Sainsbury competes in the most prestigious endurance ride in the world,
PUBLISHED: 11:07 04 April 2013 | UPDATED: 11:07 04 April 2013
Dace Sainsbury who hails from Lyme Regis travelled recently to the Middle East with her horse Lottie for the United Arab Emirates Cup - this is her story.
In November 2012 myself and my horse Ballota were invited to ride in the most prestigious endurance ride in the world, HH The President of the United Arab Emirates Cup that was held in Abu Dhabi. This invite included all costs to and from Abu Dhabi and all accommodation for both horse rider and crew. The invite came off the back of doing so well in Belgium in the European Championships. It was a moment to remember opening the letter with the invite! My beautiful little mare is always surprising me with what her and I could do and now we were going to both go on an aeroplane and fly to the desert!
The travelling to Abu Dhabi went very smoothly, an unexpected surprise I must say. We were taken to a handsome hotel near Maastricht where we stayed for one night before travelling to Dusseldorf for our own flight. The transport stables were okay, could have done with bigger boxes but the grooms and the transporters were very friendly and were very obliging when I repeated instructions for the care of Lottie both before the flight and in travel. I think by the end of my lecture on ‘How and when to feed a horse a carrot’ they referred to me in Dutch as the crazy English girl. Nevertheless they must have done a good job as Lottie arrived in Abu Dhabi very settled, stabled next to a Swedish horse.
So, we arrived at 6.30am on the morning of the 12th and were picked up and taken to the Eastern Mangroves hotel. First word that springs to mind. Wow! The hotel looked like an Arabic postcard, not only was it huge but it had a real traditional Arabic feel, Frankincense burning, Arabic coffee freely available and the most enormous dish of dates piled so precariously that I was pretty dubious about taking one at risk of sending the whole lot flying. That was just the lobby. The hotel rooms were absolutely gargantuan, with beds that could fit about ten of James in!
Lottie wasn’t due to arrive until 7pm that evening. The hours in-between napping and collecting Lottie were jam packed with collecting hire cars, driving to Dubai to visit my family and friends and eating at the hotel restaurant which did not disappoint all week! We had a call at about 4pm to tell us that the horses now wouldn’t be arriving until closer to midnight so we had a long wait at the quarantine stables!
When Lottie did arrive we had her rehydrated immediately, the vets were very good and were more than happy to wait with us until early hours of the morning. Finally after getting Lottie ready for bed with dinner and a huge bed we took ourselves back to the hotel to crash out for a few hours! Sometime in the middle of Lottie arriving and getting back to the hotel, Lee Clark (physiotherapist) was being picked up at Dubai airport by my parents. Everybody was here! Hurdle number one well and truly jumped and cleared!
The next couple of days we all really focused on making sure Lottie was fit and ready for her ride. Lee checked over Lottie throughout the day and worked on her to relieve any pressure that may have occurred during travel, he also used the Kinesio tape. This proved to be of great interest to the vets, other riders and trainers and Lee did a great job of explaining its use.
The first time I took Lottie for a ride in the vast expanse of desert was exhilarating, never has she felt so alive and totally at home in this ‘alien’ environment. The nerves for ride day seemed to just evaporate and I just thought to myself whatever happens we are here and for that I am so undeniably grateful, lucky and proud!
Unfortunately by Friday morning, the day of the pre ride vetting, I seemed to have forgotten my earlier sentiments and I felt sick to the stomach with nerves. Lee, James, my parents and my sister all assured me that there was nothing to be worried about but my nerves are apparently very stubborn and would not budge. All the same, after all the European riders being escorted to the vetting with vigilance you would think we had the plague, Lottie sailed through. Heart rate slightly higher then normal but then again she’ not used to blaring music and bouncy castles next to the vets.
Friday night was relatively relaxed, as usual my body decided to go on hunger strike alongside the natural urge to sleep. As a result I was already up, showered and dressed by the time the alarm went off at 3am.
My parents and sister (Natasha) camped the night before at the venue as the drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi was just a bit too long to try at that time in the morning. So it was James, Lee and I travelling from the hotel at that ungodly time. It was actually quite cold and patchy fog, could have almost mistaken it for being back in the UK!
The next few hours passed too quickly and before I knew it we were walking through the gates into Abu Dhabi Endurance village. Wow. I have never in my life seen so many horses in one place. cantering around the venue in blocks of up to 30 at a time! Poor old Lottie has never seen anything that even comes close to the intensity of this. Yet once again she rose to the occasion, I could feel her whole body trembling yet she walked solidly through the throngs of horses. It is just as well she kept her cool as I my heart was jumping out my chest but I had to help her just as she was helping me so I mentally slapped myself in the face and told myself to get a grip and get on with it.
The start was manic; it seemed everywhere I looked horses were flying out of the darkness, we carried walking in circles until the front runners were gone and waited yet still more until only a trickle were leaving the start gates.. and we were off.
Riding up the fenced track in the darkness I got that same feeling I had only a couple of days before. That was until the fence disappeared along with any sign of horses in front of us and my crew car. My heart stopped for a second as I searched or some sign of where on earth to go, all of a sudden I thought to myself, maybe waiting until everybody disappeared wasn’t such a great idea. It was dark, foggy and Lottie was pulling my arms out, she clearly thought she knew where she was going. After what seemed like an enormous amount of time I saw the three cars that were following me illuminate the ground as well as a rather large amount of horses in front of me! That was a good moment!
The race went incredibly well and I was amazed at the speeds of the winners. Endurance riding in the UAE is a national sport therefore the training and facilities are far superior to anything I had ever seen which resulted in some extraordinary speeds. 26kph over 100 miles in 36 degree heat, simply incredible! We were cruising at around 17kph. To put this in perspective you can quite easily win 100 miles in the UK at this speed.
Her success in Abu Dhabi however has been aided by many, many different individuals. To Zilco for supplying us with all our tack, clothing. To Protexin Equine Premium for their fabulous products, we used the recover aid for fourteen days prior to competition and fourteen days after to aid her digestion and allow her to feel comfortable throughout travel and stressful situations, I believe we owe her eating habits throughout the ride to Protexin so Thank you. To the Setzi saddle company (Angela Corner) for the use of the great saddle, we had absolutely no issues with rubbing or pressure points with the saddle either in training and the ride itself, despite the huge amount of weight! I will definitely be continuing using this saddle for the foreseeable future on Lottie. To Saracens for there incredible nutritional advice and for their feed which Lottie really cant get enough of. To Lee Clark, well what can I say, unbelievable, the dedication and enthusiasm Lee expressed for the whole experience was seriously amazing, if you ask me, best physiotherapist in the world! BIG thank you. To my Mum, Dad and Sister for supporting me so much - both when we are in the UK and when we get over there to you, you have no idea how much you keep me sane! But I think the biggest thanks have to go to James, devoted friend, boyfriend and crew for the last three years, it is due to him that we are where we are now.
Thank you also to all those people that have leant me items, given me support all the way, to all of you I am indebted. Endurance riding definitely isn’t an individual sport and it is thanks to the team backing myself and Lottie as well as the kindness of sponsors that has allowed us to get where we are now.
Final words... Bring on 2013! We have a big year ahead! Including a very prestigious ride being held at the Windsor Horse Show in May and also the World Young Rider Championships in France. Fingers crossed our success will continue in both!