Alarming news has reached the United States about the fate of American riders competing in the 2008 World Endurance Championship held at Terengganu, Malaysia, on the edge of the South China Sea.
Early in the ride, a heavy rain storm caused flooding on the trail, but it was the bolt of lightning that finished off the team. When lightning struck a tree as USA rider Jan Worthington on the aptly named, Golden Lightning, and countrywoman Meg Sleeper on Syrocco Reveille, traveled through the water on the trail, the horses received the shock. The horses were flipped end over end, dumping riders and gear.
Fortunately, no one was badly hurt at the time, but the scrapes and bruises on the horses took their toll over the remaining 70 miles, and both horses were eventually eliminated for lameness.
Kathy Brunjes riding Theatric was the first and only member of the United States team to finish in 24th position while Valerie Kanavy riding Flash Flame came in shortly after her in 25th place. Team member, John Crandell riding Saba Shams, was eliminated at Gate Two for lameness. Cheryl Dell, riding one of the highest rated horses, Reason To Believe, was stricken with a debilitating illness and had to withdraw at the same gate.
Congratulaions to Spain’s Maria Alvarez Ponton who galloped home to win on Nobby the gold medal and also the best condition award at
Argentinean rider, Agustin Vita, riding Baraka Ibn Al Tamah won Silver, and Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem of the United Arab Emirates, gained the Bronze on Tazoul El Parry. The Gulf Countries of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain swept Team Gold, Silver and Bronze respectively.Forty-eight horses finished the ride of the 127 starters.
United States Equestrian Federation Director of Endurance Vonita Bowers said, “We had a plan and stuck to it, but we had some bad luck. The horses were very ready. We had no metabolic issues and we had good recoveries. We knew the speeds that we wanted to go and we stuck fairly close to those speeds. Except for the unforeseen things such as illness and lightning, we rode our ride the way we planned. The selection process gave us the best horses and the best riders, and the training session system of selection worked well.”
Chef d’Equipe, Becky Hart commented, “In spite of the outcome, a lot of good things happened here. Everyone worked like a team; when a rider was pulled, they pitched in to help.”
Held once every two years, the 2008 FEI World Endurance Championship was staged from the Terengganu International Endurance Park (TIEP) in Lembah Bidong, situated on the South China sea on the coastline north of Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia. 129 riders from 32 countries were invited to compete. The sponsorship and location were promoted by avid endurance rider, the King of Malaysia, Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Wathiqu Billah Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Mahumud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah. The world’s top riders were joined by members of the Royal families of Bahrain and Dubai.
Due to the tropical climate, the 160 km event began at 5:30 p.m. and ran throughout the night.
The U.S. Training Squad is already preparing for the 2010 Endurance Championship ride to be held as part of the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky. This will be the third time for the United States to host the World Endurance Championship. It was held at Front Royal, Virginia, in 1988 and in Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1996.