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Endurance.Net Home 2007 Al Andalus: Vetting In

Vetting in took place in the late afternoon in a large lot within the Cazorla city center. Portable stalls had been erected in blocks, a wash rack with 6 stations was also in place just for the competitors, which was re-installed at each day's finish. I enjoyed watching the entrants arrive and unload, with their vehicles already emblazoned with official ride markings. Crews had mostly SUV and some minivans, trailers were mostly two horse with some horse vans too. Many of the vehicles had sponsorship logos from companies or even individual provinces of origin. Riders were from all over Spain and four from France. The Canary Island team had a three hour boat ride just to get to the mainland, then the haul to the ride's start. Immediately adjacent to the stabling was a lovely large pasture for some grazing and down time.

During the succeeding days of the ride itself, all the participants, crews and staff were easily identified by colorful bibs, at this point I just watched the vetting and took photos. Something the horses all seemed to have in common was very good shoeing?I guess we all have things we're more observant on, for me that's saddle fit and on feet it's LTLH/shoes that don't properly support the heel, and I've never observed such good feet across the board. The ride was supported by two excellent shoers. You can see some of the more unusual shoes in the shoer's truck photos.

I didn't see a list of breeds, but there was a preponderance of Anglo Arabs. Most saddles were English and English endurance. I didn't see any of the high tech saddle pads we use, though.

37 teams were entered, 6 of those were "trios", one rider with two horses, 22 were "pairs", two horses, two riders. 9 riders with a single horse "tandem".

I noticed that there were so many more male entrants compared to US rides.

Townspeople visited the horses and watched the proceedings - at one point a little boy of maybe 2 years old broke away from his family and ran across the trot out area, just as a rider had turned around and started back.

Many chose to pre-ride the start and of course everyone made sure their gear was sorted out for the morning. Then they all headed for the hotel high above town for the ride meeting and welcome dinner, which was more like a cocktail party than a sitdown affaire.

Carmen González worked hard behind the scenes on the financial logistics of moving a small city each day, I was very impressed by her efforts as well as those of the ride manager's daughter Rosa, who turned out to be only 16 years old to my amazement. The rider information was considerable, including contour maps of each day's ride in two phases, with elevation profiles, location of assistance points and the single vet gate, mileage markers, and water points. The crews had a ˝" thick set of driving directions for the ride itself and the stabling location afterwards, which wasn't necessarily in the same place as the finish line.

It was the first of what was to be many nights without internet, so I focused on transferring images from the cameras, backing those up and making selects for future galleries, plus making story notes. Few people spoke English and I'd only begun to learn Spanish perhaps a month before the trip, which was a tough recipe for small talk. Rosa saved me many a time on that score, I'd learned a lot of vocabulary but that's not conversation!