22 August 2011
by Louise Parkes
Horse and rider combinations from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates claimed the titles at the FEI World Endurance Championships for Young Horses which took place at Compiegne in France last Friday. Over testing courses, and in intense heat, it was Bahrain's Salman Isa Al Radhi and Persepolia Larzac who returned the quickest time in the 8 Year Old division, while the UAE's Shames Sd Sn Al Marri produced a strong ride with Qatar La Majorie to win the 7 Year Old competition.
Endurance riding only developed into a competitive sport in the 1950s and arrived in Europe during the following decade. In 1982 it became an FEI-approved discipline, and gradually the number of events increased. In 1998 the World Championships were staged in the United Arab Emirates, with competitors from 47 Federations taking part, and this proved the catalyst for an explosion of growth in participation over the following years.
This year's FEI World Championships for Young Endurance Horses attracted competitors from 20 countries - Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Great Britian, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay.
8 Year Olds
Of the 27 starters in the 8 Year Old Championship, a total of 14 were representing France, but the host nation had to settle for silver medal position when Bahrain's Al Radhi completed the 160 km course with an average speed of 19.442 kmh. Al Radhi, who only joined the Royal Endurance Team of Bahrain in 2011, was delighted with the performance of his mare Persepolia Larzac. "From the third loop I could feel her speed. I rode her in a 160km race in Germany this year and came fifth, but this is my first time in Compiegne" he explained.
Sandrine Lance and Movisko du Lauragais finished second for France with an average speed of 19.298 kmh, but felt she could have done better. "I now realise I could have gone faster" she said afterwards. "I was much too careful. When I saw the winner going faster I should have kept up with him but I didn't, and I left it too late to put things right. But I've had this horse since he was five so I'm pleased with my ride and my horse" she added.
Spain's Monica Comas Molist and Princesse de Campagne finished third when clocking an average speed of 19.269 kmh. "Princesse is a lovely mare, bred in France" said Molist. "Last year she was second in the 7 Year Old Championships. We only did a 90km ride earlier this year in preparation for coming here. My ambition is to be on the World Cup team for Spain, but it's been a dream to win in Compiegne!" she added.
7 Year Olds
There was an even larger field of 42 runners in contention for the 7 Year Old medals. This course ran over a 120 km track, and 14 of the starters were from France. But it was the sole representative from the United Arab Emirates who produced the winning performance, Shames Sd Sn Al Marri racing home with an average speed of 21.201 kmh from his horse, Qatar La Majorie.
"I've been riding in Endurance competition for five years, but this is my first win and my biggest win!" said the rider. "It's my first season in Europe. The course was difficult because of the hills, but I'm very happy. My ambition is to be always on the podium!" he added.
Once again a French rider came in second, Philipp Tomas crossing the line with Quotien Persky having recorded an average speed of 20.922. In modern Endurance competition, the emphasis is on the horse finishing in good condition rather than the one that finishes first, and it can take years for a partnership to develop to top level. Endurance requires extensive preparation, and key to success is the support crew who help ensure the health and well-being of both horse and rider during competition. Tomas carefully managed some concerns he had about his horse early in the race. "I was worried to begin with because he was not drinking that much, but after the third loop he was much better so I was happier. My policy is always to stay in touch with the leader and make my challenge on the last loop, but this time I just wasn't fast enough" he explained.
Qatar's Faleh Nasser Al Bughaneim came home third with an average speed of 20.919 from Querotz de Benech. "I've competed here five times now, and for sure it's a great place. I won the 7 year Old Championship here in 2009, but this is the first time to be here with this horse. I think I will be on the Qatar team for the Open European Championship next month", the rider commented.
Ian Williams, the FEI'S Director of Non-Olympic Sports, attended the event and said, "it was very competitive, with a tough battle for the medals. As always, the Compiegne organisers have done a tremendous job, and the good completion rate is testimony to both the skill of the competitors and the quality of the horses".
7 Year Old Championship: GOLD - Qatar La Majorie (Shames Sd Sn Al Marri) UAE; SILVER - Quotien Persky (Philippe Tomas) FRA; BRONZE - Querotz de Benech (Faleh Nasser Al Bughaneim) QAT.
8 Year Old Championship: GOLD - Persepolia Larzac (Salman Isa Al Radhi) BRN; SILVER - Movisko du Lauragais (Sandrine Lance) FRA; BRONZE - Princesse de Campagne (Monica Comas Molist) ESP.