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Gulf News Article: Abu Dhabi: Al Hammadi creates history riding Sharqi in Special Ride - Feb 14 2008

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First Special Needs Willpower Horse Race




We just got back from the most incredible Endurance 'ride' I've ever seen. Under the patronage of HH Shk Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (he's mostly responsible for Al Wathba stables and the Emirates International Endurance Village in Abu Dhabi) the first Endurance Ride for 'Special Needs' people was held.

The distance was 5 kilometers - they left the starting gate at the EIEV where the Presidents Cup riders start - went 2.5 kilometers up the track, and turned around and came back. It was incredible!! Those priceless horses (mostly retired Endurance horses) trotting, a few at a slow canter as they ran up the track, somehow horses know when there are 'innocent' souls on their back. There was one problem with a rider keeping his seat, his crew helped him off as he started slipping and his horse ran off - but there were plenty of people on hand to help him, no one was in danger - it was extremely well monitored, and as they got closer to the finish the front runners really started grinning and the horses picked up a speed, much to the dismay of the coaches and crews - they were calling from the trucks to slow down... but to no avail!- such grins they had when they crossed the finish line.

Shk Monsour walked across the finish line with the last place rider, a young girl. Very sweet, very moving. It really lifted my spirits and touched my heart - how could anyone resist the the smiles and hugs and simple grins! There are some things about these people - this culture - that I absolutely love. They are very family oriented and take good care of each other. Extended families live together in the same house for the most part.

Shk. Monsour awarded trophies to the first finishers and medalions to all the participants, it was a 'to finish is to win' event.

Steph