Abu Dhabi: After a few excursions and Wednesday night's gala welcome party, riders from around the world now have to prepare for a severe desert test at the FEI Junior and Young Rider World Endurance Championship tomorrow.
More than 75 riders from 29 countries will be battling it out for individual as well as team medals in the 120km event, which will be held at the Emirates International Endurance Village in Al Wathba.
Event director Adnan Sultan Al Nuaimi told a press conference here yesterday that all FEI officials, both technical and veterinary, had arrived and the stage was set for the UAE's third staging of the event after 1998 and 2005.
Taleb Daher Al Muhairi, Secretary-General of Emirates Equestrian Federation, said: "The UAE will be looking to win this event as we are the defending champions in the individual event.
"Our four riders have prepared well and we are hoping for another good performance to maintain our status as a leading endurance nation."
Fahad Ali, representing the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: "This is another world championship that Abu Dhabi will be staging.
"In fact we have three world events this weekend in three different disciplines and this augurs well for the future of Abu Dhabi as a sporting destination."
The young riders, aged between 16 and 21, will tackle five different loops, including the demanding ‘Tora Bora' hilly section.
Foreign Technical Delegate Derek Liebenberg said: "Normally in the open rides the ‘Tora Bora' is part of the penultimate loop, but Saturday's field will tackle that in the second loop itself.
"This will get the young riders to negotiate the difficult part and then go for some pace on the final two loops.
"Another important feature of this year's championship is that the rider and horse had to qualify together in one ride.
"Earlier riders used to just come and sit on horses that have qualified separately. While this has reduced the number of entrants, it has also enhanced the quality of the event.
"Climate-wise the riders from Europe and the West will not face many challenges, but the desert terrain will be a new challenge, though most of them have trained in such terrain before coming here."
Teams will be represented by four riders, the three best times counting.
The countries represented are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, India, Italy, Mexico, Namibia, The Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Slovakia, Sweden, South Africa, Uruguay and hosts UAE.