x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

What's it like- to train and ride endurance horses for Sheikh Mansour

Ali Khalfan al Jahouri has ridden and trained purebred Arabian endurance horses from the Al Wathba stables for nine years.

When you start out in the sport you can make a lot of mistakes. Endurance riding, if you compare here to other countries, is a relatively new sport for the Emirates. I was about 19-years-old when I started competing in endurance races. I'm 34 now. At first I spent time learning the rules and watching other competitors, then I started competing on my own horse. I loved the challenge of long-distance riding. At first I did make a lot of mistakes, because it takes time to learn how to judge your horse and judge the race. My first good result came about 10 years ago, when I came second in a local event. A year later I won my first race. A 100km race here in the UAE.

After that win, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed came to me and said he wanted me to train his horses, which I obviously accepted. I cannot express how that made me feel. It's something very big. It is always in my mind and encourages me to push for good results. I've won in the UAE and competed abroad, even in the USA where I've ridden in the Tevis Cup in California. It is a very challenging race over 160km. Not many riders finish because it is over such tough terrain and it is easy for your horse to tire or go lame. After being unplaced on my first attempt in 2001, I finished fifth in 2004.

The race I'm most proud of is when I won the 2009 160km Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum Endurance Cup in January. For me, the amazing thing was that I was riding a new horse - nine-year-old purebred Arabian, EO Jaras, which I had just brought into the country. It takes time to train a new horse, especially one from abroad as they need time to adjust and reach form. But, in three months I got this grey gelding in good enough shape to win the 160km race.

There is no big secret about how to ride a race, you just have to stay focused and keep cool. There may be a lot of horses in front of you, but you cannot be distracted and start hurrying. You have to concentrate on going a good average speed and know the horses going faster will soon tire and fall back. That's when you can gain control of the race. Keeping your horse healthy is the most important thing. You can't push a horse, because that's when injuries happen.

Ali Khalfan al Jahouri has ridden and trained purebred Arabian endurance horses from the Al Wathba stables for nine years.