Photos: Diana De Rosa Photography. Click to enlarge.
Normandy, FRA, August 29, 2014 – One hundred and sixty-five horse-and-rider combinations, representing 42 nations, embarked on the five-loop, 160 km endurance race across the coast of Sartilly, France on August 28. Due to unfavourable weather conditions, the trails turned to mud trenches, sinking up to a foot deep and causing issues on course. Thirty-eight riders completed the race; although no Canadians were among the completions, all members of the team finished fit and healthy.
Canadians took on the race with a strategic plan and several tactics to approach the race technically. Reflecting on the race day, Chef d’Equipe Maura Leahy remarked, “We came into this event expecting to have four personal bests. So it was disappointing having not completed, but that is a part of Endurance. Everybody, the riders, crews and officials have done a wonderful job getting the horses through the loops. We are glad to have four healthy and happy horses and humans.”
Leading the Canadians was Jessica Manness of Dugald, BC and Greater Glide (Flaming Tigre X Flaming Streak), her 13-year-old Arabian gelding. They completed four loops in 9:58:40 staying at a consistent pace. At the end of the fourth loop Manness entered the veterinary inspection. It was determined that Greater Glide may have had some electrolyte imbalances, earning him an ME veterinary check code (meaning a metabolic concern) at which point the pair concluded their race. After further testing and treatment for the decreased electrolytes, Greater Glide was released with a clean bill of health.
“We were in the middle of the pack to start which is where I wanted to be,” commented Manness. “Before we started I set all the times I wanted to achieve and I stayed on them until our last loop. The trail was harder than I had anticipated. It was muddy and had a lot of hills across the in-lands. The second loop was mostly on the beach and on the asphalt roads. My immediate concern was how the hard ground would impact my horse, but he isn’t showing any signs of soreness which is good.”
“Running on the beach for the first time was really exciting,” Manness continues. “It was very beautiful. I am really happy with his performance considering how difficult it was with all the mud and even crossing the beach, which was like walking in quick sand. He gave it all he has and together we gave it our best shot.”
Yvette Vinton, an Ontario native currently residing in Morriston, FL, USA, and Petit Loup d’Jolie (Aziz El Maklouf’hn X Varum D’Ombree), an 11-year-old half-Arabian gelding owned by Madame Cecile Dumas, completed three loops in 7:14:23.
Describing her ride, Vinton said, “We waited until all the front runners took off, starting nice and quiet to avoid any wipeouts and to stay safe. As we approached the deep mud I was thankful I had a strong horse. I was trying to control the speed so I wouldn’t cause any injuries, but let him take the rein so that we stayed on pace. It was a very technical ride and difficult with the knee-high mud. Unfortunately, after the third loop we were pulled because he registered a heart rate of 65, which is one beat over the allowed heart rate. It was very unfortunate because during the third loop he started to settle in and lope – I think he could have continued strong.”
Vinton concluded with, “He looks really good, sound and very happy. I have an amazing crew, great trainers and the owners of my horses are amazing. It is always great being at a WEG. After 14 years you get to know all the international riders from around the world.”
Kathy Irvine of Blackfoot, AB and Nightwinds Savanah (Dakotas Keyanti x Midnight Baroness), a 16-year-old Arabian mare, was next to complete the third loop. The pair came loping down through the trees and to the vet check-in at 8:12:11. At this point the pair had cleared inspection but did not make the time allowed on the third loop, timing her out of the race.
“I was so happy with our start. We went out on the trail with a comfortable pace,” said Irvine. “My horse is handy, so the mud on the first loop wasn’t a concern of mine and we just ploughed on through. On the second loop there were more hills and more mud. It wasn’t until the third loop that I started noticing a difference. My mare knows when she’s had enough and she indicated that to me. I don’t even bother arguing with her. My crew was great at every stop feeding, watering and taking care of her making sure she cooled off. She recovered, I set out for a nice little jog and we came back into camp but we had timed out. I can’t say I’m disappointed. It’s been such a great experience.”
Walking off the trail after the second loop was Leanna Marchant of Calgary, AB and Samsons Fire, her 15-year-old half-Arabian gelding sired by MS On Fire. Evaluated at the vet check, Samsons Fire was not approved to continue based on the metabolic testing. They finished their two loops in 5:29:30.
“My plan was to start sort of mid-pack. I ended up leaving a little later than that as I figured more horses would probably go fast. I figured with the mud I didn’t want to be with the quick runners,” stated Marchant. “Really good ride though. The first loop was hectically busy with a lot of horses. For Sam this was perfect because it is what he is used to. I rode along side Italy, Norway and quite a few countries. After he pulled a shoe on the second loop it was like a light went off. For a competition like this you need to be 100% sure that you and the horse are okay to continue. I am really happy to be here. My horse is fit and ready to go after some recovery time.”
Marchant added, “My favourite moment would be the view of Mt. St. Michel. It was absolutely spectacular. Representing my country has also been a goal of mine for many years. To represent your country on the world stage is huge. The experience is something you can’t even describe.”
Of the thirty-eight riders to complete the race, HE Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohd Al Maktoum riding Yamamah of the United Arab Emirates finished in first place. Marijke Visser riding Laiza De Jalima of the Netherlands finished in second place and Abdulrahman Saad A.S Al Sulaiteen riding Koheilan Kincso of Quatar finished in third.