From the steaming jungles of Malaysia to the scenic fields of Normandy, Meg Sleeper has competed in four endurance world championships. She plans to make it five next month in Slovakia, riding along the Danube river under what likely will be optimum conditions to complete the race.
The Kingwood Township resident needs help to do it, however. That’s understandable when you learn that the initial estimate for shipping her horse, Shyrocco Rimbaud, was $22,000 round-trip for a variety of reasons. The horse will fly into Frankfurt, Germany, and then have a 10-hour van ride to get to his destination.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation is giving her a $10,000 grant to be used as she wishes, but expenses are many. A friend, Robin Farrington, set up a GoFundMe account in Meg’s name, but it’s less than halfway to the $18,800 goal. (click on https://www.gofundme.com/megsleeperenduranc to read more about Meg and make a pledge).
It is rarely easy to go to a world championship (held every two years) for those in this non-Olympic FEI sport, because a large crew is required by each competitor. Meg will have four people to help her.
The race originally was supposed to be in Dubai, and expenses for that would have been covered by the organizer, Meg said, but horse welfare issues prompted the FEI to change venues. Slovakia (where the lavish Samorin equestrian center is a contender to host the 2018 World Equestrian Games) didn’t get the nod to hold the championships until June, which left little time for fundraising.
Although Meg was originally part of the U.S. team, one of the three horses selected had to drop out, so she and Thomas Hagis of Virginia will compete as individuals.
The championships are usually a financial struggle (and of course, there’s tons of work to condition and qualify a horse), yet the highly regarded University of Florida veterinary cardiologist has no thought of giving up on her opportunities to compete at the top of the endurance game.
“I just love the sport. I love seeing the different trails and meeting new people and also some of the people I see just at these events,” said Meg.
Discussing the Slovakia location, 90 minutes by car from Vienna, she said, “I’m really excited about it. It will be an adventure.” But less of one, happily, than riding through that rain forest.
It’s a family effort. She rides homebreds and her husband, Dave Augustine, works as the shoer and a crew member. (He’ll be accompanying the horse on the plane as a groom.)
Her mark of seven hours, 49 minutes for 100 miles, set four years ago during the London world championships (where she was 11th) is the fastest off-continent time recorded for a U.S. horse. Meg’s mount for that event was Reveille, who sustained a fracture more than seven months ago and is still in rehab.
It seems unlikely Reveille will compete again, but she will be represented by Rimbaud, her Anglo-Arab half-brother out of a thoroughbred mare, Poetic Pride, a Northern Dancer granddaughter. Reveille’s half-sister, Shyrocco Rabia, who is also by Rimmon, will be ridden in the championships by Fernando Paiz, representing Guatemala.
Of the fundraising effort, Meg noted, “It’s really emotional for me. I feel really awkward asking for financial assistance. Some of the responses have been really emotional for me. I’ve had clients from years ago contacting me.
“It’s been a really interesting voyage. I feel like I’m going to have all these people with me in my pocket as I’m riding, because the support has been really incredible. I’m hoping we can do well because I really feel like I need to do that for everybody.”