Alice Debany Clero celebrated her 10-year partnership with showjumping mare Amareusa S in fitting fashion at the weekend.
The American clinched the CSIL 2-star Grand Prix prize at the sixth Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy International Cup in Abu Dhabi on Saturday after clocking 38.83 seconds in the jump-off.
Victory was sweeter for the showjumping instructor who three years ago missed out on the same title aboard Amareusa S at the same venue in Al Forsan International Sports Resort.
“I made a big blunder on the same mare and since then I really wanted to win this class, and really happy I could do it tonight,” Clero said.
The 50-year-old Dubai Equestrian Club instructor was the second-last rider of the five to go into the jump-off, but she had no idea how her rivals before her performed.
“We were in the blind because the monitor didn’t show the other riders,” she said. “I knew those who went ahead of me were clean and fast riders, but I had no idea where they turned because there were lots of options to turn.
"I had to take a chance, and then went for it.”
Norway's Annika Sande finished second aboard For Cash 2 ahead of Georgia Tame of Britain atop Cash Up, Emirati Nadia Taryam on Askaria 3 and German Miriam Schneider on Fidelius G.
“It’s a very nice competitive class and we are very lucky to have a show for only the ladies,” said Taryam, a long-serving member of the national showjumping team.
“I had a lot of pressure but I really didn’t see what was going on because I was focused on my own gameplan. But to be in the top five was very nice,” she added.
Taryam and Clero will both return to Abu Dhabi for the President’s Cup in two weeks’ time.
Malki celebrates hard-earned win
Meanwhile, little-known Leila Malki of Palestine won the hearts of those watching after she clinched the CSIL 2-star 120-centimetre One Round with a Jump-Off on a borrowed horse.
The 15-year-old clocked the fastest time (26.36 seconds) on Cassanova to win her biggest career prize, beating the Danish Tina Lund (28.34) aboard Freestyle 39 and Spain’s Maria Lagauillo (28.57) atop Becordia.
“It was a big challenge for my country but I was going for the win,” Malki said. “I had so much confidence with this horse for this class. I feel super-amazing and proud to win it on this horse."
Malki competed atop Cassanova in Sharjah for two weeks after borrowing him from Saudi Arabia's Saleh bin Omaira. "But this is the biggest win," she said.
Malki has been riding from the age of five when she was introduced to riding by her parents. In six years' time, she began competing at international events and has not looked back since. Her dream is to compete in the Olympics, but she knows that living in Palestine means she faces numerous challenges beginning with crossing the border.
But she remains determined.
"If you have the will and the dreams to achieve your goals, I think those difficulties can be overcome,” she said.