A group of Emirati show jumpers, trainers and endurance riders are among the first generation of UAE nationals to receive formal training in the thoroughbred racing business.
Eight Emiratis graduated on Wednesday from the inaugural Masar Godolphin programme that gave them insight into the breeding and racing industry in the UAE and Europe to prepare them for careers in the field.
Abdulaziz Al Suwaidi, who competed in events with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, said the programme cemented his goal of becoming a trainer for endurance riders.
“My dream was to be a trainer and this programme gave me a step forward to reach my goal because it took us through leadership courses and we also learnt about the blood stock of horses,” he said speaking about the discipline he learnt from earlier experiences riding in 120-160kilometre long distance events in the UAE and overseas.
“To be a trainer, I need to understand every section to succeed and now I will focus on thoroughbreds,” he said.
Ali Al Ali, manager of the programme, said it was created due to a requirement felt by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for more Emiratis in the industry. The Vice President and Ruler of Dubai is a competitive equestrian who has won world endurance events with his Godolphin team.
“This was created to pump new blood into this field because the industry is so vast and he wants UAE nationals to continue his legacy,” Mr Ali said.
“He wants them to be flagbearers. It is a huge market but we don’t have qualified or specialised UAE nationals.”
With backgrounds that range from zoology, chemical engineers to stunt riding, the Emiratis completed a nine-month programme that took them to Newmarket, UK.
A former junior world champion in endurance racing, Hussain Al Marzouqi said being based in Newmarket helped them understand the historical background of the sport.
“Thoroughbred racing has caught my eye and my heart so in the future I will be focussing on thoroughbreds,” said Mr Al Marzouqi, an endurance trainer and a graduate in animal science and zoology.
“My studies helped me improve my ability to train horses and being in Newmarket was important because it has one of the biggest concentration of trainers and race horses in one town.”
Impeccable blood lines determine if a horse will sell for millions of dollars so the course also focussed on pedigree, buying and selling with a class on dissection thrown in to help the recruits understand horse anatomy and common injuries.
For competitive show jumper Amna Banihashem, who aspires to represent the UAE in the Olympics, the course gave her an insight into the business and well-being of horses.
“I understand the aspects of the industry and how they are linked, we also learnt how extremely fragile an animal it is in a dissection class,” she said.
“They barely have any muscles at the end of their legs. As an equestrian, it helps us treat our horses better, take care of them and keep them healthy.”
Apart from riding, the recruits also got their hands dirty by collecting horse droppings to test their health, cleaning the stables and competing in a grooming contest in which they scrubbed the horses and braided their manes.
Chemical engineer Muna Al Mazrouei rides as a hobby and has now has set her sights on the specialised blood stock segment that requires expert knowledge of pedigree for purchase and sale.
“The physical work of cleaning the stables and collecting droppings was not difficult but I enjoyed learning about buying and selling,” said Ms Al Mazrouei, who volunteers in stables in Dubai to help children with special needs and participates in breast cancer awareness rides.
Source: The National