Club of the Week: Go beyond riding horses at Al Waha Equestrian Club

Jay Asser 24/12/2015
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Working in tandem: The club is home to 15 horses for beginners.

Imagine combining the physical toll of running or cycling a long distance race with the challenge of maintaining a living, breathing vehicle. That’s exactly what endurance horse riding entails, acting just as much as a relationship as it does a sport.

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Rashed Al Kaabi, the activity manager at Al Waha Equestrian Club, is as aware as anyone as to just how important building that relationship with your horse is in order to be a successful endurance rider.

Since taking up the sport in 2000, Al Kaabi has focused on training beginners to qualify in endurance for the past five years. At Al Waha, that training begins first and foremost with horsemanship.

“From the beginning, you have to train on the same horse,” said Al Kaabi. “When someone comes for training, I keep them on one horse only, every day. They groom the horse, they train the horse, they make the saddle on the horse. They ride the horse for a minimum of one-and-a-half hours of riding.

“After that, they clean the horse and get it back in the stable, watch it, make sure it eats well and make sure it’s not tired. The endurance training is a minimum of three months.”

The club, which opened at the end of 2010 and is located at Al Ain Sportplex, has three sections: one for training beginners, another for progressing endurance riders and the third for flat race horses.

Horse and human: Endurance racing.

The complex boasts three arenas, two of which are 50 metres by 30 metres for beginners’ training. The third arena, the largest of the bunch, is 80m by 50m, while an outdoor track is for endurance training.

There are currently 25 who are training in the club, with 15 horses available for beginners, 20 horses for endurance and 20 for flat racing.

Endurance riding is appealing for a number of reasons, but Al Kaabi believes the connection necessary with your horse separates it from other sports and truly makes it unique and special.

“It makes you more patient,” he said. “It teaches you how to feel your horse because endurance races last like 40km, 80km or 100km. So you have to feel your horse if he’s tired or not well. You have to take care of him.”

It’s easy to confuse endurance with horse racing and other equestrian activities, but the horses required differ. The most obvious contrast is that endurance horses are significantly older.

“First, you have to choose a horse based on blood. For sure, we are looking for Arabian blood,” Al Kaabi said. “Then we see the horse’s body, what shape it’s in. From the shape, I can see if the horse is good for endurance or not. Then we start training and after two months, the horse will show if they’re good for races or not. For regular racing, you want young horse. But for endurance riding, you want horses above six years of age so the body is ready for tough training.”

A three-week training course is currently under way for children, in addition to the regularly offered lessons. Al Waha also have showjumping training and host competitions for children, as well as events and birthday parties.

What: Al Waha Equestrian Club
Geared towards: Endurance riding and equestrian enthusiasts
When and where: Located at Al Ain Sportplex, open Monday to Saturday from 08:00 to 20:00
Contact: Visit www.alwahaec.com and www.facebook.com/AlwahaEC for more information

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Vohra's View: Getting close to the action isn’t always fun

Bikram Vohra 24/12/2015
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Crashing out: LeBron James.

Courtside tickets in the NBA are hot property, but maybe no longer for Australian golfer Jason Day after 130 kilos of LeBron James collided and injured his wife Ellie as the couple watched the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Oklahoma City Thunder this week.

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A ‘sore and exhausted’ Mrs Day compared it to a minor car accident when LeBron couldn’t stop his momentum from chasing a ball going out of bounds and slammed into her. Ellie was carried off on a stretcher but the incident has once again brought attention to the issue of spectator injuries.

Flying hockey pucks, golf balls raining from the skies, cricket balls and baseballs whizzing into crowds, these are some of the most dangerous things (sung by Julie Andrews).

Remember Tiger last year at the World Golf Championships in Doral hitting a German fan with his tee shot and then clonking a spectator a little later in the same round. Rory McIlroy struck a shot that bounced off a rock and whacked a bystander who then tumbled into a cactus plant in what gave double jeopardy a whole new meaning.

In the United States more than 100 people are injured watching ice hockey every year on an average. One study showed that more people join the ‘walking wounded’ after being hit by foul balls at a baseball game than are injured on incidents on commercial flights.

Acts of prowess can often be trumped by acts of petulance. Former England cricketer Matt Prior was so upset being given out at Lord’s in 2011 he flounced back to the pavilion, flung his glove and a bat violently. The willow hit a window pane and the shards injured a female spectator.

Perhaps the most people hurt in a single incident was in 2013 at the Daytona 500 when a car pile-up injured 28 spectators. In 1955, at the legendary Le Mans racetrack in a largely forgotten horror, 83 people died when a car lost control. The list is long and varied and there has been a de facto acceptance that it is a risk you take when you go to a stadium to watch a game.

It goes with the territory, so to speak. Technically, unless the ticket or invitation issues you warning that you could be injured by participants or equipment and that you are willing to take the risk, you do have legal grounds to sue.

Hardly anyone issues the warning in print but if Ellie Day wanted to sue the NBA she could. They placed her in danger without sharing the risk factor and the possibility of injury with her.

In 1930, a woman watching her first ice hockey match was hit by the puck. She took legal action. “At trial, she argued that “[t]he defendant gave no notice of the danger from flying ‘pucks’” and that the arena “failed to perform the duty which it owed to her as its invitee to use due care to see that its premises were reasonably safe for the intended use or to warn her of dangers which were not obvious.”

In turn, the arena argued that “persons attending such a game must be presumed to know where they are going, and that the risk is in effect an obvious one which the patron must be held to have assumed.”

She won the case because the court upheld her compensation on the grounds that she had no information alerting her to the possibility of pucks whizzing around and the fact that a three foot netting was in place was not an indicator to her that there was a risk.

The case hinged on the fact that there was no written caution. With VIPs now nudging themselves closer to the playing area and players increasingly flinging victory memorabilia into the stands, the odds on someone being hurt in the eye or suffering concussion are pretty good.

With that warm thought for you to ‘mull’ over, Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. 

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Happy Birthday: Connie Mack, Giuseppe Bergomi, Leigh Halfpenny

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[L-R] Bergomi, Mack, Halfpenny.

Cornelius McGillicuddy, better known as Connie Mack, was an iconic American professional baseball player, manager and team owner.

Connie, who was born on this day back in 1862, was the longest-serving manager in Major League Baseball history.

He holds records for wins (3,731), defeats (3,948), and games managed (7,755), with his winning tally being almost 1,000 more than any other manager.

Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics for the club’s first 50 seasons, starting in 1901, before retiring at age 87 following the 1950 season, and was at least partowner from 1901 to 1954.

He was the first manager to win the World Series three times, and is the only manager to win consecutive Series on separate occasions (1910– 11, 1929–30). Mack was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.

1960: Tyrell Biggs, retired American boxer who won the super heavyweight gold at the 1984 Olympic Games (55).

1963: Brian McMillan, former South African all-rounder who took 75 Test wickets and hit three tons (52).

1963: Giuseppe Bergomi, ex-Italian footballer who played his entire career at Internazionale, playing 519 games (52).

1988: Leigh Halfpenny, rugby union full back who is the third highest record points scorer for Wales (27).

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