A series of endurance races that are due to start on Thursday will not only award the first past the finish line, but also those with the healthiest horses.
The competition is being held in honour of the Year of Zayed and combines two endurance cups held at Boutheib Endurance Village in Abu Dhabi by the grandsons of Founding President Sheikh Zayed.
The Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan and Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Endurance Cup will award gold, silver and bronze to the first three in an international 120.7 kilometre Two Stars race.
Unusually, the top three healthiest horses will also receive gold, silver and bronze cups in a move that is part of a healthy-horse initiative the event’s organisers are trying to promote.
“We initiated something called the Boutheib Protocol so that riders protect their horses and do not over-exhaust them to reach the finish line faster,” said Mustapha Mafoudi, the equestrian technical co-ordinator of the race.
Once a horse reaches the finish line, its pulse and overall well-being is examined.
The Boutheib Endurance village has been holding a variety of equestrian championships since it opened its doors in 2004.
The two royals, whose name the cup carries, have been training at the village since they were children. Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed has been holding his own endurance cup at Boutheib for 13 years, and Sheikh Hamdan for seven years.
They will also be participating in an 80km endurance race on Thursday.
On Tuesday afternoon, a team of French timekeepers were busy setting up the heart monitoring devices and related gadgets that will examining the horses’ well-being.
“The first time we implemented the healthy horse award four years ago, the chief of the veterinary clinic described it as a historical day because the clinic was absolutely empty, there was not a single horse (that required medical aid),” said Francois Kerboul, a competition judge.
The horses are also taken on to the stage to receive the award.
“When the horses finish racing, they go on to the stage to receive the prize with the rider. They are in good condition, so why not include them?” said Mr Kerboul.
The first 80km endurance qualifying race will kick off at 7.30am on Thursday. The races can be followed on the Yamamah app, and on www.atrm-systems.fr.