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[RC] HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup- part 1 - Steph Teeter

As usual, I'll try to sum up my experiences and observations of this event. My reason for being here was to continue the story of the Malaysian effort... and that was my focus. But this event was so huge, that it deserves comment too.

Everything about this event was the 'mostest' - best, biggest, fastest, fanciest, richest... consistent with everything that is associated with HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. As ruler of Dubai, Shk. Mohamed has been instrumental in turning Dubai into a wonderland of technology, industry, tourism, commercialism, sports center... on and on. Currently under construction in the city center are the 'world's tallest building' and the 'world's biggest shopping center'. Shk. Mohamed has also had a profound effect on the sport of Endurance, fueling the growth of the sport in the UAE and also abroad. His drive to make Endurance a prestigious International sport - worthy of Olympic venue has resulted in an astonishing investment in horses, training stables and venues (Emirates International Endurance City) in addition to sponsorships of events and fueling the Endurance industry around the world. And an ultra 'most' rapid growth of the sport at the International - FEI - level.

This rapid growth - along with the creation of an Endurance horse industry which in some ways resembles the industry of flat track racing - has left many people trying to find their place in the sport, or trying to distance themselves from it. Riders who grew up with the 100 Mile Tevis Cup, the Florac, the traditional tests of Endurance which were as much about challenging terrain as they were about horse racing, are not associating themselves from this new sport of Endurance Racing. Riders who love a good challenge on horseback but don't have the desire to push the physical and mental limits of their horses - these people are finding that theirs is not the same sport. But in the purest definition of Endurance - as a timed event, it is a horse race. And countries such as UAE, with the means and the drive to be the best, are doing the obvious thing - doing whatever it takes to become the best. And in this sport best means fastest. And to have the fastest horses, one has to have the best genetics, the best training, the best nutrition and care - the best program. And as an industry, the horse's performance is the bottom line.

A speed record was set at the Al Maktoum cup - 6:28:28 by the horse Charlandre El Sharif. Genetic freak of nature, such as Secretariat? Or simply a continuation of the process of perfecting selection, training, and competing? Hard to say, I can't image that a horse could ever go faster than that... but we were saying that a few years ago about sub 8 hour 100's. It seems that a 30% completion rate has become the acceptable norm here. The vetting is very very strict - the vet commission does not let anything questionable go back out on the track - this is for real - and it's a good thing that they are so strict in these races. But still - the fact that there are so many horses that simply can't do it, somewhat indicates to me that this is not a sustainable sport in it's current trajectory... hmmm. Many great and well funded minds are trying to figure out how to make this an acceptable Olympic level sport. It will be very interesting to see what the next ten years brings!

next - Malaysia - a taste of success on the trail!

Steph




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