Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bahrain: Isa gets new wheels with endurance win

December 10 2009

Bahrain Royal Equestrian and Endurance Federation (Breef) conducted the Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa Endurance Ride Championships - the third of the season - for local stables.

Cash prizes coupled with an even bigger incentive of a Toyota Land Cruiser to the event's overall champion, saw 75 riders in the fray at 5.30am on Saturday.

It was Bahrain's Isa Bu Hazza riding CR Prince Charming, which won the event, and could drive himself home in his shining new motor.

So WHAT is Endurance? For those not so familiar with this wonderful sport let me explain a bit about the endurance rides that are held here in Bahrain, and similarly across the Gulf.

Endurance rides in Bahrain are held over various distances for differing categories of horse and rider. A 'race' is usually anything from 80km to 120km, held in stages. The first two stages are usually 30km each, the subsequent stages are then divided in progressively decreased distances up to the total distance of the race.

The first two stages of the event usually double up as 'qualifying' rounds, because in order for horse or rider to compete or ride in an 80+km ride they must both have successfully completed the two stages of a 60km qualifying ride.

Horse and rider alike train for many long hours, gradually building and increasing in stamina and distance, even then it's not simply a question of turning up and riding.

The horse must be proven to be fit, and its welfare is principal at all times, therefore, there are stringent veterinary checks carried out prior to the event, and these checks continue throughout and after the ride. The horse's heart rate, hydration levels and soundness are all systematically checked and any horse that does not make a 100 per cent vet inspection will be disqualified!

After the initial veterinary check, horse and rider are allocated a number - written clearly on the horse's rear, the rider is given a vest with the same number, as along the route of each section are strategically placed check points - it's this number that's noted on passing each of these points. So off they go? Not quite ... there are weight stipulations on riders, so rider and tack (saddle/bridle) are weighed-in prior to the start.

Horse and rider do not do endurance alone, they are supported by a 'crew' - the crew will follow their horse or horses around each section, and be there to ensure there are no problems and to support both horse and rider, carrying with them emergency supplies. The routes for the different sections/stages are indicated by coloured flags and a map identifying each flag colour and route is given to the crew.

Along the route many water stops are positioned, enabling the horse to drink and keep hydrated, and when they stop for water the crew are there ready to sponge down horse (and rider!), keeping them cool, and helping in their re-hydration.

Upon completion of each stage, the pair returns to the finish to be checked in, a card registers their time, the crew are ready to un-tack the horse and check all its vital signs ensuring it is fit enough to be presented to the vet for checking.

The horse's welfare and well-being is overriding as also each stage/section must be completed in a specified time, and disqualification also happens if the pair are too slow so maintaining a reasonable speed at all times is imperative.

So, now with all preparations done - it's time to set off.

The thrill and excitement as they wait to set off is indescribable, adrenalin running in full gear for both horse and rider. To be part of this experience is simply exhilarating, an experience beyond description. OK, so now how many of you are going to get ready for the next event?

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