NORMANDY– HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, landed the World Equestrian Games gold medal this evening (Thursday,August 28th) after battling a grueling and mud-ridden course through some of Normandy’s most beautiful and challenging scenery.
Speaking before he left for the final loop, Sheikh Hamdan acknowledged the challenge set by Normandy’s terrain and weather. “It is very tough,” he said. “We need to just focus together me and the horse. Loop five will also be tough. It’s shorter than the rest but, still, the tank is nearly empty now.” Sheikh Hamdan, who led the competition from the outset, found that eventual second-placed finisher; Marijke Visser from Holland began eating into his lead, recording a faster average pace for the penultimate loop. A five minute delay during the fourth vet gate, put further pressure on his then 12 minute lead, but he was able to dig deep, as the heavens opened above Normandy once again, to emerge the overall winner in a time of 08.08.28.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the U.A.E. and Ruler of Dubai, was on hand to congratulate his son.
While Sheikh Hamdan and his mare, Yamamah took the top spot, the rest of the five-man U.A.E. team did not fare so well.
Abdullah Ghanim Al Merri, Saeed Mohammed Khalifa Al Mehairi and the then second-placed Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum were vetted out after the third loop when their horse’s heart rates did not come down to the required 64bpm after a 20-minutes rest period.
Ali Khalfan Al Jahouri’s horse was deemed lame in the off fore and withdrawn from the competition.
A strict veterinary procedure, which saw all horses vetted after each of the event’s five loops, meant that there was a fairly high level of attrition of horses that vets felt were not sufficiently recovered to continue to the next phase of the competition.
Set in the picturesque Bay of Mont St Michel in the town of Sartilly, 100km from the main World Equestrian Games venue of Caen, the competition route took in many varied terrains including grass lands, roads, rivers and beaches.
The loops were broken down into distances of 37.9km at La Lucerne, 35.8km of Avranches, 32.8km of Champeaux, 33.1km of Jullouville while Dragey, the final and shortest loop, was 20.4km long.
The 7am start was delayed for a short time due to heavy rain fall and dark skies and when the competitors did get underway, it was by the light of vehicle headlights. Horse and rider partnerships were buffeted by strong winds and intermittent sunshine during the ride, which many competitors believed was one of the most technical in recent years.
The U.A.E. team entered the competition as defending champions after claiming the World Equestrian Games title in 2010 as well as two World Endurance Championship titles in 2008 and 2012.
Saeed H Al Tayer, the UAE Chef d’Equip, said: “Winning individual gold was a great achievement for Sheikh Hamdan on a very challenging course. We are very proud that he was able to fly the U.A.E. flag so high at this most prestigious competition.
“While we are disappointed that we could not accomplish more in the team competition, we are nevertheless proud to have fielded a team at this pinnacle of equestrian sport – the World Equestrian Games.
“The U.A.E. is honoured to compete with the world’s best horse-and-rider partnerships and to share in the achievements of these elite athletes. Normandy has provided a beautiful and fitting stage for this magnificent event and we congratulate the Organising Committee on a successful ride day.”-WAM