[ from the perspective of a chronic endurance addict]
Malacca never fail to amaze me. Dynamic and forever changing thanks to the solid ground work and vision by former CM Rahim Thamby Chik [ say whatever you like about his other 'interests'] , and Ali Rustam's people friendly pragmatism. Of course being midway between KL and Singapore does help in the tourist industry and the significance of being the region's entreport in the 15th and 16th century under the Portugese, Dutch and finally the British, does add up to its sense of history.
Saturday 11th April saw the flag-off of the 2nd Malacca Grand Invitational Endurance Ride in the novice 40 km, 80km and 120 km events. I was in the 80km along with 28 other contestants. KDYMM was also in the 80. For most of us, we were reserving our 'peak' for next month Edaran Ride in Bidong, Terengganu. MGIER is a good warm-up.
80 km event was flagged off at 630 pm with heavily laden rain clouds threatening to fall any second. We riders do not mind the rain, but thunder and lightning would be a different kettle of fish. The start went off without any incident and it rained cats and dog soon after. KDYMM, as always now were among the front runners and I lost sight of the front group as darkness fell and rain started pouring . Myself along with Peter Lim, probably the only Chinese in this sport in this 'whole wide world' and a couple of his Australian guests were ' sweeping the floor' at the back. Midway through the 1st phase of 30 kilometres even Peter and his group left me. My Mr Gedebe is still new to the game and did not have the pace yet. This was not his race yet, this ride was supposed to be his LSD [ long, slow, distance ]training ride. I am bringing him up for the WEG2010 in Kentucky, USA, next year. For now we have to be used to sweeping the floor at the back. Despite the rain and darkness, the tract was superbly prepared. Weaving through lonely undulating paths in oil palm estates and amongst rubber smallholding in the main with occasional criss crossing on road tarmac, I must concede that by Malaysian standard MGIER trails was highly' techinical' and superbly done. I seek the company of one young rider from PENN Endurance Stable who was busy listening to some music on his i-phone. I was as usual on' cloud nine ' with my usual 'tahmid and tasbih'. I guess all endurance riders have to do something with their minds to help overcome fatigue, bodily pain, the occasional primal fear of being alone in the dark etc etc and to remain focussed.
When I came in for the vet check at the 1st phase at 15 kph average [ quite fast time by normal standard 3 years back],the front runners , including KDYMM were already about to leave for the 2nd phase of 25 km. Malaysian endurance has progressed. Even 'slow coach' Peter, a shipping man from Singapore, who based his arabians in Gelang Patah, has changed. The vets usually had to wait for Peter long after everyone of us have finished, before they could' close shop'. Now in this ride Peter has graduated 'forward'.
Mr Gedebe get all A's for his check and both rider and horse were given a 30 minute holding time [ rest] to replenish and refresh before starting on phase 2.
I left for phase 2 at 930 pm again alone. In the dark, riding alone, your horse give a 100 % trust on you the 'leader'. He tend to get less spooky, the only disadvantage is that your own mind tend to play tricks on you. You tend to be more' spooky'. People prefer to wait for the next rider but as in my case when you are the last rider to leave, you just 'bite the bullet' and ride on. It was a full moon and cool at night with the breeze. Man and horse remained focussed on the job. Horse thinking when "this stupid, crazy boss of mine going to end his madness and behave like like other people his age and shut up his big mouth sometime", man enjoying his 'tasbih and tahmid' oblivious of his mate and the surrounding, just focussing enough on the arrows so as not to get lost.
When I completed phase 2, KDYMM, Burn, Penn and group had already left for the final 25 km. Mr Gedebe failed the vet check due an abnormal gait arising from muscular cramp in the right hind quarter. So much for a 2010 WEG material! I made a mental note to start him on Arcoxia[ I give expensive human NSAID to my horses, Arcoxia costs more than the traditional phenylbutazone but it works faster and is more softer on the stomach lining] for a week, to review in 2, and probably concentrate on hill intervals subsequent 2 weeks before Edaran's, to improve his endurance capacity and heart rate recovery.
That is the plan. A lot of time still for WEG but probably at the rate he is going, Gedebe is B material, unlike my previous Jogho [ horses like Jogho will never come my way again in my present lifetime] and Miss Gedebe. Certainly looks like he is not going to be ready for Sultan's Cup this November!
At ride like this I get to meet many riders from all walks of life. Mus, the migrant worker from Lombok, riding for his boss Che Din of De Dengkil Stable and Stud Farm,on Dayang in the 40 km event. Grinning from ear to ear after coming home 3rd[ A mental note for my good friend Dan ,principal organiser of MGIER: Have some small token prize even for 40 km because even though for us 40km represent the entry point for begining horses, for many people like Mus and the young boys from Kelantan, by virtue of their dimunituve pony size, 40km is the race of their lives !]. I get to meet Hj Otto of Indonesian Equestrian Association who is always here for most endurance ride but this time not riding because he got too excited riding his 'leased horse ' the day prior to the pre ride vet check, on the actual day itself ,the horse was proclaimed lame.
Abang Nor of Paka who owns Duke, a tall and gangly ex-race thorougbred, and was introduced to the madness of endurance only in 2007 at Royal Kedah Ride. All very excited because his son came 2nd on Duke in my event! When I asked him how he did it in 2009 in the face of all the 'ferraris' of the' pure arab' world. He told me he was inspired by my earlier writings on ex-race thorougbred and my insistence on hill work,hill work and more hill work. I was just 'theorising' then when I wrote. That make sense now. Thorougbred already got the height and speed, they just need the stamina build up. Beyond 80 , I do not think they can perform but I also thought in the past only 'horses from heaven cango beyond 16 kph at Bidong and Maria Mercedes debunk that belief. it is back to conditioning , conditioning and conditioning and 'hill work' cut short the LSD and conditioning process to some extent.
Abe Soh of Pekan,Tumpat who came all the way from Kelantan on his own to see his dimunutive champion, a Kelantan A pony [ Kelantan has their own 'breed' namaly crossing exrace thoroughbred stallions with local ponies mares or vice versa ],ridden by his son challenging all the big boys in the 80's event. Abang Sop is a retiree, does not belong to any club, I do not think he has 'high income job' to support his love for endurance but there he is : always around at any endurance event. I salute his sincerity and simplicity in the sport. I think his son did well at this ride. Equestrianism in Kelantan is very much alive and 100 % self driven: no multi million ringgit grant or support from the government.
I also get to meet KDYMM himself but because my Gedebe is not yet 'turbo-charged' at present, we only met at the start, did not manage to exchange pleasantries when passing each other on the trail as happened during previous rides when I was riding a more competitive mount.
There you are : this world is certainly not a level playing field, but for Abang Nor, Abe Soh, Hj Otto, Mus the migrant worker from Lombok, KDYMM ,and this lowly scribe from Subang, we collectively share something in common. We represent a microcosym of Malaysia and we "play accordingly within our 'designated' fields and find our own comfort level" ,and derive contentment and shared pleasure in one of the most beautiful creature accorded to man : The Horse.