Home Shop Classified News, Stories Events Education Ridecamp Videos Cartoons AERC
Endurance.Net Home 2015 HH Sheikh Maktoum Cup

Official Event Website


2008 Al Maktoum Cup


2008 Al Maktoum Cup
Images by Steph Teeter
international/UAE/2008AlMaktoum/gallery/Jan10_arrival/thumbnails/IMG_5398.jpg
international/UAE/2008AlMaktoum/gallery/Jan10_arrival/thumbnails/IMG_5426.jpg
international/UAE/2008AlMaktoum/gallery/Jan10_arrival/thumbnails/IMG_5409.jpg
international/UAE/2008AlMaktoum/gallery/Jan10_arrival/thumbnails/IMG_5464.jpg
international/UAE/2008AlMaktoum/gallery/Jan10_arrival/thumbnails/IMG_5396.jpg
international/UAE/2008AlMaktoum/gallery/Jan10_arrival/thumbnails/IMG_5455.jpg
international/UAE/2008AlMaktoum/gallery/Jan10_arrival/thumbnails/IMG_5448.jpg
international/UAE/2008AlMaktoum/gallery/Jan10_arrival/thumbnails/IMG_5455.jpg
Home

Starters/Gates/Finishers

Heather Reynolds and Riverwatch finish 24th; Read Heather's Recap here



2015 HH Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup

USA Riders: Melody Blittersdorf, Willemina DeBoer, Heather Reynolds, Jan Worthington, Mary Kathryn Clark

Canadian Riders: Kat Irvine, Jessica Manness



Jessica Manness photos

Kat Irvine photos

Melody Blittersdorf photos

Kat Irvine photos

Melody Blittersdorf photos

Kat Irvine and Nightwind's Savanah - Follow their complete adventure at https://www.facebook.com/kat.Irvine.WEG

January 13 - I can't believe it, tomorrow evening , Jan 14th, we leave for the airport and Canada. I hate to admit to myself that I'm packing . I'm just folding clothes and sorting stuff I tell myself.

The hospitality here was nothing short incredible. No detail was missed by the Meydan Hotel, or at the quarantine barn or even by our barn guys. Then there were our drivers, who were so much a part of our crew, who at first didn't know a fruit stand from horse food who learned that "grass" at the camel market was needed every other day. They learned how to move from city streets to sand dunes with their vehicles; from being chauffeurs who opened your door at the hotel, to dune bashing, horse chasing crazy drivers who passed you on course. Those were the guys who waited for hours for us and everything was "no problem". Great guys.

Our learning curve has spiked. There will be so much to incorporate into regular training programs to make a better horse physically and mentally.

The standards of horse care and training here is so far beyond what we can imagine. Those who toured the barns reported one particular barn with 90 horses, 30 exercise riders, additional barn staff as well as people for office administration.

On the trail I saw happy, fit, horses.

I only saw one horse that had to be physically moved into a stall at the treatment barn. That horse had fallen and injured itself.

"Trip of a lifetime" some are calling this. Not we endurance people though. We vow to be back again in 2016 for the World Endurance Championships.


January 11 - It all started with around 180 horses from 28 countries, I can't imagine how many trucks with water bottles. We had tracking devices on our horses, and a drone overhead filming us. If this wasn't enough to make you believe you weren't in Kansas any more there was police holding back traffic at every road crossing and a mess "tent" with food that would have delectable food to satisfy the appetites from the east, middle east, and west.

Glider and Vanna came out of the start lanes together and we were off to a beautiful start on a track of sady, groomed, wet footing. It couldn't have been a better start. This didn't come by accident. During our stay here we talk a lot about our ride strategy. We found oddly enough Vanna and Glider were compatible even with their differences in size and stride. They were quite hooked on one another and with each other's strengths, they would likely do well. Melody Bittersdorf , who we got to be good friends, joined us . In the middle of the pack we carried on with a beautiful forward pace, with Vanna having the time of her life connected with Frankie and Glider

Our training track had all kinds conditions and we'd often ride together comparing HR's through the deep sandy parts. From that we were able to get a good feel of what pace was best through the deep sand.

That's what were faced with 160 km of loose sand, some deep, some not so deep, some dry, all graded with ridges on the either side of the track. The fun in the race is not the magnificent scenery, and there was only one camel in an enclosure. The fun was riding with groups of people and experience the bottle brigade. The bottle brigade consists many trucks following their own riders and every 1/2 km or so a crew member jumps out, stands in the middle of the track and holds up a 2 litre bottle of cold water while one of their riders gallop by. The riders grabs a bottle splashing some on the guy on the ground, a fair amount down his own boots and some on the . Just a few hundred yards up is another team member with a bottle to cover the places you missed, and the other boot.

The crew from India was super and helped us out on the first loop.

The second loop our own crew people Jodie Jergenait and Lauralee Duhbhar were out with one of our drivers, Jamshid, who had a crash course in desert driving. That second loop was the craziest thing I'd ever experienced. Vanna was never dry. As we loped along they were always out on the trail with those bottles.

The job for those ladies was exhausting.


January 11 - It all started with around 180 horses from 28 countries, I can't imagine how many trucks with water bottles. We had tracking devices on our horses, and a drone overhead filming us. If this wasn't enough to make you believe you weren't in Kansas any more there was police holding back traffic at every road crossing and a mess "tent" with food that would have delectable food to satisfy the appetites from the east, middle east, and west.

Glider and Vanna came out of the start lanes together and we were off to a beautiful start on a track of sady, groomed, wet footing. It couldn't have been a better start. This didn't come by accident. During our stay here we talk a lot about our ride strategy. We found oddly enough Vanna and Glider were compatible even with their differences in size and stride. They were quite hooked on one another and with each other's strengths, they would likely do well. Melody Bittersdorf , who we got to be good friends, joined us . In the middle of the pack we carried on with a beautiful forward pace, with Vanna having the time of her life connected with Frankie and Glider

Our training track had all kinds conditions and we'd often ride together comparing HR's through the deep sandy parts. From that we were able to get a good feel of what pace was best through the deep sand.

That's what were faced with 160 km of loose sand, some deep, some not so deep, some dry, all graded with ridges on the either side of the track. The fun in the race is not the magnificent scenery, and there was only one camel in an enclosure. The fun was riding with groups of people and experience the bottle brigade. The bottle brigade consists many trucks following their own riders and every 1/2 km or so a crew member jumps out, stands in the middle of the track and holds up a 2 litre bottle of cold water while one of their riders gallop by. The riders grabs a bottle splashing some on the guy on the ground, a fair amount down his own boots and some on the . Just a few hundred yards up is another team member with a bottle to cover the places you missed, and the other boot.

The crew from India was super and helped us out on the first loop.

The second loop our own crew people Jodie Jergenait and Lauralee Duhbhar were out with one of our drivers, Jamshid, who had a crash course in desert driving. That second loop was the craziest thing I'd ever experienced. Vanna was never dry. As we loped along they were always out on the trail with those bottles.

The job for those ladies was exhausting.


January 10 - Jess and I did not finish. Details when I've had a sleep....


January 9 - Tomorrow is the big day. The 6 o'clock start was moved ahead an hour because of the fog, so at 7:00 AM I will swing in the saddle and we'll be off. The forecast temp for tomorrow is 23C and partly cloudy , the humidity has been typically around 70% This should be a good day.

We will try to keep you updated as best we can if we can find and internet connection. Details may only be sketchy if we can get through at all.

For sure we'll let you know somehow how we are doing.

January 9 - Vet in today. Both Glider and Vanna vetted in spectacularly. Crew packed up gear to move over to rest area and our two "locals" sussed out the trails to see where the sand traps and camels were. Yep, there is a good possibility we will see camels on our trail. I suppose someone like Sheik Mohammed would be as fascinated to see a moose.


January 8 - It's funny what you think when someone else is looking after your pride and joy, and your business. I think, Am I missing something? and I think, I wish I had a hair cut. Denise Blanchet is giving Vanna a touch up clip. Maybe she can do one for me too.

January 8 - Jess and I are cooling our heels while the crews are getting things ready for the vet-ins this aft at 2:30. Emmett Ross, Chef d'Equip for US team at WEG sat with Jess and I for a few minutes this morning for a very encouraging chat.

January 8 - "Team" Canada is now complete! Kim, Des, and Denise are finally here. There was some confusion at the front desk as to what to do with them. In the end the girls compromised and took the Presidential suite.
OMG!
As soon as they find their bedrooms they'll be in their beds and up at 6 AM.

January 8 - The rest of our Ontario crew has landed! After being delayed leaving Ottawa, and missing their connection in Washington, and having to wait for the next flight 24 hours later, then being held a couple of hours on the ground because of complications due to cold weather they finally made it. They won't have any time to recover. Tomorrow they have to hit the ground running getting oriented and set up our crewing areas . I have every faith they'll have everything up and running before start time day after tomorrow. Whoa, it's coming up fast!

January 8 - Canadians Jodie Jurgeneit, from Jordan, and Lauralee Dahbhar from Syria are our "local" crew people. They have a lot of cultural savvy and know how to drive in the sand dunes.

In the few hours they have been with us they have been invaluable by getting a real truck for the desert, shopping around for various items from food to a foldable wheel barrow for 20 bucks. They took me to the Cheescake Factory in the Emirates Mall and told me about their day to day lives in the Middle East.

They've looked after the horses while we were at a press conference, and in minutes they cleaned up real nice for the party at the race track.

Tommorow the real work starts with Preride inspection and weigh-in.

Ladies- let the air out of your tires!

January 8 - Jess and I just came back from the press conference. I had anticipated being bored and politely clapping for announcements that didn't affect me. It just about happened, until near the end. The general manager of the Dubai Equestrian Club , Mohd Essa Al Adhaab announced that every rider who finishes this race will receive 100,000 Dirhams. ( About $32,000.00 CD) It gives a whole new meaning to "To Finish is to Win" Jess says to me after the meeting.

Once I had the hair on the back of my neck lay down, I realized that this , no doubt, was a gesture to show a change in attitude toward winning being the only thing.


January 7 - Dr. GlenN made it in last night feeling remarkably refreshed because he was able to get three seats to himself. However Kim, Dessia and Denise did not make their connecting flight to Dubai and will now arrive 24 hours, plus the time they had to wait until their plane got off the ground due to the airplane doors not closing because of the cold weather in Washington. This is our schedule. Jess and I have been divide up our jobs because our main crew wasn't here, and Canadians Jodie and Lauralee living on this side of the pond were just getting settled in.

There was a dress up function at the Bel Al Shams so Jess went, and I met with the girls.

Our schedule has finally been set up and the only thing we have to do today is attend the press conference. Again, they stressed, "look nice". We endurance riders have to be told.


January 6 - It's 3:05 AM, Jan 6 here right now. I normally wake up for a few minutes at this time of the morning. Share a few thoughts with you and go back to sleep. This morning I woke up with the realization that the dream will take a different turn today. The crews will be landing 8:15 PM Jan 7. Hopefully they get through customs as fast as we did. If they don't it might be an hour or so for them to get through. Once they do they'll come directly to the Meydan Hotel. There is some confusion as to whether there will be arrangements to pick them up so today we'll have to find out for sure so at least we can have one of our drivers pick them up. It's a 20 minute drive from the airport to the hotel. They'll arrive just in time to settle in from their rooms, hopefully go back to sleep because Jan 8, two days before the race we'll have an impossible schedule starting with a meeting with the horses. Most of the crew have never met these horses.

This is going to be the test of a "professional" crew. Our crew people are already a unit as they've done this job together many times.

This will especially show up at the vet checks. The vet checks will be short, four of them from 35-40 minutes with one 50 minute one before the last loop. The riders will have no time to look after horses. When the horse comes over the timing line the crews will take over the horse and rider will be whisked away for a bit of a break.

Meanwhile the other crew members will have swarmed the horse, pulled off the saddle and cooled with gallons of cool, or even cold water depending on ambient temperatures, made sure heart rate is down and stable , taken to the vet, examined, trotted out for lameness, brought back to the rest area for a few minutes and 10 minutes before we are to leave, saddle the horse in time for us riders to leave on time.

This is where absolute trust of the crews come in. It's in the best interest of the rider to give up his horse and look after himself. It's in the best interest of the horse for the rider to look after himself. This is a hard thing to do on both counts.

The people we have chosen as crew are multitalented, educated and have had years of endurance experience. They know the drill, they know stresses can come from anywhere - from a cranky rider to mistake in paperwork. They are physically fit. Running after horses with a big water bottle in each hand requires some muscle and wind. They will have to deal with jet lag, moving in to new digs and getting to know our horses. They'll have to take the time to learn how our tack goes on, what our horses eat and their particular quirks. They'll have to move gear out to the crewing and rest areas and go to a couple of events where they will have to "dress nice". Someone will have to be well informed enough and eloquent enough to deal with press.

Yep, we have the dream team crew - we so hope to do you proud.


January 6 - It was quiet at the barn this morning. We put our last ride before the race on the horses with bending and stretching exercises and turned them out for the day with fly sheets and masks without having getting the sweated up. The barn inside was quiet with horses getting last minute, feel good treatments and there was even a saddle being cleaned. This would be the last quiet moments because when the crews got there, the pandemonium would start.

In those moments, before the distraction would start I had to approach Jess with a subject that is sensitive between us. She rolls her eyes when I dare to use the "c" word. Camel market.

The camel market and the village is the center of the camel racing culture. As we come into the village there are miles of race tracks and not unusual to see a trainer with half a dozen or so camels of all ages as they exercise along the track. The all have racing silks of sorts, matching blankets on them and some have the colourful crocheted muzzles.

I had made no secret to Jess I wanted a muzzle. Besides, it was time to pick up fresh alfalfa. And given that our vet Dr. GlenN, who is known far and wide for his advocacy of date syrup, would love to have some of the local produce, Jess agreed that it would be okay if we went "just this once".

I love the camel market. I love the little stores filled with all kinds of things- rainbow stacks of feed tubs and buckets, carpets, robot jockeys, hay, etc. Just to be clear, this is not a tourist place. There is dust on everything, the store owners don't speak English, and why would anyone want a robot jockey anyway?

Camel racing is one of the UAE's traditional sports and an important part of the region's heritage. However, there was vigorous international criticism of the use of young children to ride camels during long and hazardous races. Many of they children are said to be have been kidnapped and trafficked from South Asia.

Robotic jockeys were invented to take the place of small children in order to lower the level of child labor as well as the risk attached with the lives of those young children.

I didn't want a robot jockey, I wanted a camel muzzle.

"Why do you want a camel muzzle?" Asked Jess.
"Because not everyone has one." Was my reply

There is no arguing with that kind of logic.

So off we went the first thing we did is pick up our fresh alfalfa or "grass" as our driver, Madhu, has learned to call it. He, as usual does the dealing and wouldn't you know it our bundles are getting cheaper all the time!

Then off to find the camel muzzles. Our first store owner was uncooperative. After we (Yep, she got into the spirit) had gotten all excited about picking out our colours and tying our fastening strings in, Madhu said, "leave it".

We carried on and in a few steps we came across our date vendor. That's all he had to sell, dates and date syrup in 2 litre pails and little containers that look like they hold about a litre. Great, the horses and we will have our power boost.

Next store we had better luck with the camel muzzles and got a really them at a good price.


January 4 - Yesterday Jess and I were escorted by the most wonderful couple, Michael & Rennee Hamilton - Clark.

A dear friend of mine Elaine Bessuille from BC, put us in contact with them. Michael and Renee go to the UAE each winter. Michael, is a retired engineer, and used to work in Dubai. Renee taught in French in school there as well.

They invited us to come over to visit when we got here. We arranged a day and they picked us up and they took us on the most wonderful sight seeing tour. It was so nice to have "locals" show us the fun spots to visit explain some of the cultural nuances and show us where the best Pashmina shawls are. Pashmina is a type of fine cashmere wool that comes from the Pashmina goat. Pashmina shawls are hand spun and hand embroidered, and so, so beautiful. The colours and designs were breathtaking.

The souks (market stores) were crazy mayhem and so much fun. Michael took us to the newer, "not real" souks, and then to the old ones close to the "creek" It was noisy, with shop owners accosting, flattering, and following with their wares, be they pashminas, hookah pipes or even spices. Then we had lunch on an open air restaurant over the water. The restaurant was packed and the air was filled with the drone and the raw exhaust from the engines of the abras (water taxis) . Michael brought his own book of what Dubai looked like in the 60s when he first moved there. He told stories. The progress was truly amazing and much of his work can be seen there today.

January 4 - Stupid x 3. What ever made me think I could give the Princess two days off and then take her on a leisurely 4 mile walk? Got to thinking, that 1. Vanna never goes anywhere only 4 miles at a time, and 2. at home my "easy" days are ring work. So when we got home and stopped bouncing around, that's what we did. Her pen was a nice size for a 20 m circle.



January 2 - So far my day has consisted of car race to the stables as the drivers, getting bored with the route, are wanting to liven things up a little. I was asleep until he hit the pothole in the sand road.

I went to the Camel market to find some fresh Lucerne. The hay in bales is absolutely beautiful. Today I wanted a bundle of fresh/green/not baled/ dewy as lawn alfalfa. Communication suffered when translated from English to Indian to Arabic. Something in our store keeper clicked in and he disappeared and came back with exactly what I wanted from another souk.


Oh, and the highlight of my day was when one of the stable boys asked, as near as I can figure, asked me to marry him so he could come to Canada.


Just another normal day.


January 1 2015 - New Year's started off with a bang. Quite literally as the fireworks near the quarantine were big, noisy but thankfully short. Glider was a little nervous, but it took the combined efforts of Jess and I to keep Vanna in her stall, literally. She was one frightened pony. In less than 10 minutes it was over. We went home for 4 hours sleep and were up at our regular time to do our ride.

We did a 16 mile stretch, covering the 4 mile loop 4 times. We monitored heart rates while going through the deep sand, working on what would be the best pace. We discussed ride day strategy, and practiced handing water bottles from car to horse. This was a bit of a puzzlement for our driver. We dragged our poor, obliging driver out on the trail and had him drive beside us so we could pick up our water on the fly, take a drink and douse our horses. This is cooling a horse the UAE way!

After our ride we took a little side trip to the ocean. What a beautiful, day for the beach. The waves were strong and even close to the shore I got knocked over by them.

We had lunch, had a pitifully short nap and back to the stables.


December 31 - Fireworks tonight. There are people here from Australia to see the fireworks because Australian fireworks are "atrocious". I can understand that since all the Australian pyrotechnicians are working in UAE. We are going to be at the barn tonight. Bab Al Shams resort will have a huge display and you guessed it, the horses will have the best view and not the appreciation for them.


December 31 - Today I walked Vanna around the four mile course. I walked. Vanna, on the end of her lead, bounced around as if she were going somewhere. Not that I mind a horse full of herself but when faced with stretches of soft sand it's frustrating work to put one foot in front of another as well as being body checked by your own horse. But we made it and I got a taste of what real heat and humidity can do to a person. I drank a 2 litre bottle of water and more when I got back to the barn. I felt great.


December 30 - Our schedule:

Despite what most think we do have a daily routine that takes seriously the reason why we are here.

Jess works. She's an upwardly mobile engineer with a new business and an ability to get up at 4 AM to do a day's worth of work before noon. After lunch she does her riding, personal training at the hotel gym and a little more work.

We have breakky together at 6 AM. We discuss the horses, how they are doing, how they are eating, we take into consideration the input of our coach, other riders, each other and any passers by who have an opinion. From that information we put together a daily strategy that is totally ruined by the horses who think a 4 mile outing is really stupid. We have taken to doing an eight mile ride - going around twice.


I turn out Glider, saddle up Vanna and off we go. When I see "we" I mean to include our American friends . Melody Bittersdorf and I have had some very nice rides, and discussions. She has a way of expressing things in a nutshell. One thing she said to me really hit home. "This is the kind of race that's going to be all about looking after your horse." With unknowns such as humidity, distances of inconsistent footing that makes dehydration set in within minutes, for the riders anyway, it will truly be a crew's ride.

AT noon they kick us out . (Horses are in lockdown from 12 - 2 PM for lunch.) I return to hotel, have lunch with Jess and then she hikes off to the barn. I then do my normal afternoon stuff - a few planks and whack off a few notes and have a nap. I have also discovered the pool.

At 6 - 6:30 we meet for lunch.


December 30 - This morning at 6AM I opened my balcony window and saw something that rivaled the visibility a Canadian blizzard white out. Fog. Not unusual, but this morning the balcony railing was as far as I could see. At breakfast Jess and I discussed the possibility of the driver wanting to wait an hour or so for the fog to clear. Surprisingly the fog lifted quickly and after breakfast we were able to see cars pulling up to the hotel. The valets however appeared to be suffering from serious hypothermia.

Driver said, "no problem" about driving in the fog and off we went. And hour later Vanna and I were moving down the trail in the sun.

****************

December 29 - The day finally arrived that we would go to the camel market. Our driver, Madhu, made sure he knew what a camel market was, and where to find one. We pulled up to the camel market square and as we piled out of our SUV, Madhu piled out with us. He voluntarily served as our escort, interpreter and wheeler-dealer. He made conversations easy for us and made sure we didn't get cheated in our bargaining. But truthfully, I think he was having a little too much fun with it. The camel market is a fascinating place. It has dozens of tiny stores pushed into one long camel strip mail of sorts. There is everything the camel community could want - veterinarians, feed stores, tack shops for horses and camels. There were camel blanket shops, equipment shops. We may have come at an inopportune time. When we pushed open the door of some of the shops it almost hit store owner or owners as they were asleep on the floor or watching TV. There were some delightful store owners though. The grocery store fellow was cheerful and pointed us toward the things we needed. Good thing, Some of it was behind something else on the crowded shelves. The young man at the tack shop sold me a set of reins. He thought I should have the bridle and breastplate with it. When I told him I already had them and I only needed the reins, he laughed and sold the reins to me for the Canadian equivalent of $20.00. The guy at the rug shop held his cards close when Madhu bargained on some rugs for us. In the end we got a little bit of a deal from some beautiful rugs made in Turkey. In the end, we bought all that plus some camel feed tubs we will use during the race. It was then back to the barn to finish up our day. The only thing that could have made it better would have been to see some cam.... And here they came packs of them, about a half dozen or so each with two or three exercise riders heading for the track. Each pack had their own "silks". The camels were wearing them.


December 27 - I know we’ve expounded on the virtues of our drivers. They are so professional and helpful. Besides being exceptionally careful drivers, they open our doors. If they don’t have enough arms to open doors for all of us, there’s someone around, usually hotel staff, to help out. Basic communications are adequate, and except for that fruit stand misunderstanding, minds meld eventually.

In one instance I realized communications were better than I thought. While on the highway from Endurance City back to the Meydan hotel a little car passed us. It reminded me of my Rav 4 only because it was somewhat unclean and had a dust caked back window. You don’t see many dirty vehicles here. And of course, someone couldn’t resist and scribed an Arabic message in the grime of the back window.

Impulsively I commented to Jess, “I bet that says “wash me.”" For the first time we saw are driver lose composure and he could barely stifle a chuckle.

Yesterday Jess and I asked our driver if he would take us to a Pharmacy for some small stuff like dental floss, and eye drops etc. I think our driver was glad to have a break from our regular route. To find the pharmacy he took us into the heart of Dubai with those magnificent gleaming buildings towering above us. I think he was pleased we were impressed.

The pharmacy was tiny, packed and sparkling, and it had everything we needed. The pharmacist spoke English very well and helped us find what we needed. We appreciated our driver who had made an effort to locate the best place find for us.


December 26 - in Dubai: Happy day! Jess and I went for our first ride together. Vanna is finally adapting and looking and feeling good. We went for about a 4 mile walk. Afterward we washed the horses and started giving Vanna a clip. Her long hair wasn't drying too well so it was tough going with the clippers, but I got the half a horse done.

Nice.

We went for a little walk through the Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa, close to where the horses were stabled. Rumor has it riders were originally to occupy the resort, but stuff happened...etc, etc...

******

December 13 - Dark clouds on the horizon, and they aren't weather. Kim Woolley, who has been flogging the OC for information from the get-go was informed today that we would not be paid for the horses to go from Winnipeg to Chicago . She was given the impression that it would be paid for, but when she pressed for a definite answer the answer was "no". On receiving the actual amount of the shipping and quarantine costs our hopes plummeted. There was just no possible way we could afford them. Jessica and I are ready if at all possible to haul to Chicago ourselves, but we were warned it wasn't an easy thing to get horses through quarantine and on to the plane. Our own flights would have to be rebooked from Chicago instead of Winnipeg. (another hassle) But all is not lost yet. We are not the only ones in this "caught between the Holidays" boat. If other countries are having the same problems there may be a poor showing for the race. We're keeping our fingers crossed and we are going to make one more attempt at convincing our hosts that the costs for us would be prohibitive. And I'm supposed to be ready to go Wednesday. Do I pack? What am I going to do with the new shoes I bought just for this occasion?


December 2 - In two weeks Vanna gets her racing shoes and we’re off to Manitoba to meet Jessica and Glider. Early in the afternoon of December 19th the horses will be on their way to the Chicago Equine Export Center. It will take about 18-20 hours including rest stops to get there. During that time the trailer will be officially sealed as per quarantine requirements.

Getting a horse in racing shape in the winter has not been easy. Frozen ground, icy roads, dark, cold, all get to be no fun. The arena gets to be a drag. Then there’s second guessing yourself as to whether you are doing enough for fitness but not too much pounding those legs over the hard edges of the roads. Or whether it’s a good idea to be out in the middle of a quarter section where no one could find you if you and your horse part company.

Some days I just about say I qui… Then I say to myself, I would regret that forever. Besides I have the crew - Kim Woolley, Denise Blanchet, Dr.Glenn Sinclair and Dessia Miller cheering us on. My own vet Dr. Sonia Kolassa has really gotten into the swing of international endurance racing and has been so much help.

So, for a change of pace I asked my farrier Bill he knew of an arena with deep sand.

He responded in a text, “yep, Elk Point” and gave me a contact number.

Elk point is an easy hour’s drive west and north from here so early Saturday I loaded Vanna and we headed off. The roads were dry and the temps were rising.

In Vermilion we fueled up I got an uneasy feeling as we hit the river hill just north of Vermilion. I could see tracks of ice where the cars were driving.

Driving a trailer, over ice, especially with a horse in the back gives me a feeling like a vice across my shoulders and more than it sort’ve makes me ill. I’ve had enough experience with trailers whipping me into the ditch in places I didn’t see ice to be totally in fright mode when faced with ice that I can see. It would be nice if a person could take my cue from the other drivers, but they seem to be unaware they are in extreme danger if I start swaying across the center line.

By the time all these thoughts ran by, I was safely across the river and up the other side.

I could see snow packed patches on the highway, and a shiny black ice trail ahead of me. I pulled over on an approach to test the driving surface. If I can’t walk on it, I generally conclude I can’t drive on it. But all seemed ok. The dark, wet looking tracks weren’t as slippery as they looked. We carried on.

As we hit the curve 25 km south of Elk Point. The packed snow looked worse and the tracks on the highway were looking a little wet. It occurred to me that soon we’d be coming to the North Saskatchewan River hill. I pulled over again. By the time I would return in the evening, all this wet stuff would be frozen.

I did not need to do this. Not today. The truck was still upright and Vanna was safe. I t thought I’d better keep it that way. I headed back home.

I didn’t even feel bad. When we got home there was still enough daylight for a good gallop in the snow.


November 23 - So I come home, check my emails and what do I find? An email from Wendy Gayfer at Equine Canada with "INVITATION - CANADA" in the subject line. I opened the attachment and be darned if it didn't have my name on it, along with that of Jessica Manness my WEG team mate from Manitoba. My first reaction was not of explosive joy and squealing, but of - that's nice" but I'm not driving to Miami to get on the plane. A couple of days later Wendy emailed me for a response. It couldn't hurt to say yes. Unknown to me Jessica had already jumped on board with Dr Glenn Sinclair as her crew. I guess that was it, we were committed and all we had to do was find three more crew members. Being that we weren't a full "team" in the international competition sense of the word, our team members needed to be multi-talented. Glenn as well as being a knowledgeable, talented vet with a sense of humour, is not afraid to get his hands dirty and can trot out a horse beautifully. He can also cook a gourmet meal at the drop of a fork. My first pick was Kim Woolley, whose official title with EC is Head Coach/Technical Advisor, National Endurance Team Chair, Endurance Canada National Education, Coaching & Athlete Development Sub Committee but don't let that fool you - she can do much more. She too has a sense of humor that has you laughing on the inside before you get around to laughing on the outside.

I liked the idea of having a "real" coach on a team, right there, to help. Kim and I are on coaching committees with Endurance Canada so we have had a few exchanges over the phone and at meetings.

Our second picks came just as easily. Kim recommended Denise Blanchet from ON. Kim gave me her qualifications. " She is absolutely the best crew – she crewed at Kentucky Cup & WEG for Elroy & Gayle, she crewed Lee Hutten at NAJYRC twice, she and my hubbie crewed for me in Florida at NAETC (a dream crew, no joke) – she is the first person everyone in the East runs to when a big event is coming up. She is a Certified Lay Judge in Ontario, is an equine massage therapist, and works for one of our newest FEI vets, and she is as cool as a cucumber and cares about: her horse, her rider, her crew, the team – in that order (and yes, she considers the horse she is crewing for to be “her horse”). She also knows GlenN and Wendy." Perfect, perfect, perfect...

Jessica's second pick after Glenn was Wendy Carnegie her groom from WEG, but would be unable to make it. Dessia Miller was an obvious choice. She had been long listed for WEG ( she had the uniform ). Dessia, besides having a team jacket, is a horse breeder, trainer and successful competitor show ring in CTR as well as in Endurance. Dessia is a rider, coach and a groom.

All these people are smart, educated people, and are, like most endurance people, have a work ethic that doesn't quit.

Kim immediately took on our "chef" role and took on the challenges of getting people, horses, gear through three countries and back again.

Glenn of course was way ahead of us with the vet role and, especially with Glider, was checking on progress, shots etc.

But the fun was just starting.


Two Endurance Riders From Canada Will Tackle Desert in Dubai Tomorrow!
Equinechronicle.com - Full Article

January 9 2015

UPDATE: Even more exciting news… It was announced at a press conference in Dubai that each foreign rider who finishes the race will receive 100,000 Dirhams, or $32,000 CD or $27,229 US.

Equine Canada release

Ottawa, Ont. January 9, 2015 — Canadian endurance riders, Kathy Irvine of Blackfoot, Alta. and Jessica Manness of Oakbank, Man., were honored with an invitation to compete in His Highness Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s 8th Annual Endurance Cup beginning January 10, 2015 at 6:30 a.m. UAE time. This invitation-only event is an FEI 3* 160km race across the sandy Dubaï desert patterns.

More...


Dubai’s 2015 Al Maktoum Cup: “To Finish is to Win”
January 8 2015

Perhaps reflecting the efforts to bring about change for the better in endurance racing in the UAE, and heavily promoting “To Finish is to Win,” it was announced at the press conference for the CEI*** 160-km HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup to be held in Dubai on Saturday, January 10, that every rider who completes the race will be awarded 100,000 Dirhams (approximately $27,000 U.S. dollars).

Kat Irvine, one of the Canadians participating in the ride on her mare Nightwind’s Savannah, commented, “It gives a whole new meaning to "To Finish is to Win" [fellow rider] Jess [Manness] says to me after the meeting. Once I had the hair on the back of my neck lay down, I realized that this, no doubt, was a gesture to show a change in attitude toward winning being the only thing.”


Bahrain Royal endurance team to compete in Dubai challenge
BNA.bh - Full Article

January 8 2015

Dubai, Jan. 8. (BNA) -- Following directives from its Captain Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Bahrain Royal Endurance Team will participate in the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Race Challenge for a total distance of 160km.

The event, held in honour of Sheikh Mohammed, the UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, will be held in the Seeh Al Salam International Endurance Village on Saturday with the participation of a group of GCC and international riders...

Read more here:
http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/648818


Three USA Riders to Participate in 160-km Al Maktoum Cup

January 4 2015

Three USA riders have been invited to ride in the 160-km HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup in Dubai on January 10, 2015.

Melody Blittersdorf from Jeffersonville, Vermont, will ride her 10-year-old gelding Frankie Thunderheart. Willemena DeBoer from Hico, Texas, will ride her 9-year-old gelding Frisia Shaheen. Heather Reynolds of Dunellon, Florida, will be reunited with her old friend Riverwatch.

If you recall, the now-10-year-old gelding Riverwatch won the 2011 Tevis and Haggin Cups with Jeremy Reynolds aboard, then finished 36th in the 2012 World Endurance Championship in Great Britain with Heather aboard. Now owned by a stable in Dubai, he completed his second World Championship in France last year, finishing 22nd with Argentinean Josefina Chas.

Canadians Jessica Manness, riding her 13-year-old gelding Greater Glide, and Kat Irvine, riding her 16-year-old mare Nightwind’s Savannah, will also participate.


Canadian Endurance Riders Receive a Honourary Invitation
Equinecanada.ca

Ottawa, Ont. November 27, 2014 -- Canadian endurance riders, Kathy Irvine of Blackfoot, Alta. and Jessica Manness of Dugald, Man., have been honoured with an invitation to compete in His Highness Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum's 8th annual Endurance Cup being held January 10, 2015. This invitation-only event will be a FEI 3* 160km race across the Dubaï desert.

As part of 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games, both pairs also travelled to Normandy, FRA to challenge the gruelling 160km course. Manness and Greater Glide (Flaming Tigre X Flaming Streak), her 13-year-old Arabian gelding, along with Irvine and Nightwind's Savannah, her 16-year-old Canadian bred Arabian mare sired by Dakotas Keyanti, will travel to Dubaï on December 21st.

It has been several years since Canadians have been invited to participate in a competition in the United Arab Emirates, and both riders are looking forward to this new opportunity to let their horses shine with some very fine international competition.

Accompanying the horse and rider teams as crew will be grooms, Denise Blanchet and Dessia Miller; Canadian Endurance Team Veterinarian, Dr. Glenn Sinclair; and Canadian Endurance Team Coach/Technical Advisor, Kim Woolley.