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2009 Pan American Championship
Images by Steph Teeter

2009 Pan American Championship
Images by Steph Teeter

2009 Pan American Championship
Images by Steph Teeter

Home || Starters List || Official Website || Final Results

Stories: Got Here Just in Time - Steph || Arrival in Uruguay - Dinah Rojek || Day Before the Race - Kathy Brunjes || Hola!! Kyle Gibbon
Vet In Day - Steph || Thursday Morning - Kathy Brunjes || Thursday Afternoon - Kathy Brunjes || On Loop 3 - Steph
Friday Night - Kathy || The Day After - Kathy|| Heading Home - Dinah || Pan Am Departure - Kyle
2 Medallas de oro para la Argentina - Claudia Quentin
Steph's Story:
Part 1, The Venue
Part 2, Team Effort - Uruguay and Argentina
Part 3, Team Effort - USA
Part 4, Team Effort - Guatemala and Malaysia

Images of the Event:
Vetting In || The Road || The Beach || The Camp || The Camp - more || The Finish || Awards Celebration || Team USA

Wrap Up - The Venue

The venue is empty - all the tents are packed up and put away, the USA horses left this morning, all's quiet. The hotel here is empty too, except for me. It's a delightful hotel - a couple houses or apartments strung together with large grassy yard and garden, patio, bbq, a pool (tho I haven't seen that yet), a dining area (breakfast included) and a little living room with tv and computer. I think it's one of the most enjoyable places I've stayed at during a ride. Not luxurious, but quiet and clean and friendly and just a block from the beach and a few blocks from the center of Atlantida, a little beach town on the outskirts of Montevideo. And I have WiFi in the room! Doesn't get any better :)

I walked into town today for lunch at a little restaurant, picked up some things at the Supermercado, and now I'm settling in with some fresh bread, a chunk of gruyere cheese, black olives, an apple, and a bottle of red wine - a Tannat - a local Uruguay wine similar to Argentina's Malbec. And now I'll work on the story of the 2009 Pan Americano!

Uruguay has been working towards hosting this event for the past two years. Late in 2007 I had the chance to go to an event in Uruguay - La Rocha ( http://www.endurance.net/international/Uruguay/2007Rocha/ ). The Malaysian riders were on a world quest to qualify riders and find horses for the 2008 WEC and a group of them were taking part the Roch - La Paloma - ride in Uruguay. Another group would to go to Chile, and yet another would travel to New Mexico, and Australia... and more. I was able to be at all three of these rides (plus a few others!) to chronicle their effort and determination to qualify a team for their WEC.

My first experience with Uruguay endurance was as pleasant as this most recent event. They are wonderful people, and first class Endurance competitors. Uruguay has been doing 'Raids' for almost 50 years. These are fast distance races - 100 kilomters, 60 miles - with the emphasis on fast. They have also been breeding horses during this time that would excel in this sport. They have a special breed of 'endurance horse' - and they are amazing to see. Not the typey pretty Scottsdale Arabian, but more like a cross between a thoroughbred, an arabian and a greyhound dog. When you see these horses you think 'fast and tough' . And they are. Most of the purist Arabian breeders cringe at the homely heads and gangly look, but heck... they're tough and they're fast.

When the Uruguay endurance committee settled on the current venue for the PAC - the Equestrian Center in Costa Azul, Canelones - they were ready to submit their bid to FEI to host the Championship event. And then the work begins - the secretarial work of organizing stable, transport, inscriptions, etc and the transformation of the Equestrian Center at Costa Azul to an Endurance 'village'. It's an enormous task, and they did a fantastic job.

The course was a mix of beach (from morning high tide to afternoon low tide), grassy roadside trails, and single track trails and dirt roads through the country side and small villages. I heard only positive things about the course - enough variety to keep it continually changing and interesting, a good mix of sand, trail and road. Plenty of water, zillions of stewards and Policia at all the road and trail crossings. Ample room and facilities for cooling horses coming in off the trail. Plenty of veterinarians, good trotting lanes, all the basics for the competition were well done.

And for spectators and crews and vendors and sponsors and hangers on - it was also just right. A huge tent for eating and drinking, plenty of tables and chairs. The kitchen was hopping and the group taking and fulfilling meal orders were barely able to stand by the time the event was over - but they did it, with a smile and hot food. The smell of asado (barbeque) and grilled meats was a constant, plenty of cervesa and wine for those who wanted... it was really just perfect. Friendly, and good.

The horses had stalls in small wooden barns. Several of the barns were built just for this event to meet quarentine requirements. There were plenty of grassy areas for electric wire turnouts during the day. Simple facilities, but adequate.

The timers were awesome. A substantial group of workers did it largely 'by hand' with data transfered from paper to computer to computer with the final vetgate data being compiled (via Daniel of Solo Caballos) and I believe there were very few problems. It takes a larger work force to do a manual timing system for an event of this size, but if there are enough people working well together, it is reliable and effective.

The Ground Jury and Stewards and all of the FEI and quasi-FEI officials were friendly and supportive. It was not an intimidating event. Serious competition, but very little stress in camp. That's the best really - let the horses and riders do their work out on the trail, and keep things smooth and friendly and efficient in camp. Tons of water! buckets and tanks everywhere. The little lake around the cooling area grew larger and larger...and larger, as the day wore on, threatening to overtake the vetting area... but the sandy soil did a good enough job absorbing and dispersing the water. just barely.

I do think the South Americans have the best version of Endurance... they are intense competitors, but basically such a pleasant and relaxed and welcoming people that there's always an air of enjoyment, and festivity to the competition. And the Uruguayans seem to have the perfect mix of hospitality and competitiveness. Always a smile to go with the intensity. And good food too....

more later-