Friday, October 07 2016
Pictured Above: Jerjes and I the day before the 80 km National Championship in Colombia.
I have once again missed the boat in a big way on posting my blog! On our drive home from California to Florida (back in August!), just after we cleared Auburn, we received an invite from our friend Cristina Mutis to ride in the Colombian National Championship. Jeremy and I would be riding her horses on the 75 mile FEI ride. We thought about it very briefly and agreed to go...When else would an amazing opportunity like this come up?
This ride happened to be only a week after we left CA so we would have to get across the country and get things organized in a hurry and then head to the airport. We managed to get everything done and found ourselves sitting on a plane just a little over a week after leaving CA. CRAZY.
When we arrived in Bogota it was late in the evening and Diego Arboleda picked us up. We had never met Diego in person so I sent him a picture of a bright ball cap I would wear, to which he sent me a pic of an orange Bass Pro hat he would wear. It worked perfectly. When we were walking to the car we noticed that we were at elevation as our breath was short. Bogota is around 8675 feet.
Diego drove us to his farm where we spent the night. It was an amazing old house with a straw thatch roof, like from a fairy tale. In the morning we looked around his farm and met his horses.
It is colder in Colombia than we had imagined. The whole time we were there it was around 55-65 for the high and drizzling rain off and on.
We drove to the ride site, the road was a windy mountain pass. The roads in general are pretty rough. There are also amazingly random speed bumps in the middle of a two lane highway where you were just driving 50 MPH and then... SURPRISE! We managed to not meet the roof with our skulls but had a lot of really close calls.
Once at the ride site it was the same familiar territory of any endurance camp. The venue was really nice, it had an indoor lounge with full catering of breakfast, lunch and dinner that you could purchase as well as hot drinks and a fireplace going. Then there was music playing over a PA system all weekend. Just outside from this meeting area was a covered arena for vetting. There was a very nice social aspect to this event as far as being able to comfortably hang out. There were actually a surprising amount of spectators who had simply come to hang out.
The horse I ended up riding was a friend's of Cristina as the original horse had been hot nailed and was too sore. I was introduced to my grey gelding, Jerjes who I called Hero. I would now be riding the 80 km instead of the 120. Jeremy rode one of Cristina's horses on the 120.
We stayed in an amazing hacienda that was just a mile from the venue. It was an old style house that was made of clay bricks and it had a large open air court yard in the middle of it with the rooms all surrounding the courtyard. It was a very special place.
The race was pretty different than a race in the USA. The main difference was going through the towns. The towns are very busy but small. While riding through town you might see a horse pulling a milk cart, donkeys, goats, chickens, cars, bicycles, people sitting outside, motorcycles and tons of dogs. The dogs were crazy in numbers. (It bacame our joke that in order to be considered a true Colombian you had to own at least 4 dogs) I only rode 2 of my 3 loops and during that time I easily encountered over 75 dogs. All loose, without an owner in sight. Mostly running at you at top speed while barking and lunging at your horse. Hero was great, for the most part he just kept on. There were two times when Hero told me that the particular dog was "BAD" in which case we would bolt down the trail, which I happily let him do. I figured he is a local and knows what to do.
There were also crazy things like manhole covers missing or VERY deep holes in the pavement, the bridges were wood covered in dirt and almost every bridge had dirt that had fallen through a rotten spot in the wood resulting in a leg eating hole in the bridge. It quickly became apparent that you should pull up and cautiously walk over bridges.
The hospitality was super. Riding with the other riders I was offered water and one competitor even bought me a drink out in a town along the trail. The countryside was also very beautiful. It was a wonderful experience.
I was pulled after the second loop. My horse came in looking super. Then he would not recover. He hung at 68. I pulled. He had all A's but a crazy pulse. It was so odd, he gave no indication of anything being wrong. He did seem like he had to pee but it was still crazy to not recover. Around 20 mins after the pull he peed and then was at a very normal pulse. In speaking to his owner about it (sheepishly as I have never had this happen before) he told me that the horse had done this at his last ride too. In watching the other horses that came in, it became clear that at this milage this happened to many others as well. Horses that looked great, not recovering. I still do not have an answer for this. The ride was at around 9000 feet and it was humid but not hot (sweat shirt on, sweat shirt off all day). Jeremy made it 50 miles of his 75 and had a very similar experience, almost not recovering and then ultimately getting pulled for a subtle hind end lameness.
The ride was fun regardless. All of the competitors stayed afterwards for a dinner and awards ceremony. I have not been to a race in over a decade where people have actually stuck around to enjoy themselves after a race. This was so much fun.
In our remaining days in Colombia we went to Cristina's farm (at 10,000 feet) and saw her awesome horses and also went for a ride. She also took us to many local places and let us try the local flavors at restaurants. The food was incredible.
We really enjoyed Colombia. If you ever get the chance to go, take it.