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Fortune fails to shine on Kiwi endurance team

September 27, 2010

New Zealand endurance riders and supporters felt the full gambit of emotions today at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

NZ endurance chef d'equipe Madonna Harris (right) helps Debby Worsfold (middle) and Jenny Chandler before the start of their ride.

Alison Higgins (left) and Jenny Chandler out on the track.

Endurance groom Phillip Higgins with Twynham El Omar at a vet inspection.

Braden Cameron with Bradley McGregor at the vet inspection.

Kerry Armstrong trots up Lace and Fineness.

Nelson's Alison Higgins rode the last two loops of the 160km race with a suspected broken thumb after her horse Twynham El Omar bit her when she tried to move his food bowl during a break.

She was well on target for at least a top 20 individual finish, but the bite meant she missed her scheduled start by about half an hour and was forced to ride much of the rest of the race one handed.

But she still managed to work her way up through the 108-strong field from 60th in the first loop, to 51st, 41st, 33rd and finally 26th in the final lap.

New Zealand's team hopes were dashed early when Bradley McGregor ridden by Debby Worsfold (Rangiroa) was vetted out after the first loop. It was heartbreaking for all, but within 10 minutes, the 25-year-old was helping her team-mates prepare for their races.

Worsfold said her horse had stumbled slightly on uneven ground around 10km from home but had continued quite happily. The stringent vet checking picked up a fetlock injury and her first world games were all over after just 32.5km.

From then on it became an individual affair for Higgins and Jenny Chandler (Te Awamutu) on Lace and Fineness.

The weather was almost perfect, with the heat of the previous days gone and a kind breeze blowing keeping temperatures down.

Higgins looked to be the Kiwi's best hope but the bite nearly put paid to her even finishing the race. But she said it was still a dream come true to compete at the games. She paid tribute to her horse and support crew, whose job it is to get the horse cooled off between the six loops, his heart rate below 64.

"If I hadn't let my guard down, we would have done a whole lot better - I was on a mission well and truly," says Higgins, who completed the race in 9 hours, 20 minutes and 46 seconds.

Chandler was also chasing her dream, but it was not to be. Despite completing the 160km she was vetted out at the final gate.

Endurance chef d'equipe Madonna Harris said she was very pleased with Higgins's performance. She also credited the vet and crews with hard work and dedication in looking after the horses so well.

The race was won by the current world champion Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton (Spain) on her plucky little horse Nobby, with Sheik Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum (UAE) second on Ciel Oriental, and his son Sheik Hamdan bin Mohammad Al Maktoum (UAE) third on Sas Alexis.

The winning time was 7 hours, 35 minutes and 44 seconds, with the second placed rider on 7 hours, 36 minutes and 39 seconds.

There were more than 50 combinations eliminated or withdrawn from the race as either the vets ruled them unable to continue, or the riders made the decision to call it quits.

From left, Jenny Chandler, Alison Higgins and Debby Worsfold coming in at the end of the first loop.



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