theatric were not really eating well at that hold. The third loop was getting hotter and the sun was bright - we did a lot of trotting and some cantering on that loop - they were both drinking tons of water - again at each water stop (about 4 km) and our crews were hitting us with water bullets constantly. We were riding with the Italians and we thought pacing pretty consistently - we came into the hold and Theatric's pulse would not come down...he stayed at 72-76 for 29 minutes, and we had run out of time - so we presented and his pulse was high and we were sent to the clinic. Savvy passed but had to represent before going out on the 4th loop for no gut sounds. The only indication I had before going into the in-gate coming off that 3rd loop was that Theatric stopped halfway up the hill going into that in-gate (it was a gradual uphill into the hold) and although he continued when I urged I thought "that's no right" - he just seemed disinterested. He was quiet in the cooling off area, but still we could not get his pulse down.

We arrived at the clinic and they drew labs immediately and started fluids - his labs came back ok - really. Martha Mischaff said that if they were going to go solely on the labs, he looked fine...but he was definitely dehydrated by skin pinch and mucous membrans. After running 2 bags of fluids, they drew blood again and his calcium was low that time - so they ran a bag of fluids with calcium added - then ran two more bags of fluids...he was eating plenty of hay in the clinic stall - you couldn't get his head out of the hay manager - his pulse was 40, his gut sounds were normal and he was discharged from the clinic. But by this time, Savvy was in the clinic for dehydration and minimal gut sounds, and Savvy was a bit fractious when I started to take Tee away, so Martha said to just leave Theatric there to keep Savvy company (they were in adjacent stalls in the clinic) so Theatric continued to eat and drink in the stall beside Savvy. Just when Savvy's fluids were being discontinued, I looked up to see Sonny being admitted to the clinic for lameness...but then his labs showed we off, and the vets also ordered fluids on him - so we all three stayed until Sonny was done with his fluids, and they all walked back to our stable together....3 dejected riders, 3 healthy horses. There really isn't anything else to say.

We had superior help - Mark Dial was there everywhere for us - Grace and Shaika Madiya (who was pulled at the first hold for lameness) and Madiya's grooms were wonderful - providing all their alloted ice (which everyone was running out of) and keeping our water filled at the cooling stations. Becky, all our crews/grooms helped - the British rider/crew (who couldn't start due to lameness/abcess) helped us - the German girl helped us (she was pullled at the first hold) - it was wonderful all the help we had..

I am sorry to have let you all down - I felt confident we would prevail....I had enough horse under me to start picking up the pace for that 4th loop (Tora Bora the locals call it) and Steve and I had our game plan down pat...adjusting as necessary on the first and third loops...and still we didn't accomplish anything. The French didn't complete 2 out of their 3 horses...they had lameness issues. We looked around the clinic and all the top horses and stables for the UAE were in there - As Martha and Mark said, we were in the majority, but I would have rather been in the minority.

We saw riders being pitched off their horses at the start, we saw crew vehicles smashed on the courses from running into other vehicles, we saw vehicles mired in the sand up to their axels waiting for the rescue trucks to pull them out. It was amazing. The course is flat and fast, but still it had enough challenge with the areas of sand and the Tora Bora undulating hills/sand dunes. The loop markings were superb, and any spots that might be "short cuts" had trucks and people sitting to take numbers and not allow cutting of trail. There was plenty of water on the loops provided by ride management - and still we couldn't accomplish anything.

The good news, if there is any out of all of this, is that all 3 horses left the clinic perky and healthy - the don't fly home until the 21st, so they will get a nice rest for a few days before the stress of flying home and quarantining.

Debbie - Theatric was 100 times better at the start then in Malaysia...he never did any leaping or bucking - If I was worried about anything, it was the start after what he pulled in Malaysia - but he was well-behaved and even ate some grass in the infield -

Thank you all for your good wishes prior to the start. I wish the final outcome could have been what you wished for us. Today we pack and clean and get ready (riders and grooms - Although John will stay with the horses until they ship home on the 21st) to go home. We will have a lot to tell you when we get home - it was quite an experience and I would like to share it all with you. Thank you again - all of you.