some clarifications - the ride was officially 19 hours - not the 18 reported earlier. why 19 rather than the normal 24 in the US you may ask... at the ride meeting the leaders of the teams were informed by the officials that this was a world class compeition and that horses that could not complete in less than 19 hours should not be there.
in some senses this is not unreasonable - especially with conditions so good that the winners had ride times of 9:32. the officials were also somewhat flexible in that several horses with times exceeding the 19 hours(up to 12 minutes) were allowed completitions but not rankings. this last little detail had some implications in determining the winner of the bronze team metal - sweden vs switzerland. this was the "unofficial " info i heard.
the awards were great - and the victory for the 3 individuals was celebrated by a fast cantar aound the other horses in the presentation ring. we had all the obligatory introductions of the local "brass" down to the army group at ft. riley but all in all - it was a wonderful celebration of what the sport is all about - there were the front runners going all out to win - down to the riders coming in at 2 am with "to finish is to win".
and what was nicest of all - there were still quite a number of people out there at the finish line at 12 midnight to give each rider coming in a cheer and applause. this is worth thinking about - that each one of us gets something different out of the sport - and gives it back to others. to see riders coming in at high 20s positions - and still holding hands as they crossed the finish line together so that after all that time together - they would be a "team" even though from different countries.
it was a chance for many people to see friends in the sport - and to make new ones. to see some of the greatest horses in the world compete in a sport we all love - to learn from crewing and volunteering for the top competitors in the world.
and for something to reflect upon as well - our horses. they are athletes - the best in the world - and what we ask of them takes a toll - sometimes a very large one. they give it to us because we ask - and they want to as well. one of the competition horses - a very good competitor - was doing well thru much of the race. toward the end - the horse just appeared tired but all vet signs looked reasonable. the horse was hand walked in the last 7 miles and completed. nothing extraordinary seemed to be happening other than being very tired.
the horse was later treated at the kansas state vet clinic and is in serious condition. we all hope the best for the horses recovery. my point here is that we should all do the best we can for our horses - and even then things can happen.
mike maul signing off as your internet reporter at the 1996 WEG.