There's something very soft and gentle about Malaysia. The air is soft and
sweet and humid, the billowy clouds are soft and diffuse, the heat can be
intense, but the sun's rays are filtered through the humidity, everything
seems bathed in a gentle haze. The people are gentle too - gentle with their
horses, gentle with each other. Thinking back on the other places around the world that I've been, with Endurance, with the horses, Malaysia still amazes me.
The Arab states have their harsh stark landscape, their people with the dark piercing eyes and strong traditions... one can easily imagine these people once again embracing the Arabian horse, and the long distance guelling treck that the sport can be. Covering the desert on horseback or camel, Endurance riding seems a natural extension of their heritage.
And the Argentines, with their strong gaucho tradition, these people are nearly born on horseback. Their history and traditions are strong, but still fairly new - tied to the horse through their cattle and the work that depends upon the horse and horseman, through their frontier territorial battles, cavalry and Indians alike depending upon the horse. And the strong Spanish influence, the classical horsemanship and the explorers that first brought the horses to South America in the 1500's. An historic afinity for the horse.
And then there's Malaysia - an Island people, palm oil, rubber plantations, tropical forests... A nation embracing the 21st century with state of the art technology, unique architecture - a masala of Orient, East European, Indian, native Malaysian people - and the modern world. The KLCC towers (tallest buildings in the world) designed by an Argentine architect, inspired by a very ambitious and grandiose thinking Prime Minister, are a wonder of stainless steel and green glass - angles, curves, columns and rings that draw one's gaze from the bottom to the top. Mosques of earth tones, accents with purple and sienna. Temples drawing one to the Orient. A stunning modern airport, equipped with the latest in 'smart' technology - a showcase for other airports of the world.
Endurance? The equestrian history here seems to be a mix of the British colonial times (hunting, jumping) and Argentine sports. They are big on Polo. And I was amazed to see them playing Pato as part of the opening ceremonies - a game of Argentine origin. They also have many criollo horses here, imported from Argentina for various uses - mounted police, lessons, games, polo. Plus the Thorougbred, used for jumping, racing, many retired TB's being used by the mounted police after their racing careers. Not many Arabian horses - but I'm sure this is going to change quickly.
Dr. Nik (who recently took up the sport at the age of 45) had an interesting observation - he said in Malaysia Endurance was something different for many people - 'for me, Endurance is an elixer, a relief from the pressures of work. It's my sport'. For Edaran (the IT company that is the primary sponsor of Endurance) it's a new sport that they can promote and support, while increasing the scope of their world commerce associates, and expanding their influence.
And for the royalty, it's a way to better know their subjects. The closing
ceremonies for the EEC were very touching to me. Honors and awards presented
by the Malaysian Royalty, an incredulous Shamsuddin Roni, the groom who rode Malin to a first place and Best Condition on the 160km event, accepting his award directly from the hands of his King, how else,
where else but in this crazy sport - tolerant and accepting of any class,
any rank, any age - all facing the same challenges of the trail, all equally
indebted to the heart and willingness and absolute athletic ability of
the Endurance horse.