Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sheik masterminds brumby 'super breed'

June 18, 2008 01:53am

AN oil sheik billionaire has started flying wild mares and stallions from remote WA to Dubai to create a "super breed of endurance racehorse.

Thirteen of the animals have arrived at plush stables in the United Arab Emirates from Lake Gregory, south of Halls Creek in the Kimberley, Peth Now reports.

The deputy ruler of Dubai, Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, sent his personal Australian veterinarian Alan Post to hand-pick them for breeding and racing.

He was alerted to their plight by a website run by Broome woman Libby Lovegrove.

Mr Post said the horses, previously regarded as pests and sold for pet food at $20 a head, could spark a stampede of orders from other cashed-up Gulf stables if they did well.

"The boss hasn't seen this lot yet (from Australia) because he's away, but if he likes them he will send us back for more,'' Mr Post told The Sunday Times from Dubai.

They will initially be used for the popular sport of endurance racing, covering distances of between 120km to 160km.

"They are thoroughbred types with a dash of Arab with good strong hearts, something which is probably genetic and passed on from original bloodlines,'' Mr Post said.

"We will start racing them this year and when the females are retired, we will start a breeding program.''

He said the sport was "massive'' in Dubai because sheiks could compete.

"They don't have to be expert riders or be the weights of jockeys,'' he said.

"It's something they can do themselves and their children can do as part of something they are passionate about.''

The tycoon owns thousands of horses and spends much of his time in England for big-ticket racing events.

Ms Lovegrove, an ardent animal rights campaigner, said it was a potential breakthrough after three years of hard work.

"This is wonderful news that could guarantee the future of the horses and provide a form of revenue for the three Aboriginal communities around Lake Gregory,'' she said.

"Hopefully, if the sheik is happy with them he'll take more and thus prove the value of these horses.''

Ms Lovegrove started her website after visiting the area with Margaret River equine veterinarian Sheila Greenwell.

Her research has indicated that many of the horses are descendants of thoroughbred Arab horses, taken to the Balgo and Kalumburu missions by priests looking to breed and sell them in the 1930s.

Some were used as stock horses on cattle stations, but were released into the wild when replaced by motorcycles and helicopters.

"Today, these beautiful horses (palominos, buckskins, chestnuts and paints) roam the wild gorges, rainforests and parklands of the northern Kimberley,'' Ms Lovegrove said.

The Paruku (Lake Gregory) indigenous protected area is a wetland of national and international importance, covering about 270,000ha in the northern Great Sandy Desert.

Full Article at news.com.au

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