Sheikh Hazza bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Hachim won the FEI World Endurance Championship in Dubai yesterday in an amazing 7hr and 3min.
The Emirates duo was fifth after loop four but flew the rest of the way to claim the gold medal. Their average speed throughout the desert course was an incredible 22.68km (14.09 miles) per hour.
Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and 10-year-old British-bred Hachim beat French rider Barbara Lissarague and her mare Georgat by just under a minute. The French combination, who were at their first world championship, pulled hard in the final stages of the ride and finished in 7hr and 4min to win the silver medal.
Open European Endurance Champion Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the Crown Prince of Dubai, was third on his eight-year-old gelding Nashmi. The pair managed a respectable 22.38km (13.9 miles) per hour to earn the bronze in 7hr and 8min.
Jerez champion Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Maktoum withdrew from the race on Wednesday for illness. With him, the Emirates could easily have taken the team gold. Without him, they still stood an excellent chance, until Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s chesnut gelding, Al Barak, and Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Muneef were eliminated at gate four for lameness and metabolic problems.
This paved the way for Italy to win the gold medal with the combined time of 25hr and 39sec, followed by Australia with 26hr and 59sec. Australia was some one-and-a-half hours ahead of Belgium, which beat Brazil to the bronze by 30min.
The Dubai ride made it to the Guinness Book of Record as the single largest world equestrian championship, because it drew 178 riders from 41 countries. “This is a sport that is growing very fast and this week it is our pleasure to stage the biggest gathering ever in endurance history,” bin Rashid Al Maktoum told local newspapers. “This race is the biggest of its kind – if you win this race, you are the best in the world.”
The competition started at 6am local time and ran over a 160-km desert course, where waterfalls were purpose-built in nine oases. A state-of-the-art treatment centre at the vetgate ensured the welfare of the horses throughout the ride.
Britain sent six riders to the event, of which only one team member, Sarah Tyson, successfully completed the course. Sarah and her grey gelding Simbar finished in 39th place. It took them 9hr 43min to complete the course at an average speed of 16.44km (10.21 miles) per hour.
The rest of the British squad all fell foul to lameness along the route. Beccy Broughton, who was riding as an individual, was the first to fall by the wayside at the first vetgate. Team member Rachael Claridge was the next go at vet gate two, followed by individual Sarah Kellaway and team member Pam James at vetgate three. Team rider Katie Smith had to withdraw at vet gate four.
The medals will be awarded at the event’s closing ceremony, which will take place on 29 January at the Al Lisaili Fort in Dubai.
Individual endurance world championship results
1. Sheikh Hazza bin Sultan Al Nahyan (UAE) on Hachim;
2. Barbara Lissarague (FRA) on Georgat;
3. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (UAE) on Nashmi;
4. Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan (UAE) on Mindari Aenzac;
5. Diana Origgi (ITA) on Jasmineh.