Sunday, July 24 2011
On Saturday, the day before the race, Jeremy Becky and I went to Juma's barn again and all three of us went out for a nice ride with Maria and Juma. It was very nice and fun.
After we were done there Emmett, Dwight, Becky Jeremy and I headed over to the venue. We had a bite to eat at the venue from Jack's Snack Shack. Pretty good.
In the mid afternoon we were getting our ride packets from the race secretary when a phone call came in from the barn that I was borrowing Ox from (ultimately Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum). Apparently Sheikh Mohammed reviewed the group of his horses racing in the race with the riders who were riding them and he saw that I was on Ox doing the 50 mile/ 80k and said "no", she must do the 75/120k. So the phone call was to offer me a horse for the 120k. Of course I accepted. I would now be riding a horse that I would meet on Sunday morning right before the start. I was told that he is very big and that he is a grey Anglo Arab. His name is Opium Lord!! Too funny.
The rest of the horses that the USA would ride were vetted in on Saturday. Darren, Cheryl and Becky's horses all vetted in.
After hanging out, watching the vetting and hearing the ride meeting there was a big party with dinner and live music. It was really nice and there was ice cream:)
We headed back to the hotel to hear the party going on from the wedding that was happening in our hotel. I fell asleep regardless and was deeply sleeping when the fire alarm went off. After the third time that it went off Jeremy called the front desk to make sure there wasn't a real problem. The person who answered told him there was no problem, the DJ had set off a smoke machine or something on the dance floor. Great.
This morning was race day, Sunday morning. We piled into the cars at 6 am. The races began at 7 for the 100 mile/160k and 7:30 for the 75/120k. Becky was doing the 160k and the rest of us were doing the 120.
When we got there I went to weigh in as my saddle arrived with my horse that morning, new saddle, new horse. Then I got to meet my horse. Very cool horse. He was probably around 16 hands with a lean racy body.
Becky started the race without an issue. Then it was our turn to get going. I mounted Opium and started warming him up. He was excited and I think he was worried that I was going to not let him do his job because he crow hopped a few times when I didn't let him canter right away. After a 20 min warm up with me riding him we were off. My instructions were to go with the lead group...cool.
The day flew by, literally. Opium was so professional. He is 9 years old and is totally focused. Along the trail there were pig farms with HUGE pigs in pastures right beside the trail. Opium didn't care but almost all of the horses we rode with did. It looked like pinball alley with horses bouncing from side to side going by the pigs.
Each loop I would receive more instructions from the trainer of the horse. It was funny because after the first loop he told me to go the same speed. I thought he meant same speed as in mph. later in the day when he said same speed again I asked just to clarify if he meant same literal speed or?? He meant same speed as the next fastest person, in other words go the same speed as the leader.
On the last two loops we sped up some more and Opium led most of the time. Opium was awesome. At one river crossing he galloped to the edge, walked through the water and while he was walking he put his head down and took a drink and never stopped walking. When he reached the opposite bank he hit solid ground and was galloping again.
At my third vet check I saw Sheikh Mohammed and thanked him for letting me ride such a wonderful horse. He told me to just enjoy myself and have a good time.
When I was leaving on my last loop Sheikh Mohammed was also leaving on a loop and I smiled at him and told him "to have fun" and he smiled and said "you too". Such a nice man.
The lead group was averaging around 13.5 mph for the first 3 loops. Then on loop 4 we went 14mph. Loop 5 I averaged 16.5. Now you have to remember these were average speeds which adjust every time you have to slow for a road crossing, river crossing, etc so actual speed while riding was usually at least a mile an hour faster.
When I came in to my second to the last vet gate there were still 5 horses in the lead group. By the last vet check there were 4. When I left the last vet check there was really only one that would be able to be near me as my horse recovered so fast. (Opium was the first to recover at every vet check). I had a 3.5 min lead. It was a 12 mile loop. Around mile 6 the other rider caught me. When he did I sped up a bit more. His horse had to work so much harder than mine to make up the 3.5 min and now had no time to rest but had to accelerate. When we were in the last 1/2 mile we started to pick up the pace to about 20mph and by a little more than a 1/4 mile left we gunned it. My Anglo was much faster and I was able to pull him up a bit and still cross the line an easy 15 lengths ahead.
Opium and I had a wonderful day and won the 75/120 in a ride time of 5:26. After Opium passed his final vetting the whole crew of guys that worked on Opium at all of the vet checks, about 15 guys, picked me up and carried me against my will (This is very lighthearted) and just before throwing me in a water trough I managed to get Deborah's cell phone off myself! I was thrown in and entirely soaked, the winning tradition for these guys!
Devon also had a great day and won the young riders 75/120. Cheryl finished the 120 also. Becky finished the 100/160. That is 100% completion rate for the USA!! Yay!
Sheikh Mohammed won the 100/160k race.
In all it was a very awesome trip for team USA.