01 Jan 2005

Reiter Revue

You did racing, show jumping and now endurance, “The Princess and Her Horses” which ones have been the most important to you.

I discovered my affinity to horses at a very young age, and through the years I had the honor of working with a very wide range of people across the horse world. Showjumping was and is my first and true love, the ingredients of which are most complete for me, with its technical depth, competitive edge, and mental challenge and effort. I always understood that all the knowledge and experience I could get from riding other disciplines would make me stronger as a competitor in my own. All horse sport are an intricate maze of overlaps, and have their strengths and weaknesses, but you should keep it simple by remembering all are made possible by one simple tool- the horse.

What is the general fascination of horses for you, and what are the special traits of each discipline.

Besides their beauty and grace, their strength and scope, they are unique individuals, and very expressive animals. It is unfair to generalize in few words the traits of each discipline, but I think most important to recognize, that in all horse sports each horse has a separate key to unlock their natural ability; and as a rider the quest for knowledge on how to find that key is a never ending, lifetime process.

I jumping, the challenge of keeping balance, and mental and physical harmony, combined with the huge burst of athletic energy, with a variety in range of ground speeds. For me the secret to jumping is knowing that the fences are not the issue, its what is done in between them that requires constant refinement and practice.

In racing you try to maximize on the natural ability and stamina of the horse over a shorter time period and from a very early age, one has to make judgment based on pedigree, confirmation, and only one gait (walk). The horse’s success depends on presenting it with ability related to fitness programs, and placing it in the correct races, for its individual career.

Endurance is much more about understanding the biorhythms of the horse and being able to judge the correct intensity of pace over distance, and very importantly, the different effects of terrain. The auxiliary industries in endurance are also fascinating because they are highly developed, farriery, veterinary, nutrition.

I have spoken to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed about the possibility in the future of trying a little dressage, as having a little interaction with it in my jumping days, its one thing I really regret not knowing more about, I am doing lots of reading on the subject at the moment.

Your husband is involved in Godolphin, the most successful racing stable. Are you involved too? In what way?

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed is very involved in the day to day decisions and training of the horses. He has created a top team of professionals who love Godolphin and (who) recognize Sheikh Mohammed’s dream; that Godolphin is a roving ambassador for his country, as well as an equal partner in the racing world that reminds us all of the heritage and tradition the Arab Region has to horses and horsemanship.

Personally, I enjoy riding out to watch the horses work in the morning with my husband. I love helping him name them all, and I enjoy learning from the whole Godolphin Team, but my husband in particular, about their training and about the industry in general, which is vastly different and in many ways much more successful as a spectator sport than FEI sports.

The UAE is one of the most successful nations in endurance, what do you think are the reasons for that? When HRH Princess Anne rode 3-day eventing, it had a huge impact on the sport; when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed competes at top level in endurance it also make an enormous effect, he is an incredibly respected and loved Arab leader, and a key figure worldwide.

His love for the sport, but also his incredible generosity have been key factors in helping the sport grow. However, his foresight as a leader who has built Dubai into one of the most impressive and beautiful cities in the world, would leave one in little doubt that building the endurance sport in his own country is hardly a challenge!

How many endurance horses do you have for the sport. How are they trained?

In our own private yard Sheikh Mohammed and I have 22 horses, 3 racehorses, 7 showjumpers and 12 endurance horses. Sheikh Mohammed and I train and ride these horses together daily. Sheikh Mohammed owns many more endurance horses which he brought to breed after their careers, but keeps them with their riders and trainers all over the world to ensure the balance of top sport is not in jeopardy. He says it is essential that European and American and Southern Hemisphere riders can afford to keep top horses to compete against the UAE for the benefit of the sport at large. He loves meeting other competitors and learning about their training regimes compared to his own, he does not interfere at all.

Are you and your husband a team or competitors in the competition?

With my humble experience in this discipline, I am definitely his partner and grateful to be able to benefit from his vast experience. My participation in general is a result of my own marriage and his joy at competing; it is wonderful to be able to share this together and provides us both with a lot of relief from everyday stresses and strains of our duties and responsibilities. But we do have an agreement … at the finish line its everyman for himself!

Do you think endurance can become Olympic?

Reading the charter set by our IOC President Jacques Rogge, when being elected a lot of the parameters have still to be met in order to become an Olympic Discipline. The sport in spirit and philosophy is a natural Olympic discipline. In 776 BC Marathon running was a core sport in the Olympiad.

But technically this can only be done if the FEI decided to pursue the process needed to register it as a new sport. And I know that this has not even been discussed. His Highness was only interested that the sport of endurance is a secure future at the World Equestrian Games, and he ahs spared every effort to help the sport become a respected member of the Equestrian family at this level.

Arabians and their horses. As mostly all over the world, horses in the UAE aren’t still used, what is the relationship with horses nowadays?

The Arab people love their horses and they symbolize many traits of the character that we value. But how can you say that Arabians are not used in Arabia, the precise reason that endurance is popular in the Arab Region is that the best horses to compete on are Arabians, horses indigenous to this region! Furthermore, just the way jumping and dressage evolved in Europe from military disciplines into sports, for humans and horses, endurance sport evolved from the nomadic lifestyle of our grandfathers in the desert.

2006 the World Equestrian Games will take place in Germany. Do you want to compete there? In what Discipline? Aachen?! It’s the dream of every horseman to ride in Aachen. After I already had the honor many times of competing in the beautiful, historic arena, it would be absolutely impossible not to dream of riding there again! Why not both disciplines? There are many things that have to happen first of course, but all worthwhile reality starts with a dream.

Aachen is definitely the best dream one could ever have.

Dubai converts more and more to a high class tourist paradise. Many different sports facilities and events take place and are planned in the future. What about horses? Can you imagine that Dubai, as one of the important equestrian places, will be one of the next places where World Equestrian Games will take place?

Well, if you listen carefully you may be able to hear lorries and cranes moving already… !

Your riding career forced you to train in many different European countries, now you have settled in Dubai, what are the differences in your life as a woman and as an athlete? What are your plans with horses for the future?

Marriage is the only difference in my life as a woman, the duties and responsibilities that I used to bear as a member of the Jordanian Royal Family are identical to those of a female member of the Dubai Royal Family, they have increased of course because of my new role as wife of the Crown Prince. As an athlete, I am no longer able to afford the time I dedicated to my jumping career, but I do enjoy learning about the different disciplines and practicing my own. I would also like to see the continued use of the horse to promote expression for youth and as a vehicle for the promotion of peace and friendship in a trouble world.

But the way it is with horses… they usually make your plans for you.