Argentina HorsemenTravels & Correspondence

December 9 - Bless the Ride Managers
December 11 - First Day Done
December 19 - Reflections, Taxi Ride
December 25 - Reflections, Christmas Day

December 9 - Bless the Ride Managers
Watching Mercedes and Eduardo work sooooo hard, and care soooo much, I'm constantly amazed at the effort that goes into putting on rides. It's 10:40 pm, dark, windy and chilly. Eduardo and Mercedes and Mike Foss just back from the ride venue. I picked Mike up at the airport this morning - about a 1 1/2 hr drive from here. Mike spent an extra day travelling because of delays - late out of Portland, snow/ice storm shut down Dallas, so he missed his connection, spent an extra day with friends outside of Kansas City (re-routed), etc, etc... but a day later, and he still arrived in time to meet the other vets and get settled in. Mike is the 'Foreign Veterinary Delegate' - a position required at FEI rides. There are a total of 9 vets, should make things run very smoothly.

There's still a little more to do in the morning. Eduardo needs to put more water out on the trail, and plant some posts for signs at a critical intersection where pink/green/yellow come together the same junction from different directions. Danielle (one of the young men who works for Mer. and Ed. - a delightful fellow) and I were about 3 km from this point this afternoon, with a truck full of posts, signs, etc., when the truck died. It would start again, but as soon as Danielle gave it more gas it would choke and die. Luckily I had my cellphone (bought a cheap one as soon as I got here) so called Eduardo, he came and got me (and all the marking stuff) with Marta's truck (gracias!) - ... left Danielle to stay with the truck, and on we go.

I spent the rest of the afternoon putting signs and arrows out on the trails (just got back about an hour ago) so didn't get any pictures of the ride meeting, last minute preps, etc. Flor (Mercedes's daughter) and I went out together, with signs, staple gun, flagging, wire, map, and a beer. Most of the signs we could wire to fences, a few places staple to trees, and sometimes put them on gates and fences where people live.

One place, chickens, pigs, dogs, etc pretty much wandering around everywhere. An older couple, maybe with brothers, uncles, etc living there. Open barn facing the road, they had a small fire going, heating water for matte. Yesterday Flor and Mercedes and I hung several green ribbons on their fence, (asked permission), talked a little, walked around the chickens, petted the dogs, and then on down the road. Earlier this afternoon I went back around the green loop taking some ribbons down because we had run out and had to put more out farther on down the trail. I smiled, mumbled a few unintellible spanish phrases, walked between the chickens, pulled some green ribbons off their fence, and went on my way. Then tonight Flor and I went back out on the same green loop, (putting up arrows at major turns). Back to the old place with the old people and dogs and chickens and pigs, and this time put a huge white sign with a green arrow on their fence. More smiles, petting the dog, stepping over the chickens, and off we go again. I can't imagine what they must think of this whole thing :) Wait till they see all the funny looking riders go by tomorrow and the next day!

It's late, everybody else went to bed. up at 5am tomorrow - then to the ride site. Mercedes is riding, one of Claudia's horses that she trains and competes. I'm going to check all the trail tomorrow ahead of the riders, the wind has been howling this evening, I want to make sure the ribbons and signs are still mostly there.

I'll try to get some pictures posted, results, etc - will have to see how the day goes. I may stay busy just helping. which I'm more than happy to do! I'm so happy to be here, and so proud of what Mercedes and Eduardo have accomplished, honored to help.

As I was driving the dirt roads tonight with Flor, thinking about the Endurance Village that they built (much of it rushed into the last 2 months) I couldn't keep from comparing it to UAE. Watching working men plant little bushes and things, little palmetto plants along the road coming into Cazon, really made me feel like we were in a time warp. Seeing the wind blow the sand across the little farm roads of Saladillo, not that different (in some ways) from the long lonesome roads in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the wind driven sheets of sand that block the vision (but no camels here!) - and - the enormous effort going into building venues for Endurance. Bringing all the people together again and again. How lucky we are! (thanks to the horses :)

hasta manana -


December 11 - First Day Done
It's really hard to sit and write something 'important' (much less intelligible) after a very long full day, nice dinner and awards and free beer. But, briefly, it went very well. Perfect weather (upper 70's - lower 80's - brisk in the morning) - plenty of sunshine. stopping for water in Alvarez de Toledo No problems. Winning horse (ridden by beautiful Lola) had an average speed of just under 20km/hr - that's about 12 mph, on a flat course with perfect footing and comfortable temps - fast, but not excessively so.

No major problems - a few metabolic pulls, but no real issues. The riders did well, slowing down when/if they needed. The sport is really maturing here, riders are getting smarter, more experienced. And they have such fantastic horses!!! You just don't see poor quality horses in Argentina, of any breed... - they are all straight-legged, good-footed, well balanced, nice-to-look-at horses. Argentina never caught on to the halter fad, their horses have always been bred for 'function' (and they rarely keep horses around just as 'pets') . Even the horses picketed in back yards, tied to fences along the highways, the horse that almost every family has - even these are good horse flesh.

Tomorrow is going to be a little crazier - the 80km (~50 mile) and 40km (~25 e) rides are going on - with lots of entrants. Today was not as big, and mostly experienced riders. manana ... we'll see. I have a zillion photos - some real good ones, but am staying too busy at the rides to get them sorted and posted. I have today's final results too... but it's late and I can barely type, so also - manana.


December 19 - Reflections, Taxi Ride
Finally a moment to reflect, and write a little. I'm bumping along in a taxi, leaving Miguel Pavlovsky's clinic in Buenos Aires, headed to Ezeiza Airport to catch a ride back to Saladillo - I'll meet Mercedes and Eduardo (who is catching a plane for Chile to evaluate a thoroughbred race filly for a client) and Mercedes and I will go together to the Mercedes-Benz dealer near the aiport to pick up their new hauling truck. They (Estanar Endurance) are trying to put together a horse hauling/travelling rig for the Endurance events. Gooseneck trailers and truck combos are mostly non-existent here. People hire big hauling vans to transport horses, or pull the horses in small bumper pulls with SUV's or small trucks. And folks don't camp here. The horses stay in stalls or corrals, and the people stay in hotels (except some of the grooms and a few others). So they have a 5-horse gooseneck LQ trailer waiting delivery in Brazil - they still don't have it at El Reparo (6 months later, the government still hasn't figured out how to deal with import regulations and taxes - is it a trailer, or is it a home? both... and they don't have that category, so are at an impasse. pretty ridiculous!) So... after we meet up, I'll drive the car back, Mercedes will drive the Mercedes. that's the plan.

To back up a little...

After the Sprint Cup I spent the week in Saladillo at El Reparo. Sorting through the zillions of photos, writing a little, riding a little, sleeping a lot, shopping a little, enjoying the company of friends, and the peace and quiet of the Saladillo countryside. Monday I sat at the computer all day, too many photos and a slowish internet link, too much sitting. Tuesday morning Mercedes and Mike Foss (here to vet the ride) and I went into Buenos Aires to be tourists. Mike wanted to (had been commanded to) pick up some things Argentine for family and friends. We went to my favorite store in the world, Arandu. (I should own stock). It's a saddle shop, tack shop, clothing/boots shop, leather and silver artisan shop. Fantastic things, very 'gaucho', and wonderful craftsmanship. and the pervasive smell of leather and wool. Wonderful jewelry, argentine knives - cuchillos - ponchos of wool and alpaca, new ones, and old ponchos from the north of Argentina. Blankets and saddle pads of fleece, woven wool, cotton, belts, matte cups, you name it. And gorgeous horse tack - finely woven leather halters and bridles, lariats of braided leather, silver and leather headstalls and saddle adornments - old and new. Wonderful stuff!! We spent a lot of time there.

Mike Foss with fellow vets at Sprint Cup Afterwards a nice lunch at a Patagonia style restaurant at the shopping Galeria, good food, bottle of wine, great company. Lots of talk about horses, rides, the state of Endurance, the state of FEI, where we're headed. The rapid growth of the sport in some countries, how to regulate the sport and protect the horses. We solved many of the world's problems. Mike caught a plane back to the US that evening, with hopes of coming back for the next Sprint Cup in March.

Wednesday we rode in the morning (I rode the amazing Kasal, such a great ride), later we did some shopping in Saladillo and ran errands. Nice relaxing day to catch up on stuff. Rained the next morning, but soon followed by more glorious summer sunlight. One of the partners of Mercedes and Eduardo came by (Gonzalo Pieres) to see the Cazon Endurance Village. He was passing through on the way to his farm a few hours from Buenos Aires, to rest and recouperate after the weekend's polo season finale. Games, sales, business, horses, horses, horses. He toured the Endurance Village with Eduardo, looked at a few photos from the ride, they talked about the weekend's event, and about future plans.... expand the trotting/vetting area a little, open up the forest for more space, it needs a restaurant or cantina for meals, lots of ideas.

Hillorie Bachman at Sprint Cup I got another email from Hillorie Bachman - we were hoping to spend some time together being tourists, or riding or something. But somehow the days were too full for both of us. She was in Argentina visiting a polo player that she had met earlier. He arranged a horse for her for the Sprint Cup, a polo horse owned by Josephina Chas (one of Argentina's top riders) - so was able to come and ride. She had a blast, I could see the 'ohmygodIloveArgentina' look in her eyes! I put a few photos of Hillorie together at Hillorie Gallery . She's planning on returning, and is inviting the new friends to come ride in the US at our Owyhee 100 ride - I hope it works out, would love to see everybody in Idaho next spring!

Friday I got a ride into Buenos Aires with Mercedes and Eduardo. They had work at La Picassa - one of the Polo farms they both work for. Mercedes at La PicassaEduardo had some foals to evaluate (embryo transfer foals, sometimes early growth problems due to surrogate mare differences and environment) and Mercedes had some work to do on the mares, vaccinations, etc. Gorgeous farm, gorgeous horses. We dropped Eduardo off (his trip to Chile) and then into BA and the race track - San Isidro - to return the fluids they had borrowed for the ride (but no horses needed treatment!) and I took a taxi from San Isidro to Miguel's clinic downtown, planning on going home with Miguel that evening to spend the weekend there.

(this is getting kind of long... will send this and finish later)


December 25 - Reflections, Christmas Day
Christmas Day. We're staying at Jackie Bumgardner's place in California for now - John drove the trailer and 3 horses down 3 weeks ago. We had planned on driving down together and I'd leave for Argentina from LA, but a nasty early snow storm hit S. Idaho just before time to go, so I flew out of Boise and John drove the horses down (2 days) alone. What a guy :) (I owe him). Will head to Trona, for the Death Valley ride on Tuesday. Lots of other folks here, snowbirds enjoying the milder climate. We'll head to Trona to start the Death Valley ride tomorrow or Tuesday. Can't wait!

Just a quick final diary-wrap-up from the Argentina trip...

I spent the weekend before Christmas at Miguel and Celina's place outside of Buenos Aires. We had a nice 'drive' on Saturday - Miguel was a top driving competitor before he took up Endurance, and his brother still drives and keeps his pair of AngloArab horses at the country club stable where Miguel brings his endurance Arabs from the farm for advanced training. Gorgeous horses, and Miguel's skill at handling them was a delight. He had won the National Driving competition with these horses a few weeks earlier, very light and skillful. We went out of the country club, into the adjacent countryside - hundreds of acres of native lowlands which are now being drained and converted into housing developments, not much countryside left anymore.

Miguel and brother IgnacioSunday they took me along to their annual Christmas family gathering at Miguel's brother's place a few hours north of the city. Nice place! 30 years ago his brother, Ignacio (an equine veterinarian by profession, a top orthopedic surgeon in years past) and a partner (racing thoroughbred owner) from Brazil had purchased a large piece of farmland to develop a thoroughbred training center. Ignacio has his private stable adjacent to the Brazilian's place (Haras Santa Maria de Araras ... I think), and they share the training facility - full length race track, surgery rooms, breeding facilities, etc etc - gorgeous stable and stalls. Lovely place, full of large trees and garden areas. Ignacio's two sons also live there and train racing thoroughbreds - 'Pura Sangre' - pure blood. Ivan, his younger son spent quite a bit of time showing us around, talking about his work, his philosophy, his passion for training. He is also a veternarian by training, as well as top competitor (driving, dressage), but decided that he would rather train the race horses than spend his career as a veterinarian, trying to fix the ones that others break. He has a few clients horses right now, just getting started in the business, and he is also trying his skills on a horse that is the pride and hope of his father, a Storm Cat son. (Storm Cat is currently the top racing sire in the industry, standing in Kentucky).

Ivan Pavlovsky and Gato Grande Their stallion is 'Gato Grande' - Big Cat - a jaw dropping chestnut, full of power, with an amazing eye - the 'look of eagles' . And he's also a little 'foofoo' as Ivan states it. He was unmanagable at the track as a colt in Kentucky, shipped to Ireland, and also declared 'crazy' there. So here he is now, in the best hands imaginable, with hopes that he can realize his potential with the right management. Ivan is amazingly patient, he's willing to spend whatever time it takes to tame this beast, and he has a touch that the horses respond to. Gato Grande is now training like the rest of the group, doing his daily workouts, relaxing, trusting Ivan (who does his own riding - only hires a jocky to come out once a week). At this point the horse has turned around. He's in quiet environment, non-stressful routine, consistent skilled handling. As Ivan says, the true test will come when he's put back into the chaos of the race track for competition, with the other horses, noise, commotion and adrenaline. I certainly wish them luck, awesome horse - and talented dedicated trainers.

I always enjoy my time with Miguel and Celina - their close family, with the children and grandchildren, stories of life in Argentina, their history with horses, and current driving passion with Endurance. Miguel shipped two of his horses to Compiegne, France last summer for the World Endurance Championship for Young Horses (ages 7,8) - Moro Tigre, his awesome stallion, and Mora Afamada the equally awesome mare I rode at the 2005 Pan American Championship. Pablo (son in law) rode Afamada in Compiegne. Both horses had good performances, running easily up front all day, but were eliminated at the last vetgate - Miguel's decision to change Tigre's shoes just before the re-check (they were aluminum and had worn dangerously thin) turned out to be a bad one - Tigre was uncomfortable, short strided, at the recheck. Later at the vet hospital (all the horses that are pulled are required to go to the vet hospital for evaluation before being released) he was moving perfectly again. c'est la vie! Afamada was also pulled for lameness at the last vetgate, but nothing serious. Muscle soreness from the hills of the compiegne course, fine again the next day. Mora Afamada stayed in Europe after the race, to stay in training with Leo (Leonard Leisens)in Belgium and be ready for the 2006 WEC in Aachen. Miguel is hoping to compete there on Tigre, maybe along with his gaucho hand Jugito Mendez on Mora Quillen (the pair won the National Endurance Championship in November) and Mora Afamada will be there as backup for either of them, or possibly for Leo. Three of his horses competing at the worlds would be quite a thrill.

After the weekend I headed back to Saladillo. I rode into Buenos Aires with Miguel, where he took a short stop at the office of their friend Geraldo Cerra (? I'm not exactly sure of the name and spelling) near San Isidro. Three farms, Estancias, are collaborating on an Endurance event to be held in Miramar (on the coast, south of Pinamar where the PAC was held). Miguel's farm Haras San Andres Del Moro, Claudia Quentin's farm Haras Las Cortaderas (Estanar Endurance) and Geraldo's farm (Haras Cal Ramon ... I believe) - all breeders of top Arabian horses, with horses excelling in Endurance competition. Geraldo is the current owner of the Arabian stallion Flaming Tigre, previously owned by Sh. Mohamad bin Rashid al Maktoum, now the stallion is back in Argentina with Geraldo. Flaming Tigre had been introduced as a stud at Haras Cal Ramon in the late 90's with promotional breeding available, then shipped to Florida. Miguel had bred a few mares to him before he left - Moro Tigre is one of the offspring. Flaming Tigre's offspring did well on the track (though Miguel said they always held back just a little so were not consistent winners), but they seem to be excelling at Endurance - (Kanavy's mare Flash Flame is out of Flaming Tigre).

So the three breeders are collaborating on a new Endurance event, scheduled for the first weekend in February. Sh. Mohamed (Emirates Endurance) is sponsoring the ride, a first for Argentina to have Emirates sponsorship, a big deal, and they're pretty excited about it. Should be lovely too along the coastal forests. That part of the Atlantic is rougher, and the beaches are not as perfect for riding as Pinamar, so there won't be much of the course right along the water, but nice pine forests and fields, and the cool atlantic breeze should moderate the mid-summer heat. Wish I could be there!

So..., taking a taxi from Miguel's clinic in BA, to meet Mercedes and Eduardo at the airport, drop Eduardo off (trip to Chile) and go pick up the new hauling truck at the Mercedes-Benz dealer. We got there and took a look at the truck, and oh-my-god it's big... some hesitation on Mercedes's part ... maybe too big? does she really want to drive it home today?? Some discussion with the dealer, some second thoughts, and Mercedes decided to leave it with the dealer and talk some more with Eduardo and Jorge and make sure this is the rig they want. So - back to Saladillo together in the car.

Another nice day in the countryside, and that night we picked Eduardo up at the airport (returning from the Chile trip) and went for dinner in BA with Claudia - with a bit of rush hour city driving adventure on the way . There is a very agressive segment of the BA population that makes their living on the streets, literally, weaving in and out of the manic traffic - they do drive crazy there - selling things, juggling for tips, and washing windshields with the expectation of being paid for it. At one intersection we were accosted by a particularly aggressive windshield cleaner, he started smearing the windshield and pulling back the wipers within seconds of stopping, on us like a swarm of soapy bees - very distressing, and he spotted the gringo in the back seat (me) holding a 10peso note, and would not stop. It was getting tense, traffic starting to move, the guy yelling, Mercedes and Eduardo yelling for him to go away, finally Mercedes laid on the horn (adding to the excitement of the moment :) and managed to break away. Sort of hysterically... Of course it was just one more cultural adventure for me, and I could easily have seen too much humor in the situation, but it was definetly not funny for the Argentine natives. These 'street' people are truly a nuisance, and situations here can be dangerous, with little or no police protection. So I wisely refrained from laughing.

Nice dinner with Claudia, long late drive back to Saladillo for the last night. The next morning I packed for leaving, with the hot north wind blowing steady (the 'wind that makes you crazy'), did some last minute shopping with Flor, and back to BA for a long, but uneventful flight back to the US. Good seats, easy flight, thousands of miles later, back in the familiar Ford truck with John, and on to the next adventure with horses!


(Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays and/or Happy Hannukah to all!)

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