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Al Ahram Al Arabi International Endurance Ride - Egypt

Nashwa Abdel-Tawab, a reporter for the Al-Ahram Weekly, asked me to forward
this article on the recent ride in Egypt. Here it is:


In brief
Event: Egypt’s Al-Ahram Al-Arabi international endurance horse race
Date: 21st April 2001
Place: Egypt's desert overlooking the puramids of Giza, Dahshour and Sakkara
Distance: 100km during the day from dawn till before dask
Participants: 95 riders representing Egypt, UAE, Kuwait, Jordon, Syria,
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and someforeigners living in Egypt from Australia,
England, USA, France and Germany.

Gulf sweep

It was a one, two, three finish for the UAE in the Al-Ahram endurance horse
race. Nashwa Abdel-Tawab reports on the triple victory.

The riders’ motto is “To Finish is to Win.” So tough is Egypt’s Al-Ahram
Al-Arabi international endurance horse race that just completing it is a
success in itself. But Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister Sheikh
Mohamed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum went one step further when he won this year’s
gruelling 100-kilometre desert event, successfully defending his title in
the process.
Riding on Fay, Sheikh Mohamed won the course in 5:46:43 hours, averaging a
speed of 18 kilometres per hour. Sheikh Hazza’ bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the son
of the UAE president, came second, followed by Sheikh Rashed bin Mohamed bin
Rashid Al-Maktoum for a clean sweep by the Emirates.
While he is an accomplished horseman and has entered many major endurance
races worldwide, Sheikh Mohamed is better known as one of the world’s
leading racehorse owner-breeders with stables in Britain, France and the
United States. “I did not compete for the prize,” he said, referring to the
LE1 million total purse. “I came here to compete and have a good race.”
His explanation for the UAE’s dominance in the sport: “We look after the
horses well. Since the early 1970’s we have been improving their breeding.
Today we have our own pure Arabian and thoroughbreds.” An Arabian, Sheikh
Mohamed said, will take care of its owner as no other horse can, for it has
not only been raised to physical perfection, but has been instilled with a
spirit of loyalty unparalleled by that of any other breed. “So we, in turn,
take care of it.”
Abdel-Fattah Ragab, President of Egypt's Equestrian Federation, commented on
the poor performances of the Egyptian horses saying, "It's a new sport in
Egypt and both riders and grooms need at least four years training to reach
a competitive level in such races."
The event, the second in Egypt to be governed by international rules, began
Saturday at dawn in Sakkara, outside Cairo. The 95 riders looped around a
hilly course overlooking the pyramids of Giza, Dahshour and Sakkara.
Contestants from Egypt, the UAE, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, France and the
United States were judged on the condition of their horses as well as the
time they took. “This is a new type of sport in Egypt, so I came to
encourage and support Egyptian riders,” said Sheikh Mohamed.
The race is aired from dawn to dask on several Arab Satellite channels,
featuring the contestants race in the desert and many photographers in 4x4
cars were following them.
The 100-kilometre race is divided into four stages. The first is 36
kilometres long followed by a 30-minute break; the second is 30 kilometres
with a 40-minute rest period; the third is 20 kilometres after which follows
50 minutes of rest; the last phase is a 14-kilometre stretch. A final vet
check-up is then conducted.
Mandatory checks by veterinarians are conducted on the horses every 30
minutes on blood pressure, dehydration symptoms and injuries. If a horse is
judged to be unsound or physically unfit, for its own sake the animal is
taken out of the race.
The horses ran in temperatures reaching 35 degrees centigrade and could
quench their thirst at watering stations every five kilometres. “We vetted
around 160 horses the day before the race and several were disqualified for
being either under six years old or for health reasons,” said Bobby
Surendra, of the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation and one of the race’s
main veterinarians. “During the race, out of 95 horses, 14 were eliminated.
Most of them came up lame. Most of them were Egyptian,” Surendra said.
“There was very good organisation,” said Sheikh Hazza’, who rode Morocado.
“From the availability of water to referees to resting stations to the
Endurance riding is defined as an athletic event with the same horse and
rider covering a measured course within a specified maximum time. Although
the rides are technically races, many, if not most, riders participate to
complete it rather than place. To them, the satisfaction of completing 100
kilometres of tough terrain on a horse is reward enough.
Sheikh Mohamed hopes the endurance race will become a medal sport in the
2008 Olympics. “I’m doing my best to make it a spectator sport in Athens in
2004.” Abdel-Fattah Ragab assured Egypt's support for Sheikh Mohamed's
trials to make the endurance an olympic sport.

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