Brussels: Germany’s Sabrina Arnold won her first endurance ride in 1995 but it took her 22 years to win her first major international championship and that happened on Thursday in the European Championship (CH-EU-E).

The 160-km Four star ride, which was held under the banner of the HH Shaikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival, was held at the at the Bois de la Cambre, an urban public park situated on the edge of the Sonian Forests in Brussels.

Arnold and 10-year-old Tarzibus made it a start to finish affair.

Arnold on Tarzibus, a horse trained by Frenchman Jean-Philippe Frances, staved off the Spanish challenge to complete the 160-km ride in 7 hours 14 minutes and 52 seconds at an average speed of 22.53km/h.

Strong favourites Maria Alvarez Ponton on T’aime de Coeur and Jaume Punti Dachs on Twyst Maison Blanche, both from Spain, made exits before the finish but that did not stop the remaining Spanish riders who bagged the next three positions to help their country win the Team Gold.

Spain’s Alex Luque Moral on 11-year-old Calandra PH finished behind Arnold in 7:32.41 after countryman and ride favourite Jaume Punti Dachs on Twyst Maison was eliminated before the final loop. Another Spaniard Angel Soy Coll on Tonik De Becherel finished third in 7:32.42.

Further away in fourth place and completing the Spanish domination to win the Team Gold was Omar Blanco Rodrigo on Selif De La Nie in 7:50.22 while Poland’s Kamila Kart on For Ferro finished fifth in 8:07.20.

While the strong French team failed to impress, Italy stepped in to take the silver with their riders Perrine Campanini on Vega du Clos in 9th place, Constanza Laliscia on Rok in 14th place and Luca Campagnini on Kida in 19th place garnering the points.

Sweden also finished Europe’s biggest endurance competition on a sweet note as they won their first ever team medal in 17 years when they took bronze behind Italy. Sara Henriksson on Elopolda finished 10th, Emma Svanang on TS Coyote and Anneli Ohlen on Min Pontijack and Lena Eriksson on Willy Wonka finished 26th, 27th and 28th respectively and together they helped Sweden to the bronze.

Thursday’s 160-km event saw 68 riders and horses representing 20 countries across Europe. The course consisted of five loops, which featured the undulating terrain and sand tracks twisting through ancient beech and oak trees, some of which are up to 200 years old. A total of 33 combinations finished, representing a completion rate of just under 50 per cent.

Arnold, who had also won last year’s HH Sheikh Mansoor Festival-supported FEI European Endurance Championships for Young Horses in Negrepelisse (FRA) with the seven-year-old Tsagan Nour, was delighted with her win.

“I’m really thrilled to have won today. My horse has a naturally fast recovery rate and he was incredible,” she said.

“I won the young horse championships last year and I’m hoping to do the same thing again in two days’ time,” said the German who will be starting in Saturday’s FEI World Championship of the Young Horses (CH-M-E-7Y).

Around 70 riders from 18 countries will battle it out on horses aged seven and under and the 120-km event will also be run over four loops and will bring the curtain down on the HH Sheikh Mansoor Festival-supported Brussels Equestrian Endurance Masters (BEEM).

Lara Sawaya, Executive Director of the HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival, Chairperson of International Federation of Horse Racing Academies (IFHRA) and Chairperson of Ladies and Apprentice Racing Committees in the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities (IFAHR) and General Manager of Al Wathba Stallions; Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director of External Promotion at the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority; Dr. Ahmad Al Qubaisi, Director of Marketing and Communication Department at the Abu Dhabi Sports Council; Adnan Sultan Al Nuaimi, Adec Director General; and Mussalam Al Amri, Director of Al Jazira Stables, attended the prize distribution ceremonies.