Continuing to qualify for the World Championships, I was scheduled to do every FEI ride available.
On Saturday 28 August 2004, Sweep and I took on the grueling National Championship 100 miler at Hofmeyr starting at 2:45 in the morning. Tension was high as the country's most experienced riders were there to take on the last qualifying ride for the S.A. team to be selected. We were also honored to have the number one rider of the UAE there. As we started going up the mountain I knew my only way to do well was to put pressure on from the beginning. Sweep knew mountains and I was honored to have Wiesman, the breeder of Moya and Sweep riding on the younger brother, Pula, the 100 km. Descending from the mountain to the second check after 80 km, the pressure was on and 5 riders were competing for the win. Pula with Wiesman exceeded my expectations to finish the 100 km with Sweep and winning the nearest contestant with 2 hours. With only 60 km to go and two loops, the pressure was now on.
I started fourth with the UAE rider in the lead. A long hot stretch of 30 km was lying ahead and horse and rider could feel fatigue setting in. Now sensitive horsemanship and good pacing was essential. At the last water point of the loop, I caught up with UAE rider and second rider, Chris Landman, who won the previous year. Going for the last loop, Chris and I were started 15 seconds apart. The chase was on and Chris and I were both going to fight for the win. Chris' Swire was looking good and was an excellent sprinter. Sweep was still strong but I knew it would only be strategy that will make the difference, 10 km from the end, Chris made a break and I just kept the distance. Finally 100 meters from the end, Swiri came to a standstill and Sweep sensed that the race was his. He picked up his ears and gave his unconditional winning stride to victory. The time of this ride was the fastest in 20 years.
Then It Was Dubai
I was elected as Captain of the Dubai team for the World Championships. Unfortunately we could not take our own horses and leased horses from Australia. This was not such a great success as only two of the horses managed to finish the ride as the others were all lame. As number one rider in South Africa, I was then chosen and invited by the Sheik of Abu Dhabi to HH the Presidents Cup. I had to make use of one of Sheik Mohammed's horses and also ended with lameness on the second loop. I was then fortunate to choose my own horse and join them on the Sheik Hamdan challenge in Dubai. This time I managed to finish 22nd out of 80 horses and was the first foreign rider. This was an amazing experience and I learned such a lot from what endurance outside the borders of South Africa. My compliments to the hospitality of the Arabs.
Back At Home
Back from Dubai with a new season starting, my daughter Lindi aged 13 years, was allowed to start the longer distances in FEI for the juniors, the prospect for her was the energetic Pula, another half brother of Moya and Sweep. With the Junior and Young rider World Championship at the end of 2005, it was a big challenge to try to get on the short list for this event. With mom grounded as groom, her first 120 km was the Platorand ride near Dullstroom. Technically it is a difficult ride and for experienced riders. Lindi won this race overall and exceeded all expectations walking away with the best conditioned award for the juniors. With this young rider facing up with 21 year old (young riders), there were two more rides to go. The next ride was the Louis Botha 120 km. Lindi won the juniors and came 2nd overall, l again walking away with best conditioned award, this time with Sweep. The final test was at Christiana and all the juniors and Young riders were gathered to make a mark. Lindi finished this ride in the fastest time ever on a 120 km and won it overall. At this stage mom was battling to keep up with daughter and finished 4th of the seniors on Sweep. Lindi made such an impression although being the youngest rider that she had to be considered for the shortlist.
A Good Family Story
At Fauresmith 2005, Leon was elected as junior team manager for the new union Northern Gauteng. We only had a few juniors and had to take what we had. The kids were eager to look after their horses and were adamant that they will ride on their horses' individual abilities. Our Team won the Junior Provincial team competition with Lindi, also in the team and all finishing like winners.
Lindi has been chosen for the Junior National Team to Walvis Bay on Pula and Mom will join as part of the senior team on Sweep.
Dubai, Abu Dabi And Back To Dubai In Less Than 80 Day
Legends in their own rights: Thinking back, exactly what motivated me 8 years ago to start with endurance riding, it feels like yesterday and realized that it went bigger and better - MY LOVE AND ABSOLUTE RESPECT FOR OUR HORSES. Specifically Geronimo, my first Hofmeyr experience - Moya, my dancing partner for 6 years - Sweep, an experience of absolute will to give everything he has to go to the end. It is a privilege that these horses are still a part of my life.
The President's Cup - 17 February 2005 - Abu-Dhabi
Only back home, I was invited to present South Africa at the President's Cup in Abu Dhabi. I had to organize a horse very quickly. Thank you to Zulu who arranged everything and on the 14th of February I was airborne again. We were welcomed again with great hospitality but had to drive 160km to Abu Dhabi. The next day back to Dubai to view my horse. Another Chestnut mare and as hot as can be. She already had a back leg problem and my greatest worry was how to deal with this girl. Refusing to trot and be lead, she only wanted to run. At the end of the second leg, she went totally lame and my international ride references were horrific. The winning time on the 160km ride broke the World Champions' time with one minute - 7:02. At our stables only Abdullah finished in 6th place. The challenge was too big for me; I told Leon that I'm not leaving until I have finished a ride. I was fortunate to extend my stay by another week, riding a 120 km on the Sheik Rashid bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Challenge on the World Champion's course in Dubai.
Sheik Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Challenge - 24 February 2005
The preparations started and it was the first time seeing the preparations with their horses, exercises, caring, feeding, veterinary services, farriers and alternative methods. I started exercising with them and before long, I was one of the Pakistan jockeys, but was always approached and handled with great respect.
Agmed, who rode with me during the President's Cup, took good care of me, looked after me and we became good friends, even with the language barrier. I chose a good looking mare with a solid trot, out of the 80 horses that entered, I am very proud to announce that I ended 22nd in a time of 7:09. On my heels were two lady riders from Germany and France and I just decided, -you will not pass me!- The winning time on this 120 km ride was a frightening 23.6 km/h in a time of 5:04. Abdullah from our stables ended 3rd and the mare that I originally would have ridden, fell out. This was a huge challenge and achievement for me and I went home happy and contented.
I was the first foreign rider in these countries.
Leon Liversage and Trailrider sponsored the Quarter Sheets for the South African Team in Dubai.
This was a never-to-forget experience in our lives, to be part of such International teamwork, it would be such an advantage if ERASA could send some of our top riders to take part in these rides to also have the possibility to participate in these rides.
To Zulu and Sakkie, a very special thanks for your contributions at the President's Cup.
Mariaan is a Springbok Endurance Rider and her daughter, 14 year old Lindi recently became Junior Springbok.
Lindi won the Migdol Floating Trophy in 2004 for the neatest Child Rider.
In 2004 she won the Jozami Arab Floating Trophy for the best conditioned award for juniors.
In 2005 she won the Greenhills Toyota Floating Trophy on Pula for the best novice junior rider with an unregistered/unselected horse for the shortest time on the course.