Articles: Press Release
Spain and France Claim First Medals at 2006 WEG; Spain's Ubach Takes
America's Top Rider Finishes 15th
United States Equestrian Federation, Inc.
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Web site: www.usef.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 21, 2006
Long before the sun rose over the first day of competition at the 2006
FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Aachen, a flurry of activity was
going on as the stage was set for the first medal decisions made in the
equestrian discipline of endurance. The consensus is that today's
championship served as the biggest in the sport's interesting
development and history, and the fact that temperatures didn't make it
much past the mid-60 degree range were a blessing to those who had
feared that the heat that Germany saw weeks ago might wreak havoc in a
sport where weather conditions can send the placings into a scramble.
Crews, horses, riders, inspectors and a contingency of blurry-eyed
spectators woke up the proverbial rooster. Riders and their mounts took
off under a dark rose-colored early morning sky just outside the Main
Stadium near the start of the cross-country course. The 100-mile route
saw them traverse a mix of terrain and territory through three countries
- Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. The teams took off en masse at 6
At the end of the long haul, it was 34-year-old Spaniard Miguel Vila
Ubach and the eight-year-old Arabian gelding, Hungares, to cross the
finish line first in a time of 09:12:27. Over the nine-plus hour ride,
Ubach and Hungares averaged a pace of 10.8 miles per hour (or 17.38
kilometers per hour). He steadily climbed the rankings over the course,
always leaving something in the tank, from a first gate finish of 47th
to 33rd to 21st to 16th to 8th to his final victory.
Throwing his helmet into the air just after clearing the line, his
expressions and tears told the whole story. Prior to his win today in
Aachen, Ubach was listed at #86 on the FEI World Ranking of endurance
In April 2006, Ubach won the CEI Three-Star Cordoba ride in his home
country. He acknowledged that his competition today was tough, saying,
"I knew all the best riders in the world were here from the U.A.E. and
France." An enthusiastic and appreciative crowd cheered and clapped as
the pairing claimed their place as the first World Champion to be
crowned at the 2006 WEG. "I can't believe it," he said in a downpour
while still standing on the victory field.
For France, who was favored going into the competition, it was a
double-medal haul after the rain-soaked challenge. French teammates
Virginie Atger and her eight-year-old Arabian gelding Kangoo d'Aurabelle
took the Silver medal while her compatriot Elodie Le Labourier and the
16-year-old Arabian gelding Sangho Limousian brought a Bronze-medal
Atger and Le Labourier road neck-and-neck to the finish. There was no
charge to the end. Instead, each rider crossed it with acknowledgement
to the other in a display of sportsmanship.
The Gold medal in the team competition was won by France. The Swiss team
finished in Silver-medal position, and the Bronze medal went to
The American Effort
Finishing lead among the American contingent was Maine's Kathryn Downs
and her 10-year-old Arabian gelding, Pygmalion. Entering Gate 1 at 50th
place, the pair climbed in the rankings over the morning to stand at
20th at Gate 2. They continued their effort, improving their standings
by five spots to land at 15th by the time they entered Gate 3. They held
their own, slipping down only two placings by Gate 4 and finished their
10:06:27-hour journey at 15th place.
Second spot for Team U.S.A. was filled by New Jersey's Meg Sleeper, DVM,
and her14-year-old half-Arabian gelding Shyrocco Troilus. The pair sat
at 68th position after Gate 1 was cleared and jumped an impressive 24
spots upon checking in at Gate 3 to sit at 34th position. They continued
their climb, pushing past another 11 riders to come in at 23rd at Gate
4. Final times and results were not available due to computer problems
in the main press center.
California's Jennifer Niehaus and Cheyenne XII, the 14-year-old Arabian
gelding, stepped into competition as the first alternate. The pairing
cleared Gate 1 in 75th; Gate 2 in 81st; Gate 3 in 75th; and Gate 4 in
69th. Niehaus and Cheyenne XII's results were also not available due to
computer problems in the main press center.
Illinois' Joseph Mattingley aboard his SA Laribou (an 11-year-old
Arabian gelding) made it as far as Gate 4 before being eliminated due to
lameness. The pair had put in a respectable effort crossing Gate 1 at
78th; Gate 2 at 83rd; and Gate 3 at 70th. Their elimination left only
four American riders in the running.
American Christoph Schork from Utah, who rode his eight-year-old Arabian
gelding, Taj Rai Hasan, was pulled at the last vet check. Across the
day, Schork and Taj Rai Hasan sat at 64th place at Gate 1 and 74th at
Gate 2. From that point, the pair pushed forward, jumping 34 places to
come into Gate 3 at 40th position, but they slid back a bit in the
standings to land at 57th leaving Gate 4.
Team U.S.A. Chef d'Equipe and former WEG Endurance Champion Valerie
Kanavy lent her extensive experience and advice to the U.S. team. One
point of advice she shared with the riders just prior to the start of
the ride..."Don't get kicked." The start of the race resembled a packed
charge of Bedouin riders taking off.
More Than Just A Race
In the sport of endurance, horse-and-rider combinations face not only
the extreme distances, but a series of what are known as vet gates -
mandatory stops on the race where the riders dismount and the horses are
checked by a veterinary crew. The condition of the horse is paramount in
continuing along the long distance course, and it is at the vet gates
where the horses are held for inspection. Among the many criteria
checked at the vet gate are the horse's heart rate, temperature and
other metabolic factors, as well as general condition and soundness.
Riders approach the predetermined vet gates and dismount, allowing the
horses to access water and nourishment, plus it allows the riders to
replenish their own needs. The findings of the veterinarians are
recorded on the vet cards (including the riders' arrival and departure
times). A horse may be declared lame and may be withdrawn from the
At the World Championships, individual and team medals are presented. A
single horse-and-rider's time is used to determine the individual
champion. The team championship is decided based on the combined times
of three predetermined "team score" members.
Two vet gates were established along the ride, with teams crossing them
more than once. Vet Gate 1 was situated at Dreilanderpunkt (where horses
were inspected after loops 1-4) and Vet Gate 2 Soers (for loops 5-6).
Endurance was officially welcomed under the umbrella of the
International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and recognized as an
international horse sport. Centuries ago, Bedouin tribes placed bets on
endurance-type races. Just over a century ago, German and Austrian
military officers held similar races between Vienna and Berlin. Today,
endurance has seen an explosion of interest with numbers growing
impressively in the United States.
For complete time listings and all endurance scores, visit
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