Monday, June 16, 2008

2008 Dackeritten: Pre-Ride

Friday June 13 2008

The Dackeritten ride takes place near Växjö, Sweden, and don't even ask me to try to spell that out phonetically. I asked how to pronounce it, many times, and I worked on it all weekend. I got lots of giggles and lots of help... but I don't think I ever got it right. Suffice it to say, only the "V" makes a "V" sound. The rest - you're on your own.

There's a lot of history here - from the vikings who left an old grave marker in a field near Yvonne's house, to Dackeritten - a rebel back in the 1500's who wanted this part of Sweden to remain Danish, and who got chopped to pieces for it, to the farming Swedish who fell on hard times in the early 1900's and moved in droves to Minnesota.

Yvonne and Michael live on such an old homestead, with fields full of 2 dozen horses, a new house built by Michael (still in progress), a couple of older houses that they rent out - the dark red color I came to see as typical of Sweden - and a barn. Yvonne's father raced trotters - a popular sport here in Sweden - and there's a week-old trotter foal in the front pasture, with the longest spider legs I've ever seen on a baby. And you couldn't miss the very pregnant gray Arabian mare in the same pasture that was due to pop any day.

Yvonne and Michael's Stall Peak Enterprise on their Rävagård Farm breeds and trains Arabians for international endurance racing. Stall Peak was established in 1995, and has won 11 medals over the years in the Swedish, Nordic-Baltic, and World championships. Yvonne rode her first endurance race in 1993, after beginning riding as a child, and competing in show jumping and trotting races for ponies.

Hanging from a doorway in the house is a cluster of 14 of Yvonne's endurance medals. "When I reach 20, I will quit." "Quit? No more riding!?" "Yes!" "Why?" She shrugged. I wasn't sure she was serious. Once you start endurance riding, can you ever really quit? She's most proud of the bronze Swedish team medal from Compiegne in 2000. She'll be riding her mare Karmenzita on the 160 km ride Saturday. They were 2nd in last year's Swedish championship.

One person Yvonne will be trying to beat is Ingrid Boström. Ingrid's been Swedish champion a number of times, and she sometimes serves as coach for the senior Swedish riders. From near Stockholm (a 6 hour drive with a trailer), she has 7 horses; she prefers younger ones around 4-5 that she can start. Her mount, the 7 year old gelding Kurir, is doing his first 160 km. He's certainly impressive looking - tall (16.2 hands at least) and strong. He should be fit; he's done 3 120's. Her husband Matts is along to crew.

Ingrid started riding endurance in 1986. She has no interest in going to the Malaysia World Endurance Championship in November, for a number of reasons. "It's too hard on a horse, and takes too much time - I have 6 other horses at home - and maybe you can't even bring your horse back, with the quarantine restrictions." Plus it's too expensive, and the Swedish federation doesn't pay their riders' expenses. Instead, she's looking ahead to Assisi next year (where rumors are the 2009 European Championships might be held).

I asked Ingrid what she thought about the world record time for the 160 km in Dubai this winter. "It's different there. In Dubai you have a flat, perfect track, not a stone. Everything is perfect, from the vet gate, to the distance you have to walk anywhere, to the card swipe system - it's all made to go fast. You can't compare it to a ride in Sweden, or to most places." The ride here may average 15 km/h, but not over 20 - it's not that kind of course.

Sweden has 200-300 endurance riders, and zero to three 160 km rides a year. If Swedish riders want to do more 160 km rides, they have to travel to Denmark, Finland, Norway, or Poland... and there aren't that many there either. Nothing is a short distance from Scandinavia.

This is the 6th time the Dackeritten ride has been put on, but the first time for a 160 km, and the Swedish Championships. In addition, there would be a 120 km for seniors and a 120 km for Juniors and Young Riders (young rider team coach Eva Borg would be watching this ride closely, seeing which riders qualify to be selected for the Junior Endurance Championship in Spain in September), a 120 km for seniors, and 80 km, and a 50 km. There are riders from Sweden, Norway, 2 from Finland, and 1 from Denmark.

Team Thomsen came from Denmark to crew for their sister Maja on the YR 120 km, and to help Yvonne. Maja would be riding Yvonne's Polish Arabian stallion, Wierusz.

When you see Team Thomsen - a family affair with father, brother, and sisters - you immediately see people who enjoy what they are doing. Joining them is Alam Dar Dastani, who matches their enthusiasm, and brings boundless optimism with him. Alam's background is in show jumping, in which he won a gold medal in India. His uncle is master farrier Mustafa, and through him, he not only learned much of his shoeing skills, but he got a job in Dubai working for Shaikh Mohammed's stables for several years. The Thomsens train and ride endurance horses, and, pooling their experiences in international competition and training and shoeing, they give endurance seminars in the Scandinavian countries. The brother and sisters and Alam may be young, but with endurance as their passion and with their inexhaustible drive and attitude, you just feel any goal is attainable that they put their minds to.

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