Abu Dhabi: Ever since His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, led the UAE to its first gold medal in the European Open endurance Championship in Portugal and Spain in 1999, the UAE has emerged as a dominant force in the world of equestrian sport.
While the UAE riders won every major international championship the country also emerged as a leader in staging endurance rides with the domestic UAE calendar studded with many international FEI rides. This Emirates Equestrian Federation has through this period ensured that the UAE also produces some top quality officials and one of the three emirati four-star FEI endurance judges is Mohammad Khalfan Al Yammahi.
Gulf News caught up with Al Yamahi during the recent World Arabian Racing Conference in The Hague where he was one of the delegates and the Emirati revealed his passion for horses which has seen him end his career as an aircraft engineer. The following are excerpts from the interview:
Gulf News: Can you tell us a little bit about your background before becoming an international endurance judge?
Mohammad Khalfan Al Yamahi: I first got interested in horses when I was about 12 years but after my education I joined GAMCO and served as a Flight Engineer at the Abu Dhabi International Airport from February 1982 until I quit in 2009.
How did you become an International endurance Judge?
I have been involved with flat racing and have been a steward for a long time before I got interested in endurance racing and started officiating in 2006. There is a star-rating for different officials and since all endurance rides are held under FEI rules these officials have to attend courses and pass exams. Starting from trainee judges one graduates through the star rating and the highest is a four-star judge.
What is your role as an International endurance Judge?
The guiding principal for all endurance rides is to ensure the safety of the horse we as members of the Ground Jury and members of the veterinary commission just focus on this. Endurance is a sport where the winning horse and rider need not be the one that crossed the finish line first and it is here that the role of the officials comes into play as we have to ensure fair play as well as safeguard the welfare of the horse.
Now that you have quit your Flight Engineer position and taken up endurance officiating seriously, how has that helped or changed your life?
I used to enjoy my previous job which was what I studied for but this is a passion for me. Horses have always been close to my heart and the fact that almost all the endurance horses are Purebred Arabian horses makes it even more special to me.
How many four-star judges are UAE nationals and what role do you play?
We are three of us which includes Mohammad Eisa Al Adhab and Ahmad Al Hammadi.