Some of the participants at the press conference to announce the race. Image Credit: Courtesy: Morhaf Al Assaf

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia’s Ayah Khalil Rafia is among the strong contingent of riders who will be taking part in Friday’s 100km Shaikha Fatma Bint Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Ladies Endurance Cup at the Emirates International Endurance Village in Al Wathba.

Ayah, along with other lady riders from the UAE and other countries in the region — including some who are here for Saturday’s HH The President’s Cup — will be seen in action in Friday’s national ride.

Adnan Sultan Al Nuaimi, Secretary General of Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, said: “The 100km ride will be run in four stages of 33km, 27km, 24km and 16km. The riders will vie for a share of the Dh350,000 on offer. The ride will get off to a mass start at 7am.”

Ayah, who can’t take part in rides in her home country, is looking to improve on her previous best finish in the UAE of 11th and also make a statement for female sportspeople in the region.

Speaking to Gulf News, the Jeddah-based student said: “I love endurance riding and horse sport and my father supports me fully when I go outside the country to take part in these rides.

“I hope to really do well and ensure my results and experience will influence more women riders both from my country as well as the region to take up the sport.”

Lara Sawaya, Director of the Shaikh Mansour Festival and Head of Ladies Racing in IFAHR, outlined a series of prizes and mementoes for both the participating lady riders as well as the children who are welcome to attend the ride.

“All lady riders in both the Shaikha Fatma Bint Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Ladies Endurance Cup and the HH The President’s Cup ride will be given an 18-carat rhodium-plated bracelet with a Green Tourmaline stone and with a picture of Shaikha Fatma Bint Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the ride logo,” she said.

In addition, there will be a themed ‘Fatma Wathba Land’, where about 70 female students wearing Shaikha Fatma Bint Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Ladies Endurance Cup T-shirts will be joined by girls of similar ages from the public in pony rides, fun and games.

“Three girls from the children present will be given a pony each, while two more will be selected to avail free riding classes at the riding school. Two children [each accompanied by a family member] will also win tickets to a trip to Paris and a visit to Disneyland,” Sawaya said.

“It will be a festival atmosphere and the right stage to get the young girls to know more about horses and horse sport and this is the sole aim of the Shaikh Mansour Festival.”