Saturday, December 25, 2004

New Zealand - Equestrian: Desert raiders


There was a movie this year, Hidalgo, which told the story of a man and his horse competing in the centuries-old long-distance horse race, the Ocean of Fire, an epic contest across burning Arabian sands in 1890 with both horses and riders at risk. This was a 3000-mile survival race for a prize of riches.

Now cut to present-day Owhango, near Taumaranui, a 20-year-old farmer, Mark Tylee, and his horse Jamahl. Like Hidalgo's supposed true-life hero, Frank T. Hopkins (played by Viggo Mortensen of The Lord of the Rings fame), Tylee is an accomplished rider.

He speaks with the simplicity and sincerity of a New Zealand farmer - not unlike the "howdy all, don't hurt my horse" style of the iron-jawed Hopkins in the movie. And Tylee and Jamahl will take on the world's best as part of a New Zealand endurance riding team in a gruelling world championship in the heat of the United Arab Emirates deserts on January 27.

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