Friday, November 24, 2006

Shaikha Madiya Leading the way

Young Shaikha Madiya bint Hasher Al Maktoum has many achievements to her credit. She proudly wears the mantle of the rich sports legacy of the ruling Maktoum family, is an accomplished horse rider and a fitness enthusiast as well. She speaks to Sue Steven in an exclusive interview.

Shaikha Madiya bint Hasher Al Maktoum, the niece of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is at ease in the place she loves most ? the Maktoum stable, located 37 kilometres from Dubai. Not forgetting her roots, she has a very modern outlook to life and is at ease talking to Weekend. A very down-to-earth person, she is comfortable wearing blue jeans, a white full sleeve shirt with the colours of the UAE flag on one of the sleeves and a cap with 77, her lucky number, embroidered on it. She sits on a wooden bench outside one of the buildings with her two dogs, Lily and Stinky who keep a close watch on her.

Shaikha Madiya is a very strong advocate of fitness and exercise. She has endorsed The Middle East Fitness Summit ? MEFIT06, scheduled to take place in Hall 4 at the Dubai World Trade Centre from November 27-29. The summit is part of Sportex, the largest sports, fitness and leisure show in the Middle East.

?Women have to make fitness a part of their daily routine. There is a dire need for education in health and fitness. I feel the Fitness Summit is a very relevant initiative to address a lot of topics, concerns and myths associated with health and fitness,? she says, as she urges women in the UAE to be conscious of their physical well-being.

?RPM and Bodycombat are my favourites,? the Shaikha adds without hesitation.

RPM, part of the Les Mills programme, is the indoor cycling workout where you ride to the rhythm of powerful music. You take on the terrain with an inspiring coach who leads the team through hills, flats, mountain peaks, time trials, and interval training. ?You can discover your athlete within ? sweat and burn to reach your endorphin high. You can cycle for 45 minutes or 60 minutes,? she says.

Bodycombat, on the other hand, is the empowering cardio workout where you are totally unleashed. This fiercely energetic programme is inspired by martial arts and draws from a wide array of disciplines such as karate, boxing, taekwondo, tai chi and muay thai. Supported by driving music and powerful role model instructors, you can strike, punch, kick and kata your way through calories to superior cardio fitness.

Shaikha Madiya practises what she preaches. She herself is very particular about her fitness routine on a daily basis especially running and jogging. She is up at 4.30am in the morning and by 5.30am is training her horses. In the afternoon, at 2.30pm, she again takes them out and trains them for endurance.

The Shaikha does not hide her passion for horses. She is very vocal about it. ?Initially my family was worried that I would get hurt while riding. So I started being involved in this sport only after I completed 16 years. I learnt at my uncle?s stable. He supports me and helped me train for endurance.?

She speaks out of experience: ?If you are a horse person you will know the language of the horses. You can talk to them and play with them. You have to change their mind to endure the sport. If they hate what they are doing, they will not do it well.?
She welcomes national women to participate in the sport. ?My stables are open to national women who would like to pursue the sport, ride and learn,? she says.

Horse breaking, sometimes called starting or gentling, refers to the process used by humans to get horses to let themselves be ridden or harnessed. Before such a learning process is accomplished, a horse will normally reject attempts to ride it. Once it has accepted basic handling by humans, additional forms of training can be used to teach the horse any number of specialised skills.

Presently Shaikha Madiya has 49 horses in her stable that were brought from the US. ?They have to get used to the ground and to the heat. It is a slow, step-by-step process,? she adds.

How long does it take to train a horse? She says, ?Every horse is different and so the time of training also differs. Some horses even get injured during training. You have to win them over and by two years break them, which means put the saddle and bridle on them. They learn to have human contact as the rider sits on it. Endurance training takes place after the horse completes five years.?

While training horses, the trainer is learning as well. Shaikha Madiya has firsthand experience of taking care of her horses. ?Experience is invaluable. Every time you ride, you learn something new from the horse. It has been 10 years since I started, and I am still learning,? she admits, frankly.


Shaikha Madiya could be compared to a horse whisperer, a horse trainer who adopts a sympathetic view of the motives, needs, and desires of the horse. She admits that she loves the challenge to rehabilitate horses that have become vicious and difficult.

?I love crazy horses as you have to fix them. I take the horses to different race courses like Nae Al Sheba. They enjoy the experience. She uses GPRS that specifies the location and even has an instrument to monitor her heart rate.

How is endurance racing different in the UAE? In the UAE, it is speed that matters, the Shaikha says. The ground is just flat, not hard. In the US, the ground is hard, so one can?t go fast. If you do, you get hurt. In the US, each race is different as the terrain is different like mountains, hills and flat areas.

She advises national women to join some kind of sport. ?If not every day, find time for at least three times a week for physical activity. It is good for your body and mind.?

Shaikha Madiya hails from a family of six children, four girls and two boys. Her sister is in the volleyball team of Al Wasl while her brother loves shooting. ?I love challenges, horses, fitness, everything,? she says.

In future, she would like to be a fitness instructor and help other local women. She strongly believes that a healthy body will have a healthy mind and raising awareness about nutrition is paramount. ?I teach my niece to eat in a healthy way. As a result, she refuses junk food now,? Shaikha Madiya says with pride.
When asked where she gets her energy from, she says that she sleeps early and gets up early. Shaikha Madiya strongly believes in the ?early to bed, early to rise philosophy,? that supports her fitness initiatives.

Khaleej Times Article

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