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Bab al Shams Endurance Ride Vet-In Day

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Friday June 22 2007

Things were still getting set up at the Misura Endurance village the day of vetting in. We 3, Nicolas, Alice, and I, hung around the venue all day, and baked... and I mean baked. We all know by now I don't like the heat, but this was beyond merely hot. It was broiling, in the 90's, and very humid, with little breeze. And it wasn't just me whining; everybody commented on it, fanning themselves, wilting, and thinking of the horses in the ride tomorrow. Annett from South Africa said this was a shock to her. And do you think there'd be ONE ice cube on the place? Or even a cold drink? No, the cokes were warm, beer warm, the water bottles sat in their cases in the sun until it was time to open a case to sell. Now in Vienna last summer I couldn't find a glass of ice anywhere, so I think this is a European thing (or an American thing, craving ice, or maybe it's just a Merri thing), but I think everyone there would have appreciated something cool and refreshing - and they probably would have sold a load of drinks. But, we were all in Assisi, Italy, so, really, what was a little heat?

There were all shapes and sizes of horses that vetted in for the ride. Peter Chantler from South Africa, a tall man, got a short Italian horse to ride. Some looked nice, some a bit scruffy; some had rough-looking gaits and some floated over the ground. And the trot out lanes were over undulating ground - sometimes you had to look two and three times to see if it was the horse or the ground that made them look uneven. One of the vets commented on this also.

There were around 75 entries, 54 of them Italian, with visiting riders from the UAE, Spain, Germany, Slovakia, Sweden, South Africa, New Zealand (Jenny Champion), France, Chile, Russia, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, and Australia (Meg Wade)(whose suitcase was now in Japan, or somewhere).

There would be 5 loops, of 33.1 km, 31.9 km, 26.5 km, 16.7 km, and 11.8 km, with all vet checks in base camp. The trails would wind through several villages, including Assisi, climb a few hills, and follow many, many paved roads. At this ride, the Formula One finish would be tried: one hour after the first horse crossed the finish line (whether or not it passed the vet check), the out vet gates closed. Meaning those out on the last loop could finish, but no one else would be allowed out on course. It would be an experiment to see how this finish would work, and how, when, and if it might become a standard at some rides in the future.

The evening rider meeting stretched out extra long as, in addition to an Italian vet interpreting for Ian Williams, this fairly unfamiliar way of ending the ride was gone over and over. Our group of Alice, Nicolas and I drifted back to our hotel with our driver, and then we went out at 9 PM in the old town with Carlos Ponferrada (the FEI vet I met, with his wife Mariola, in New Zealand) to dinner. We were dying to sit outside, instead of inside a stuffy building, and Alice found one of the few restaurants still open, where we could sit outside under a covered roof.

And here again, my Ice Dilema continued. The others ordered; I ordered a dinner, and a coke. With ice, please. "Ice? The coke is cold." (Note: "cold" cokes here aren't cold - they are cool. I am an affionado of these things.) I said, "I think I would still like ice please." The waiter shook his head. "OK..."

So our salads come, the others get their wine, but I get no coke. Well, I think, he will bring my coke with my dinner. Well he never brought my dinner. The other three dishes came, and Carlos, Nicolas, and Alice politely waited to eat, figuring my meal was on its way. I said "Please, eat," but they waited. And waited. The waiter finally came to ask if everything was okay - since nobody was eating - and we all pointed to my empty place. "My order?" "Oh? Did you order? What did you order?" Eventually my plate came, and I said, "I had a coke also?" "A coke?" And I was brought a coke - luke-warm. I just chuckled, because that is the story of me and my cold drink cravings in Europe (and Malaysia, and New Zealand, and Australia), but Carlos insisted they bring me some ice. I then got a whole tumbler full, and I used Every Single Cube of Ice! And who knows, maybe that will be the last ice I get in Europe for 3 months.

Nicolas was very pleased to buy us all dinner, having the enjoyable company and conversation with American, Spanish, and French friends. It is a common sentiment echoed by so many people in this sport, whether it be the riders or crew or organizers. It's the acquaintances and friendships made that are one of the most enjoyable benefits.

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