Bratislava, Slovakia: Female Emirati horse rider Afra Khalifa Al Suwaidi hopes to bolster what has been a fine season by giving a good account of herself in the FEI World Endurance Championship for Young Horses 2014 at Samorin, Slovakia on Saturday.
The event is sponsored by the HH Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival, in keeping with the strategy to promote equestrian events around the world.
Al Suwaidi led the UAE ladies endurance team to a double gold medal winning success in the Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Endurance Cup in Verona, Italy in July and is now targeting the 120km CEI 4* star ride to help establish her credentials.
“Obviously I’m pleased with what I achieved in Italy, but it doesn’t stop there,” she told Gulf News. “My goals are to win at the highest level and I think this ride offers me the chance to really test my skills against top riders from Europe and South America.
“It’s the first time that I will be competing at this level, but I’m ready for the challenge. I’ve trained hard and have a good horse, Ainhoa Tidjor. Everything is going according to plan.”
Al Suwaidi, who broke into endurance in 2006 as part of the team developed by former champion rider Shaikha Alyazia Bint Sultan Al Nahyan, says she feels the pressure as a result of her Italian success, but is prepared to deal with it.
“Everybody expects you to perform well and to stay at the top, but it’s not easy,” she said. “It can be a bit scary, when you know people have high expectations. But that also drives you to raise the bar and to aspire for higher successes.”
While accepting that the European riders will have a big advantage Al Suwaidi also believes that the horses prepared by World Endurance champion trainer Ismail Mohammad could be a force to reckon with.
“Ismail is an established trainer and he will not bring a horse to an event like this unless he is confident that it will be competitive,” she said. “I think he has set a high standard for all other horse trainers, so it will be interesting to see what happens on Saturday.”
Lara Sawaya, Executive Director of the HH Shaikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival and Chairman of Ladies Racing Committee in International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities (IFAHR), praised the commitment that the UAE ladies team have shown.
"We are really proud of our girls and hope that they will continue to make giant strides in the world of endurance,” she said. “His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed has assured that he will support the team and has urged them to aim for the best results possible.
“The the HH Shaikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival is not only about organising and hosts races all over the world it has also undertaken to promote talent in the UAE and particularly among the lady riders.”