Equestrianism: Sheikh wins endurance gold

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The Independent Online

Sheikh Ahmed al Maktoum, of the United Arab Emirates, was the first rider to complete yesterday's 100-mile endurance riding course at the World Equestrian Games, but at least a couple of hours were to elapse before the 16-year-old's gold medal was in safe keeping. His horse, Bowman, passed one of the final veterinary checks soon after finishing, but another check was due later in the evening. Italy's Antonio Rosi and the French rider, Sunny Demedy, finished second and third – but they also had to wait for confirmation of their prospective medals.

The endurance riders had started in the dark and pouring rain at seven o'clock yesterday morning, with miner's helmets and sheet lightning to illuminate the track that had become dangerously slippery in the unexpectedly wet conditions. Jayme Bone, riding for the Great Britain team, had never experienced fear before in an endurance ride – but she described yesterday's slippery footing as "terrifying".

Sadly, Bone and another team member, Katie Smith, had both been eliminated before the fourth of five phases on the course because their horses were lame, which put Britain out of the team contest. Two members of the strong Emirates' quartet made an even earlier exit when the mounts of Sheikh Ahmed's father and brother, were failed by the vets.

Endurance riders always have the stringent veterinary checks in mind as they judge their pace. The horses are tested for their heart rate, muscle tone, dehydration and what is called "gut sounds" as well as lameness. Completing the course is therefore a triumph in itself. The crews, two for each horse, are as busy as the riders as they go on hectic drives around the country to minister to the horses at designated "crew points". Cooling water and ice, plus drinks to prevent dehydration in horses and riders are essential parts of their equipment.

It all seemed a far cry from the presentation of individual dressage medals at the Chapin Stadium here during the early hours of yesterday morning, after the completion of Sunday night's Freestyle to Music in front of a large and wildly enthusiastic audience. Germany's Nadine Capellmann took the gold medal with her big chestnut, Farbenfroh, although honours in the Freestyle went to her compatriot, the European champion Ulla Salzgeber, on Rusty.

Capellmann, who describes her mount as "a self-confident glutton", had already built up a useful advantage in the Grand Prix and the Special, so she maintained the overall lead. Spain's local heroine, Beatriz Ferrer-Salat, took the silver medal on Beauvalais, with Salzgeber receiving the bronze.

WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES (Jerez de la Frontera, Sp): Individual dressage medals (after Grand Prix, Special and Freestyle): 1 Farbenfroh (N Capellmann, Ger) 237.515 per cent; 2 Beauvalais (B Ferrer-Salat, Sp) 234.385; 3 Rusty (U Salzgeber, Ger) 233.535.