This blogspot is a medium to share my thoughts and adventures apart from promoting my books. Below are the books which have been written or authored and published by myself.

"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Mencari Diri dan Erti".

ISBN 983-42031-0-1, Jun 2006

"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Membela Syiar yang Asal"

ISBN 983-42031-1-x, May 2007

"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Sirih Pulang ke Gagang?"

ISBN 978-983-42031-2-2, November 2007

It is interesting to note that while these books were written in Malay it has gained enough attention to merit being part of the collections of the American Library of Congress and National Library of Australia. Look here and here.

While the first three books were published by my own company, the fourth titled "Rumah Azan" was published in April 2009 by a company called Karnadya with the help of the Malaysian national literary body Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. It features beautiful pictures along with stories behind selected mosques which could be related to the history of Islam and the Malays alongside the formation of the Malaysian nation. Look at the article A collaboration of old collegemates - the book "Rumah Azan".

My fifth book "Ahlul Bait (Family) of Rasulullah SAW and Malay Sultanates", an English translation and adaptation of the Malay book "Ahlul Bait (Keluarga) Rasulullah SAW dan Kesultanan Melayu" authored by Hj Muzaffar Mohamad and Tun Suzana Othman was published early 2010. Look here... My 5th book is out! Ahlul Bait (Family) of Rasulullah SAW and the Malay Sultanates... . For more information check out my Malay blogspot CATATAN SI MERAH SILU.

Like my fourth book "Rumah Azan", the sixth book "Kereta Api Menuju Destinasi" is also a coffee-table book which is published by the company Karnadya with the cooperation of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (the main Malay literary body in Malaysia). Coming out January 2011 it features pictures and stories on the adventure travelling by train to all of Peninsular Malaysia along with the interesting places which could be reached this way.

My seventh book "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah" in turn is a coffee-table book which is written, editted, designed and has pictures taken by me. Coming out of the factory October 2011, this book which combines family history with history of places such as Singapura, Johor, Batu Pahat, Muar and in fact the history of the island of Java and England has been reviewed with me interviewed live in the program Selamat Pagi Malaysia at RTM1. Look at the article Siaran langsung ulasan buku "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah" dan temu ramah di Selamat Pagi Malaysia. Some selected contents have been featured in Sneak peek "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah".


The "Berpetualang ke Aceh" series of novels could be obtained in e-book form. Enter http://www.e-sentral.com/, click general novel and go to page 4. You can also type the word "Aceh" at the search box. Or click straight Book 1, Book 2 and Book 3.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Endurance 3

Hmm... Reading back old articles on endurance horse-riding did bring the smiles to my face. Come to think of it, I wrote it while the sport was still struggling in its infancy in Malaysia. Now, it has become quite popular to the extent that the latest Yang di Pertuan Agong of Malaysia (effectively the king of Malaysia but for a period of 5 years, chosen in rotation among the 9 state monarchs) was to become one of the riders at the Asian Games 2006 in Doha, Qatar. Unfortunately, the dates clashed with his own installment as the king on 13th December. Anyway, this is the last of a trilogy of endurance horse-riding articles... Enjoy it! :] 

Publication : NST 
Edition : 2* 
Date : 05/05/2001 
Page Number : 36 
Headline : Alamdin's love benefits the masses 
Words : 989 
Byline : By Radzi Sapiee 
Text : 

* TO know a person is to love a person. The same principle applies to sports and endurance racing is no exception. 

Some like 56-year-old Bukit Kiara boss Datuk Awang Kamaruddin Abdul Ghani was totally smitten, forsaking other riding disciplines he has known just to stay in the endurance scene. 

Polo, showjumping, dressage have no significance for him now, having tasted his first endurance race at the 1998 World championship in Dubai. He has spent his savings and uses his business acumen to get sponsorships to participate in international endurance races until 2006. 

Others like Putrajaya police mounted unit's Cpl Azhar Abu Bakar, the only Malaysian to finish the Dubai race, cannot afford to emulate Awang Kamaruddin but remained in the sport, albeit at the much lower local level. 

Endurance racing is still alien to most Malaysians but the few who have indulged in it are permanently hooked. And a recent event in Terachi, Negri Sembilan might just expose the sport, or at least simple horse-riding, to the rest of the population here. IF horse-riding is available only at exclusive clubs, then only a few Malaysians will be accessible to it, much less fall in love with the sport. 

Alamdin Abdullah was a project manager for the upcoming new federal capital Putrajaya when he rode a horse for the first time, through friends at the city's police mounted unit, the pioneer group who will make horse-riding patrols a standard when the whole area is fully developed. 

Most of the policemen there are strong cross-country riders. Some like the unit's head Sergeant Nasir Sahari had patrolled the length of the Thailand-Malaysia border on horseback and three were among the first Malaysians to participate in endurance racing, the 1998 World Championship in Dubai. 

They encouraged friends to take up riding at their place and their trails at Putrajaya soon became one of the locations for local races when the Malaysian Endurance Racing Society (MERS) started their 40 and 60km events last year. 

By then Alamdin who has completed his portion of Putrajaya has become a regular endurance rider and with his passion growing everyday, he decided to bring the sport closer to his home in Seremban. Thus came the Sea Games qualifying session held at Terachi last month, the first endurance race held in Negri Sembilan and the first in the peninsular outside of the usual confines of club grounds, plantations or project sites. 

The area was chosen for its elevated natural countryside and his son-in-law's hectare of `tanah pusaka', which belongs to the mother due to the State's matriachal Minangkabau rules, became the converging ground for the meet. 

But he is not a member of the governing circle of equestrian figures. Alamdin wanted to hold the event so bad that he pooled RM55,000 to cover the expenses including boarding for riders and bringing their horses in. Otherwise, they might not come and he would not get the numbers. And he must still get the right people to sanction the event and its results. 

Luckily, he had a valuable ally in the police' SM Shuhaimi Kamaruddin who is the Equestrian Association of Malaysia (EAM) endurance comittee chairman. 

"He pulled in the necessary people to make it a Sea Games qualifying event. There were some who want the event to fail as it is organised by an individual and I don't want this to happen," he said. 

Alamdin said the State Government were also excited about the project and he got the local assemblyman, District Office and the local police to help. 

"We even used temporary stables from the Police and tents and covers from the nearest Army camp. The best thing is, the project involved four kampungs as headmen and folks worked together to ensure smooth running," he said. 

A total of 28 riders came with an entourage which includes friends and family members who became their crew. Their job is to feed both riders and horses at rendezvous points along a 22km loop passing through padi fields, secondary jungle and rustic traditional villages. 

For the first time ever, the folks there got to mingle with riders and see some horses up close, reminding this scribe of the scene in Europe where equestrian is a way of life and endurance racing a carnival for all. The atmosphere was so alive that many riders declared this as the best endurance race they have ever been in. 

For this writer, this is the first ride here to really involve ordinary folks, just like when I tagged along with Datuk Awang Kamaruddin Abdul Ghani when he competed in the FEI 2x100km race in Montcuq, France last November. Then, more than 100 international riders competed and each took at least one car of crew - family and friends, even babies and dogs along - while some came with up to five cars following nearby, as we passed through many towns which housed the veterinarian check points, making it a merry event indeed. 

Terachi was more down-scale with only one place serving as the vet check but the whiff of Montcuq is there and this could pave the way for a full-scale FEI meet just like in Europe, Australia of America. 

Alamdin when suggested this said, he would try to get the State Government in. He said they are interested in having an annual event there and I suggested a meet of at least 105km in one big loop starting next year, involving more districts. 

By then we should have a substantial number of qualified South-East Asians due to the Sea Games and we could get Awang Kamaruddin to bring some international riders to join. The sport is so down to earth that it would not only create tourism opportunities as riders make their way down the countryside but also get more Malaysians to take up horse-riding.

radzisapiee@nstp.com.my (END)

Endurance 2

Continuation from the endurance horse-riding article before... 

Publication : NST 
Edition : 2* 
Date : 04/05/2001 
Page Number : 36 
Headline : Endurance is no walk in the park 
Words : 1000 
Byline : By Radzi Sapiee 
Text : 

NOBODY laughed when Azhar Abu Bakar took nearly 20 hours to finish the 160km 1998 World Endurance championship in Dubai. If anything, many were amazed. He might have finished last among 78 riders but there were more than 80 other riders who didn't even last the distance. 

In fact, Azhar created history when he became the first Malaysian to finish an FEI (International Equestrian Federation) race, a Category A meet and a world championship to boot. He was also the only Malaysian to finish then. 

Earlier, the field were amused when Azhar and four other Malaysian riders, our first representatives in the sport, came to Dubai with criollos, Argentinian-bred horses which they said is only good for field work. 

"Even the Argentinians laughed at us. Everyone was using Arab-breds and even then they know it's hard to finish. So we were the butts of their jokes," recalled Datuk Awang Kamaruddin Abdul Ghani, who also competed in the meet. 

So why the fuss over Arabian horses? For one, it is a very beautiful creature admired by horse-lovers. But the real advantage is the breed has the strength and stamina to last the distance, along with a good recovery rate. 

Pushing a tired horse to go the distance is a taboo in equestrian as this is considered as cruelty to an animal. Horses have been known to die from dehydration and such and thus veterinarian checks are conducted in stages over a race. 

Checks are also conducted before a race starts as a horse might be sick overnight. At the later stages, including the finish line, horses found limping or whose heartbeats exceed certain rates (normally 64 beats per minute and horses have to be submitted for a check within 30 minutes of arrival at designated gates) will be disqualified along with the riders.

The same goes for dehydrated animals. Riders with fit horses can submit their animals earlier and start the next stage sooner. A winner is the person who completes a whole course in the shortest riding time (vet check-time subtracted) without failing the checks, meaning the first rider to arrive might not necessarily win. 

For example, this writer was in Montcuq, France last year to accompany Awang Kamaruddin who participated in the two-day 2x100km championship there and saw the then reigning champion, Tareq Tahir, disqualified over a silly mistake. The frontrunner thought his horse was in the clear when he personally checked the heartbeat rate at 50 per minute. However, the rate shot to 70 when he checked the horse in, all because, believe it or not, the horse got excited when the crowd cheered! 

That is why Azhar's finish in Dubai was a big feat. And that is also a reason the Malaysian Endurance Racing Society (MERS) were created at the end of 1999. Previously, there were efforts to get Malaysians to do 100km races here immediately but this had mostly ended up with sick horses. 

As FEI rules apply for races 90km and above, MERS introduced their own and started having 40km and 60km rides. Their secretary, Rosli Dahlan, said they called it rides to discourage inexperienced riders from being overzealous. 

"If it's called races, they might push and kill their horses," he said. 

Under MERS rules, both rider and horse must finish a 40km ride twice to qualify for 60km.

They must do the same to qualify for 80km and so on. MERS started conducting the rides last year but had to abort 80km rides due to lack of qualified participants. 

But they have pushed for endurance riding to be introduced in the coming Sea Games in Kuala Lumpur and that will cover 105km, equivalent to an FEI Category B event. So they must start a series of 80km qualifiers soon. 

Their first 80km event was run in Sungai Buloh a month ago although there was only one rider. Luckily, the 40km and 60km rides have more than 20 riders. The qualifiers only increased in number when nine riders competed in the second 80km event at Terachi, Negri Sembilan in March where six finished, the most so far in the peninsula. 

But its real significance is the fact that the event is the first ride here conducted in a real countryside. Unlike previous rides held on club grounds or plantations, ordinary folks, including villagers from the affected kampungs, were involved from the start while others came by the droves. 

Some, seeing a horse race for the first time, were perplexed when they saw the riders going through what looked like a walk in the park. 

"This is a race, isn't it. Aren't the horses supposed to gallop?," one asked. 

Well, we've already explained it. At least we know they are interested. 

If they know they could get a horse for as cheap as RM500, a fact no one would mention in the proud circle of riding clubs who pride themselves in showjumping and dressage, they might also want to give endurance a try. 

This is the real milestone that Terachi event has brought and we'll explore this further in the next article. 

NEXT: Riding is for everyone (END)

Endurance 1

One of the main reasons I started this blogspot was to start an English adaptation of the Malay historical and adventure novel "Berpetualang ke Aceh: Mencari Diri dan Erti" (literally translated as "The adventurous trip to Aceh: To find self and meaning"). The idea is by translating/adapting bits and pieces from the novel whenever time allows and whenever I feel like it, I will have enough material to publish an English version, God willing. The problem is I'm also too preoccupied wih other things. It's been a while since I did an adaptation from any part of the novel, the last one was in The Tale of Keramat Kuala Bidor 3 – And so the story goes…. But I need to get this blogspot updated, so let me take the lazy way out by presenting some of the articles done while being a journalist at The New Straits Times (again?). It happens there's a series of articles on endurance horse-riding begging to be re-displayed so here goes... 

Publication : NST 
Edition : 2* 
Date : 02/05/2001 
Page Number : 38 
Headline : Endurance riding should come easy for the common folk 
Words : 650 
Byline : By Radzi Sapiee 
Text : 

FOR most Malaysians, owning a horse is a luxury almost like owning a Ferrari. Equestrian is viewed as a privilege of high-society and when people think of horse-riding, they tend to think of Royalties playing polo or proud well-dressed gentry manoeuvring horses over bars in showjumping or daintily putting it through small paces for dressage. 

But in countries like the United States, Australia and Europe, equestrian is a way of life as a horse is just another farm animal like a cow or a goat. Except that they are much more enjoyable, rideable and respond better to human call. 

Thus endurance riding, basically riding a horse over a distance, comes naturally to the commonfolk rather than polo, showjumping or dressage. 

Malaysia, too, have an equestrian culture in parts of Kelantan where farmers still breed horses from the old days of the Pattani kingdom (now part of Thailand) and Sabah, famous for their traditional Bajau horsemen. But they have mostly ponies and are confined to their groups. 

The modern history of endurance racing started when a Wendell T. Robie set up the 160km Tevis Cup in America in 1955. He wanted a sport which `involved rapport with one's horse, companionship on a trail and the opportunity to share the incomparable scenery of my home territory', referring to his native countryside near Lake Tahoe. It was a huge success and more races followed in America. Australia embraced the sport in the 60s and Britain and the rest of Europe followed by the 70s. 

Soon the Arab countries followed suit. Arab-bred horses became the only type used for endurance racing, due to their strength and fitness, and it is only natural for countries like United Arab Emirates (UAE) to subsequently become huge promoters. 

In 1998, they invited countries affiliated to the FEI (world equestrian body) to compete in the World Endurance championship which they hosted in Dubai. They even paid for boarding and flight for those who qualified. 

Malaysia were invited and five locals - Datuk Awang Kamaruddin Abdul Ghani, Dr Nik Ishak Wan Abdullah and Police mounted unit's Azhar Abu Bakar, Sharaf Ibrahim and Zulkefli Sudin - were selected. 

Equestrian Association of Malaysia (EAM) endurance committee chairman SM Shuhaimi Shamsuddin said several riders went through the selection process held over increasing distances to qualify under FEI rules. 

"This resulted in the five completing a 120km course near Bangi. We were the first Malaysians to get involved with the sport," he said. 

Bear in mind that an endurance race is not very straightforward. Not only is it gruelling, there are veterinarian checks held at stages where horses which failed to meet certain fitness conditions are disqualified with the riders. More than 30 countries sent five riders each to Dubai. After the initial vet check, 162 riders were allowed to compete in the World championship. 

Malaysia became the butt of their jokes when our riders arrived with Criollos, Argentinian-bred horses said to be good only for farm work, but managed to silence the critics when Azhar became one of the 77 finishers. 

Whatever, the seed for endurance racing in Malaysia has been planted. A year later, Sabah set up their own endurance body and started their own short distance races and by 2000, they have conducted 80km races, equivalent to the pinnacle of junior championships on the world calendar. 

The Malaysian Endurance Racing Society (MERS) were formed later that year. Shuhaimi said MERS came into being to allow ordinary folks to participate. Otherwise, one must go through EAM and only those who are affiliated with riding clubs (read: with money or support) can join the association. Thus starts a chapter in the Malaysian equestrian history and this would soon culminate in an event that could well do what polo, showjumping and dressage have failed - to bring the field to the masses. 

* NEXT: Creating an equestrian culture in Malaysia (END)