Fellow Endurancers ,
It is impossible to be in endurance riding in Malaysia unless you are either half mad or very passionate about it !At least in our context ,hundreds of hours riding in the hot sun bringing up an endurance prospect ,then when he is ready ,riding from dawn till dusk in a 160 km race ,braving rain ,possible death by lightning ,falls and the occasional brush or near brush with the 'unseen' .
I know from Che Din RTES that our KDYMM rode at least thrice a week whenever he could get time off from the 'Affairs of the State'.HM rode almost in all local competitions ,rain or shine ,thunder or no thunder and if the unfortunate thing happened to His Majesty in any of the race I would probably be the 1st to have to tender my apology to the Permaisuri for having 'planted' in him that germ of passion in this grueling sport some 6 years back .
HM started with just being one of the back packers ,then ,slowly but surely as he found there was an obvious polite and 'rather ridiculous' 'traffic jam' behind him [ I do not seriously think HM did mind people in front and winning otherwise he would not be in endurance ] ,moved on to being middle of the pack .By the 1st 160 km ride held in Gunong ,Bachok ,Kelantan in 2004,when I had an epic battle with Azman of TMKN Stable for 1st and 2nd placing ,HM was already good enough to be 3rd on his beautiful appalosa .Still I could notice some traffic jam behind him notably Shuiab [ now a datuk ,a riding datuk ],Penn ,etc and etc .
Now ,HM is unbeatable ,starting from the early days of preparation for the WEC 2008 .No more 'polite traffic jam' by people who should know him better .HM is just plain unbeatable .One can follow HM in probably the 1st two phase ,after which either your horse need to be retired due to early 'punture' or blown 'gaskets' due to over-riding beyond it's ability and conditioning , or get vetted out for muscular lameness !Except probably in mid 2008 which I consider was a rather 'freak accident' when the Penn brothers who then were ardent 'specialists' [ they don't anymore I think and I hope ] in the 'helicopter technique' .With the likes of 'finished horses' like Magna Thor ,Ibrahim Pasha ,HM is now the 'gold standard'. THE MAN TO BEAT in Malaysian Endurance .HM is now every hardcore riders' target .He has raised endurance to a higher plane and that is very healthy !
Personally I harbor an ambition to keep up with HM at one of the rides and probably eclipse him at the finish ,preferably a photo finish kind of thing similar to the one I had several years back with one of TMKN boys in Gunong .But a casual visit to his training 'camp' yesterday and a short chat with 'the boys' tells me that this is going to be a tall order.The conditioning format HM and his boys are undergoing look more like a Bahrani or UAE schedule ,very long continuous canter up to 20 km at a stretch which would be suitable conditioning for terrain like Bidong.
I would have to get back to my drawing board and redraw my programme .My training ground in a large Sime Darby oil palm plantation in Dengkil , just neighbouri HM's is too hilly for the purpose of developing long cantering skill and stamina in my 'athlete' .Gotta put my thinking cap on !Life is getting to be more interesting and intellectually more challenging .
My Mr Gedebe is still very green and his sinews and muscles ,bones and most importantly , mind ,[ if you work long enough with endurance horses preparing the mind is a difficult task ],not yet 'hardened' to the task but I am looking forward to that happening sometime during the next Sultan's Cup or probably early next year .When you are working with one horse one has to have patience to avoid sports injury .[ My recent letter of application for an ISN spare through my friend Burn of ISN Stable I was told by the Pos Malaysia people unfortunately landed up somewhere at Padang Pa' Amat ,Pasir Puteh ,Kelantan !How it got there beats my wildest imagination ! ] .
Forego ,my former ISN mount seem to be doing well .Insyallah ," kalau Dia dah kata rezeki tu kita punya kita punya lah dia ,kalau termaktub tidak kita punya ,tidak lah kita punya walaupun dah telan kebahagian halkum ".That is my simple philosophy in life .Leave to Him .
I hope the rest of my endurance friends are pulling their 'socks' and working harder,only then we can progress .Try to beat the gold standard by thinking ,conditioning and pushing oneself on a plane several notches higher .WEG 2010 in Kentucky USA is just 16 months away .We have to work harder .In this sport ,being present at that kind of level is redeeming itself .
At the international level ,yesterday The President's Cup in UAE saw Yousef Ahmad Al Bloushi coming in with his cousin brother Omar Hussien Al Bloushi as 1-2 champions .They were trainers from the famous AL Reef Stable ,UAE .Maria Alverez Pontoon ,the recent Individual WEC Champion could only manage 8th ,the highest amongst the best of the rest of the world invited riders .Only 20 of the best world riders riding their own mounts were invited .Total prize money : 1.5 million dirham !
The average winning speed was in excess of 25 kph !UAE yet again proved to the rest of the world that their trainers's conditioning strategies are way ahead on a different plane and planet from those trainers and thinkers of the sport from previous endurance world powers like USA,Spain ,France .The rest of the world has no answer to their superiority in the knowledge of conditioning and horse preparation at this rarefied level .
A desert endurance devoid of technicalities like hills and valleys and going at that level of speed just mean that your horses need to be very superfit to endure and sustain at the speed they are consistently winning .Super genetics and super training and 'super super' conditioning ! No two ways about it .When you have technicalities ,you have period of let up for slowing down and catching your breath and thus a slightly less prepared horse could still be numero uno on the basis that riders skill come to the fore .In Dubai /Abu Dhabi ,the top ten winners are super horses .
I have been studying their strategy for the last 10 years or so and marvel at their persistence and ingenuity ,of course certainly helped by their unlimited cheque book !.Nutrition at this level is common knowledge ,it is conditioning strategies and peaking at the right precise moment of the most important race ,which is the cutting edge and separates the men from the rest of the boys .10 years back when they were new to endurance they just buy the best continental champions with their petrodollars and start winning .Then they get smarter .Then buy the most costly of the 'quite unfinished horses' which are relatively cheap compared to the champions .Now they are riding their own horses from their breeding program .
In this increasingly monolithic world when the 'Muslim world' can get 'clobbered' up badly if there is a spark somewhere else in the world unaccounted for ,sports can be seen as a fine art of war and relative 'economic and ideological' show at least of supremacy .Sometime it is nice to be able to give 'big brothers' the occasional bloody nose in their traditional sport as in endurance .At least tell 'the new barbarians' that we are made of finer stuff than them and certainly several millenium years ago when Paris ,London and Madrid [and USA was still Land of the free ]were still covered in mud ,dark at night and full of plague ,Cordova was a city of light ,centre of knowledge and haven of peace , even for the persecuted Jews of that time !
UAE has been doing just that in the last 10 years or so .