Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum crosses the finish line to win the endrurance event of the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain. Image Credit: Gulf News archive

Abu Dhabi : The UAE endurance team, likely to be led by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is to start as one of the favourites in the multi-discipline Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) which will start on September 25 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Shaikh Mohammad, along with Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Shaikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture, are part of the seven-member team which has qualified for the 160km endurance championship scheduled on September 27.

The UAE has also qualified for the showjumping event, which will be held in October at the Kentucky Horse Park which will stage all eight equestrian disciplines.

National federations for 58 countries have submitted entries for the 2010 Games with Australia, Canada, Germany and the United States taking part in all eight disciplines which include dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, para dressage, reining and vaulting.

The UAE endurance team has qualified nearly 12 horses, but only four riders and horses for the team championship and one rider for the individual championship will be permitted to represent the country.

Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum won the endurance individual gold at the 2002 WEG held in Jerez, Spain.

The World Equestrian Games (WEG) are comprised of the world championships for eight equestrian sports and are held every four years, two years before the Olympic Games.

Largest airlift

An FEI press release says the largest commercial airlift of horses ever undertaken for a single event began from Belgium this week — heading to the United States for the first time in the event's 20-year history.

Almost 450 horses will be departing Europe in the coming days until September 29, in 10 charter flights equipped for the task, leaving from Belgium's Liege airport and the Amsterdam airport.

These European charter flights form part of an even larger worldwide airlift of horses competing in the September 25 and October 10 Games, organisers said.

In addition to the 445 horses departing from Europe, 19 horses from Australasia and 35 from South America are to fly to the United States in the coming week.