Daniel and I (well it was really me) decided ages ago that we were going to get married on August 16th so that we could have our honeymoon in France to incorporate the World Equestrian Games. It was our kind of holiday, we aren’t the type to lie on a beach somewhere, we get way too bored after a few days! We had a few nights in Paris, which was beautiful, then headed to Caen for the WEG!
The first few days were spent exploring the Games Village, which involved a lot of shopping, eating, drinking and horses.
Then we headed down to the bay of Mont St Michel for the Endurance. We went a day before the event so we could explore the incredible Castle of Mont st Michel! It was amazing, I highly recommend it!! Our hotel room was very medieval which made us feel like we were living there back in the olden days!
We were up early Thursday to head off to the Endurance. The race started at 7 am, which meant we had a lot of convincing to do to get off the island at 5.45. The hotel had to organise a special bus to take us off the island then sweet talk a cabbie to get up that early (no cars allowed on the island and no one wakes up early in France!!!) once the cab driver heard we were going to Sartilly he promptly said yes…. It was a 100-euro journey there!!!!! Yikes I nearly died!
It was still dark when we arrived. There was an electrifying buzz around the venue. You could feel the excitement, nerves and anticipation in the air. We didn’t really know where we were going so we followed the masses out to the start line where all the riders were warming up. All the horses were trotting around the warm up pen and they were all looking fit and rearing to go. Gosh, there were some spectacular looking horses there! The start of the race is something I will never forget. It was a gallop start, there were so many fit crazy Arab’s flying down the straight out on to course. One girl sat to a few good bucks but unfortunately fell off only 30 meters from the start line.
Once the riders were out on course Daniel and I went and got a good seat in the stands near the vet ring and trot outs, which also had a big screen showing great footage of all the riders out on course, as well as a GPS tracking of each rider! Opposite us was the huge UAE Marquee which hosted their VIP’s and riders. After each leg the horses went with the grooms and the riders could sit and have a meal and a drink…not bad!! We spottedMohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in there which was cool!
Just 38 of the 165 riders made it through the grueling course. The weather conditions on the days leading up to the race had left the ground slippery and sticky, which made the already technically demanding course even more tough, forcing the riders take every stride carefully.
The weather didn’t stop the crowds from attending…. there were heaps of people scattered through the ride base and at each crew point! The crowds also stretched for the length of the beach of Mont st Michel. French rider Jean-Philippe Frances described it as a mini Tour de France! Some spectators even bought a glass of wine along. Endurance is known for not really being a spectator’s sport so it was great to see so many people out supporting the riders! The coverage on the big screens at the ride base was also fantastic. It would be awesome to have something like that at the Quilty!!
The vet ring after the first leg was a bit of a shambles. So many of the riders came in at the same time and some were waiting 10 minutes before being able to vet through. Once the riders spread out on course the vet ring ran smoothly for the rest of the day.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohd al Maktoum riding Australian bred Yamamah aka Kurrajong Concord won the race averaging an impressive 19.68km/h pace and succeeds his father as champion.
Daniel and I watched this mare very closely from start to finished and were astounded by how much of a complete PRO she was. She just knows her job and does it so well!! In the hold times she stood and ate her feed and drank her water not moving a muscle as her strappers threw more water on her and poured ice cold water on her legs. She behaved perfectly when they syringed about 10 huge tubes of what looked like electrolytes, honey and yoghurt down her throat. She urinated on command and as soon as the bridle went on she dove quickly back into her feed and started scoffing as she knew she was about to go back out and race. It really was incredible to watch and she is the best endurance horse I have ever seen.
Young Dutch rider Marijke Visser came 2nd riding French bred mare Laiza de Jalima. They were also presented the Best Conditioned award. Like many Arabian horses Laiza was mainly rested between the ages 4-6 and in 2010 in her 6th year joined a stable in Dubai. Mid this year she came back to Europe and was prepared in Belgium for the World Equestrian Games. “She’s a little horse, tiny in fact”, explains Marijke. “But she’s wonderful, a hard worker and capable of incredible results.”
The Aussie horses had a 50% success rate, which is great considering only 22% completed the ride. Unfortunately for Jenny Annetts her horse Castlebar Contraband went slightly lame and was withdrawn at the 11th hour.
Sarah McLaughlin riding Tonki Dee Boo Shania, Sasha Laws King riding a French horse Qacima Du Sauveterre, Alexandra Toft riding Charlotte TE and Penny Toft riding Dream Dancer TE all started the race. Unfortunately Penny got held up at a few accidents out on course, and then her stirrup leather broke so by the time she managed to get a new stirrup leather she was quite far behind the other riders. Penny made the hard call to withdraw after the 1st leg. Playing catch-ups on a slippery, boggy course like that would have been too dangerous. Sarah McLaughlin’s horse was sadly vetted out after the 2nd leg due to metabolic’s.
However Ali Toft and her horse Charlotte TE completed the tough course and placed 19th in a time of 10:11:23.
Sasha also finished on grey mare Qacima Du Sauveterre in a time of 10:48:53.
There was unfortunately a fatal accident out on course which Costa Rican rider Claudia Romero Chacon’s horse, Dorado, ran out of control into a tree and was killed. The rider was taken to hospital and operated on for fractures and internal injuries. Absolutely devastating for everyone involved.
The Endurance was a fantastic event and Daniel and I absolutely loved watching the best horses and riders in the world ride and strap their horses. We came away with a lot of new knowledge.
After the ride was won Daniel and I headed back to our hotel room on Mont St Michel and crashed! I think we probably walked 160kms that day!
On Saturday we headed to Le Pin National Stud for the cross-country phase of the Eventing. We arrived at Argentan train station at 9.45 and jumped on a shuttle bus to go to the venue. The traffic was unbelievably bad. They only had 1 lane all the way to the venue and it was banked back at least 15kms and wasn’t moving!! After over an hour stuck on the bus Daniel and I looked up on Google maps that we were 11kms to the venue… We made the call, like many others, to jump off the bus and run/ walk there!! It was hell but the run made easier by fellow Aussies stuck in cars cheering us on! Once we finally got there it was great but we were not in the mood to walk around the whole course! We wanted to get something to eat….but then we saw the lines for the food vendors…..then the lines to the toilets…. It was packed! To be honest Melbourne 3 day was a better event than the WEG cross country, as a spectator.
The Show Jumping on Sunday however was fantastic. We walked from the Games Village to the stadium and once again couldn’t believe the size of the line to get in! Luckily the line we were in moved quickly so we were able to make the start of the competition. We were disappointed for William Fox Pit knocking a rail and going from gold medal position to bronze, everyone was on the edge of their seats!
The show jumping wrapped up our WEG adventure. We had the best honey/horsey-moon! Bring on Quebec, Montreal 2018….Now its time to go home and get my fat Arab’s out of the field… holiday is over for them and us! Time to ride and get fit!
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What a MASSIVE journey for these horses…..Still so far to go.
ENDURANCE & PARA FLIGHT UPDATE:
'It is now 16 hours since we left our Melbourne stables.
Just departing Singapore on the second leg of our journey to the WEG.
All horses are good, eating and drinking.
Pascal (IRT expert groom) was busy adjusting stalls to let the horses put their heads down and eat from the ground and stretch a little.
Julia and Kirsten have been caring for the VIP’s. Worldwide PB the superstar from London has a special diet and is getting lots of attention. Hatero is a real cool dude and Comedian lives up to his name.
Contraband just has not stopped eating and drinking, is such a nice horse, Shania was a little nervous but has settled in and next to Charlotte is very happy. Charlotte has done plane travel before and is more interested in the menu on offer.
Hard to get apples past Comedian.
This next leg is 6 hours, 10 minutes to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, expected temperature on arrival is 45.
The plane’s cargo is full on this sector.
London Heathrow and then Normandy is still a long way off’.
From Peter Toft
Go to my Facebook page for more photos, videos and updates.
Get to know our World Equestrian Games Endurance Team by reading this blog written by the youngest member, Alexandra Toft!
Great news! Aussie Sam Jones wins the Mongol Derby!
At 12:50pm Sam Jones of Australia has won the 6th Mongol Derby in emphatic style. She was the fastest rider on the course, led for much of the way and seldom looked troubled by the other riders Even when delayed for two hours and picked up a one hour penalty when she lost her tracker her progress was barely checked.
The 40 year old mining operator chose to ride alone for most of the race. She took the gamble of camping out past HS26 yesterday evening, with only 45 minutes riding time left in the day; despite the knowledge that bad weather was forecast and and a lost horse would certainly cost her the race. It was bold decisions that earned her victory as much as speedy riding and good navigation skills.
She rode much of today uncertain how far behind her nearest competitors were, but needed to balance this with the knowledge that if she pushed too hard she would meet the same fate as Devan Horne in 2012 and Barry Armitage in 2012 who were both first over the line but lost out to veterinary penalties.
Sam is the 6th derby winner, only the second female champion and the first from Australia
I spoke to Sam moments after her horse passed its vet check:
How do you feel?
Pretty awesome, but a bit anticlimatic, I feel I could do another 1000. You should organise a 2000 km race next year.
How did you find the Derby?
I loved every minute of it, if it was easy it wouldn’t have been as good. There were definitely some tough times but i found it… invigorating is probably the word. there were hard bits but that’s the whole point, that’s why you do something like this, to challenge yourself.
How were the horses?
The toughness of them is phenomenal. I’ve ridden at speeds during this race over ground I’d hesitate to walk across over before this. Sometime I wasn’t always given a choice, sometimes they just bolt out of the station & it’d take you 5 k to just get in control.
Did you get lost or sick much?
I got lost several times, I was quite good at that but I always found my way back. I never got really sick, there were times I thought i might vomit, & there were times I thought i might poop my pants, but that’s what you get when you do something as extreme as this, but I never got really sick. I had my share of aches and pains but my body got better and better as i went along & I adapted and yeah, I could happily keep riding. Give me another horse and I’ll go.
How did you feel when you lost your tracker?
I realised half an hour before the station I had about 2 hours of riding time left in the day and I had every intention of riding on. I loved the experience (the previous night) of camping out with the Mongolian family & to realise the tracker had fallen out of its holder & the doubt about whether I would get it back in time to ride on in the morning it was awful. I’m a firm believer in luck when you get good luck you run with it and when you get bad luck, you gotta roll with the punches. So, I got to stay at that station. No worries, I got a couple of extra hours downtime and rest. that’s the way it goes.
How did you motivate yourself during the race?
I didn’t really have any real need for motivation. You’re here riding on the derby & it’s a 1000km horse race. To me that’s enough, I’ve never really lacked the tenacity I guess. I am very competitive and driven & it’s important for me to be up at the front. I didn’t have to come in first, but i wanted to be up in the front, I started off with the group, I rode the first leg with them, but I was in and out of the horse stations before anyone else & I just kept going.
Did you have a strategy to win?
Not really , when I approached the race it was just to enjoy the experience to the full, to just live it all and do it all to the full. I did always say if I had a chance of winning then I would absolutely go for it. I found myself up the front early on so when it came to the stage when I knew I had a chance I just went for it.
My advantage was that I was faster through the stations. Also I was completely fine heading off on my own. other people wanted to ride with others but I’m fine on my own, I’m happy to head off into the middle of nowhere with my horse & I think that’s what probably got me over the line first.
At what point did you know you’d won?
I knew leaving HS27 I was a long way in front. which was just as well because the horse I chose at 27 was a very steady beasty, but that was fine i took it very steady. I didn’t count my chickens until i passed the vet. But he passed his signs are good he’s a healthy happy pony and here I am, this years winner.
How would you sum up the Mongol Derby?
I compare it to the equine equivalent of climbing everest, its a challenge, its an adventure, it’s an international race and it’s all based around horses & I live horses. I live & breathe horses. I’ve ridden them since before I could walk & I’ve never stopped, I’m 40 years old & I’m never going to stop. I intend to come back & run the derby every 10 years until I cant any longer.
Repost from https://www.facebook.com/aussiesgoingmongolderby
A great video of Toft Endurance Team in their preparations leading up to the World Equestrian Games including footage from Endurance rides in France, track work and beach work!
The horses featured are Centrefold te, Dream Dancer te and Charlotte te.
Go Aussies!! Best of luck to Penny and Alexandra!