Tough challenge at Irish endurance festival

  • Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum claims another win at the Al Maktoum Irish Endurance Festival over the Wicklow Mountains

    Confirming his position as the current world leader, Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum showed his versatility by notching up yet another win over the Wicklow Mountains on a course as different from his home turf as it is possible to find.

    Sheikh Rashid collected the Horseware Ireland-sponsored Rambo Cup, in a great week for the Maktoum brothers. His younger brother was the winner of the prestigious Al Maktoum Cup to make the event, sponsored by the pair’s uncle, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a truly family affair.

    This popular festival, now a must on many riders’ calendars, was this year dogged by poor weather conditions and the teething troubles caused by a move to a new venue from its former home in Donard.

    Rain had turned vast sections of the mountain and moorland tracks over Ireland’s “garden country” into a bog that tested horses’ and riders’ mental and physical staying power.

    The 100km one-day FEI two-star Rambo Cup is seen as the junior event at the Irish Endurance Festival, but this year the “supporting race” threw up the strongest field and the toughest challenges.

    The ravages of the wettest summer in recent years took its toll with tales of “abominable going” on a scale experienced by riders over Exmoor at this spring’s Golden Horseshoe. Ride organiser John Stanley later said that with hindsight the poor weather should have forced the cancellation of the ride “weeks before”.

    Winner Sheikh Rashid, whose average speed of just over 13km/hr was considerably slower than his usual pace, said he ran alongside his horse for long sections of the track in some testing conditions which he had not enjoyed: “It was very tough and the marking should have been better. But this horse is a champion and we hope that he will be one of our horses at the World Championships.”

    Third placed Meg Wade was also unhappy with the conditions – she had planned to use the event as a conditioning run for the World Games and said: “It certainly was a hard conditioning ride.”

    Controversy at FEI two-star 120km Young Rider Cup

    The FEI two-star 120km Young Rider Cup came to a contraversial end when the ground jury was advised by the FEI in Switzerland to call a halt to the ride in the closing stages.

    This was due to the severity of the conditions and to avoid the prospect of the young riders being on course in the darkness in potentially dangerous circumstances.

    In the event, one young rider, Australian Madison Parker, went missing on the final hill of the last loop for around 30min.

    Ground jury president Kevin Croke said: “The ground jury advised that the ride should not continue beyond vet gate three when the conditions were deteriorating, and the ride went on only with our extreme reluctance after consultation with the chefs d’equipe.”

    He said that the FEI had said it would look favourably on the qualification of the riders involved, given the circumstances. The view of many taking part was that a late start of 8.45am had meant that a finish in darkness was almost inevitable.

    But British team chef d’equipe Sue Oakes said: “I consulted all the young riders and their parents. The view was that we had come to do the ride and to qualify for Italy. We didn’t go out without thinking about it long and hard. We went to do an endurance ride that we knew would be challenging and the kids tookit on.”

    Read the full report in this week’s Horse & Hound (22 August), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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