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Ever wondered what it takes to ride over 100km through the desert? Find out at the Abu Dhabi Festival Endurance Ride

A parade of horses and riders will race through the desert as part of the third Abu Dhabi Festival Endurance Ride on 26th and 27th March, held at Emirates International Endurance Village in Al Wathba, in association with Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.

An endurance race is a timed, long-distance ride – anywhere from 40km to 160km – by an individual horse and rider team.

Endurance riding began as an organised sport in 1955 in the US with a 24-hour trail ride. It gained international recognition in 1978, and the first World Championship was held in 1986.

But the history of endurance riding as a sport in the UAE is a shorter one – the first endurance race took place in January 1993 between horses and camels. Today, there are various endurance races hosted throughout the country and emirate from the 40km Al Reef Cup to the 160km HH The President of the UAE Endurance Cup.

Horse welfare is paramount, so the horses are checked by qualified veterinarians and judges to ensure they are fit enough to take part before each race.


The festival

This year’s Abu Dhabi Festival Endurance Ride is a two-day event. It kicks off with the 100km Abu Dhabi Festival Endurance Ride for women at 7am on 26th March with an anticipated 120 riders. For the second race, an anticipated 130 horse and rider combinations from UAE-based stables will race in the 100km Abu Dhabi Festival Endurance Ride for private owners.

The main event is the Abu Dhabi Festival Endurance Ride at 7am on 27th March.
The 120km race is open to male and female riders from local and international stables.

The riders begin each race from a start line at the same time before following the course through the desert. The races are divided into four to five loops, with each loop ranging from 16km to 40km long with 30 to 40 minutes waiting time in between to allow the horses to rest.

During these periods of rest, riders dismount and remove the saddle. The horses undergo a veterinary inspection during which vets record their pulse, temperature, respiration and hydration levels. To continue the race, the horse must pass the examination, and its heart rate must be below a specified beat.

The horse that finishes first must still pass a vet check in order to be deemed the winner. The top five finishing riders in the races for women and private owners will each win a 4×4, while the top six riders in the main event will each win a 4×4.

Want to watch the action? If you stay in the village, you can enjoy refreshments and an open buffet for free and watch the horses coming in and out of the gate for their veterinary inspections between loops. If you’ve got a 4×4, wait in the desert at one of the designated parking points and watch the horses pass by from a safe distance.

Off E22, Emirates International Endurance Village, Al Wathba. Women’s race 7am 26th March, private owners 7.30am 26th March, Abu Dhabi Festival Endurance Ride 7am 27th March. Free. Contact: 02 445 5500 www.adec-web.com

Did you know?

Arabian or half-Arabian breeds are used in endurance because of their stamina and calm nature. Their large nostrils and lungs allow them to take in plenty of oxygen while running long distances for several hours.

Lydia Herrman


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