vendredi 18 janvier 2008

Two Canadian Riders Opt Out of Olympics - Jan 18 2008 - Full story

by: Christa Lesté-Lasserre
January 12 2008, Article # 11156

Three top dressage riders--one from Switzerland and two from Canada—have renounced their participation in the 2008 summer Olympics in China, citing potential equine health hazards posed by extreme climate and travel conditions.

Canadian riders Cindy Ishoy and Ashley Nicoll-Holzer, members of the 1988 bronze-winning team in Seoul, announced their withdrawal from the Hong Kong-based events late Thursday, according to Canada's Globe and Mail, two days after Swiss rider Silvia Iklé announced that she would not participate in the games in order to protect the health of her horses, Salieri CH and Romario.

"It was with great difficulty that I came to this decision …


jeudi 17 janvier 2008

Bin Laden Son Wants to Be Peace Activist - Jan 17 2008


CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Omar Osama bin Laden bears a striking resemblance to his notorious father - except for the dreadlocks that dangle halfway down his back. Then there's the black leather biker jacket.

The 26-year-old does not renounce his father, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, but in an interview with The Associated Press, he said there is better way to defend Islam than militancy: Omar wants to be an "ambassador for peace" between Muslims and the West.

Omar - one of bin Laden's 19 children - raised a tabloid storm last year when he married a 52-year-old British woman, Jane Felix-Browne, who took the name Zaina Alsabah. Now the couple say they want to be advocates, planning a 3,000-mile horse race across North Africa to draw attention to the cause of peace.

"It's about changing the ideas of the Western mind. A lot of people think Arabs - especially the bin Ladens, especially the sons of Osama - are all terrorists. This is not the truth," Omar told the AP last week at a cafe in a Cairo shopping mall.

Of course, many may have a hard time getting their mind around the idea of "bin Laden: peacenik."

"Omar thinks he can be a negotiator," said Alsabah, who is trying to bring her husband to Britain. "He's one of the only people who can do this in the world."

Omar lived with the al-Qaida leader in Sudan, then moved with him to Afghanistan in 1996.

There, Omar says he trained at an al-Qaida camp but in 2000 he decided there must be another way and he left his father, returning to his homeland of Saudi Arabia.

"I don't want to be in that situation to just fight. I like to find another way and this other way may be like we do now, talking," he said in English.

He suggested his father did not oppose his leaving - and Alsabah interjected that Omar was courageous in breaking away, but neither elaborated.

Although there is no way to confirm the details he describes of his childhood and upbringing, the strong family resemblance and Omar's knowledge of Osama's family life have convinced many that he is bin Laden's son.

U.S. and Egyptian intelligence officials have not commented on his identity, but Omar and his wife insist they have not been bothered by Egyptian officials.

Omar said he hasn't seen or been in contact with his father since leaving Afghanistan. "He doesn't have e-mail," Omar said. "He doesn't take a telephone ... if he had something like this, they will find him through satellites."

Omar doesn't criticize his father and says Osama bin Laden is just trying to defend the Islamic world.

"My father thinks he will be good for defending the Arab people and stop anyone from hurting the Arab or Muslim people any place in the world," he said, noting that the West didn't have a problem with his father when he was fighting the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Omar is convinced a truce between the West and al-Qaida is possible.

"My father is asking for a truce but I don't think there is any government (that) respects him. At the same time they do not respect him, why everywhere in the world, they want to fight him? There is a contradiction," he said.

Osama bin Laden, believed to be in hiding in the Pakistan-Afghan border region, offered a truce to Europe in a 2004 audiotape and a conditional truce to the United States in a 2006 message. In November, he called on European nations to pull out of Afghanistan in a message seen by some experts as an effort to reach out to Europe.

But in a series of messages since last fall, he also has been calling for Muslims to rally around jihad, or "holy war," encouraging fighters in Iraq in particular to continue their battles with U.S. and Iraqi forces.

At least two of Osama bin Laden's sons, Hamza and Saad, are believed to have an active role in al-Qaida - with Hamza believed to be in the Pakistan-Afghan border zone and Saad thought to be in Iran, perhaps in Iranian custody.

But most of the al-Qaida leader's children, like Omar, live as legitimate businessmen. The family as a whole disowned Osama in 1994 when Saudi Arabia stripped him of his citizenship because of his militant activities.

The family is wealthy: Osama bin Laden's billionaire father Mohammed, who died in 1967, had more than 50 children and founded the Binladen Group, a construction conglomerate that gets many major building contracts in the kingdom.

Since leaving his father's side, Omar has lived in Saudi Arabia, where he runs a contracting company connected with the Binladen Group, but he spends much of his time in Egypt. It was during a desert horseback ride at the Pyramids of Giza that he met his wife.

Their marriage in April made them tabloid fodder, particularly in Britain, where headlines touted the "granny who married Osama bin Laden's son." Alsabah, who has married five times, has five grandchildren.

The couple has applied for a visa to Britain. And they are planning their endurance horse race across North Africa, which they hope to start in March. It is in the planning stages — they are seeking approval of governments along the route and need sponsors to help pay for the event and raise money for child victims of war.

Omar said they plan to ride 30 miles a day, with periodic weeklong rests in each country.

Teams from around the world will be encouraged to join in what the couple envisions as an equine version of the Paris-Dakar car rally. That rally was canceled this year due to fears over terrorist threats made by al-Qaida-affiliated groups in North Africa.

Omar, however, said he isn't worried.

"I heard the rally was stopped because of al-Qaida," he said. "I don't think they are going to stop me."

Full story

Austr: Sydney Airport is now no-go for NZ horses - Jan 17 2008 - Full story

January 17, 2008

A temporary measure while New South Wales puts the final squeeze on equine flu in the higher risk purple zone will put a stop to New Zealand horses arriving at Sydney Airport.

From February 4, only horses that are immune to equine flu infection will be able to move freely in the purple zone. This is in addition to the new Travelling Horse Statement and event registration requirements that became effective from January 14.

Sydney Airport falls within the purple zone...


lundi 14 janvier 2008

What the crew thinks of the richest ever endurance ride.

The Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup is being hailed as the greatest endurance ride in the history of the sport after the world record breaking victory by UAE rider Omair Hussain Al Beloushi on a 10 year old Arab gelding Charlandre El Sharif.

That all fine, but what is it like to CREW in the most prestigious ride ever?

I've been crewing at international rides for over 12 years - from European Championships to "ordinary" FEI 3 stars; but always in Europe. This was my first trip to the UAE.

From the moment I arrived here I realised that this is an incredible place. I landed at 1.00am local time. The airport was packed with people, the roads were crammed with traffic and the building sites - the seemingly endless building sites - were all working flat out.

That was back on the 3rd Jan because I came over at the same time as our horse. (As trainer, crew, groom and person-responsible-for-all-things-that-go-wrong, it fell to me to be here to meet our horse and manage her through to ride day.)

Next morning I was up early to greet Khadidja du Pont (our 10 year old Arab mare) as she arrived at the quarantine stables after her 19 hours trip from our home in England's Cotswolds.

I continue to be amazed. The stables are of course air conditioned, the vets are on hand to take bloods and do free post-travel analysis for us if we wish (which of course we do) and there is an impressive system in place - backed up by lots of people - to not only enforce the quarantine regime but also to meet all our requests for feed, hay, bedding, buckets, and information.

In all we have 27 European horses stabled in 3 barns inside our quarantine compound with a clearly marked 19km quarantine exercise circuit for us to walk and ride our horses.

And all of this just minutes away from the jaw-droppingly awesome venue - Dubai Endurance City.

I took a trip to DEC a few days before the ride - an army of gardeners were watering the grass and clipping the hedges. The place is amazing.

The other thing that hits you is the profile of endurance out here. I blagged my way into the launch press conference in a downtown Dubai hotel - another well organised highly professional event -with lots of media present. Gulf news the leading English language paper in the region is full of our sport, you'll be familiar with that from seeing their articles on But that's just the tip of the iceberg - the local Arabic language media are just as interested in endurance.

Most days I saw journalist and TV crews around the exercise circuit looking for European riders they recognised to interview. I tried hard to look like an important rider. I guess there is something about me that says "He's only the crew". If we are lucky enough to get an invite again I'll have a T shirt with "I'm also an Advance Level rider" written on it (perhaps in French).

And then, after a few days rest for the horse and a few days riding, my wife arrives and we prepare for the off.

Just when I thought I'd got used to Dubai, race day is upon us.

As if the spectacle of 107 starters ("The largest field ever seen outside of a major championship") isn't enough, you have to come to terms with the fact that the big UAE stables travel in numbers. It seems as if each UAE horse has a whole legion of crew at the vet gate. (Note: what is the collective noun for crew?)

And then there is the vet gate itself. Dubai Endurance City looks even more incredible bathed in powerful floodlights. Big screen coverage on site; 7 different restaurants all alive at 6.00am (heaven help the crew who sneaks off for breakfast right now); you can't help but get nervous.

Wacky Races

The race itself was astonishing. You can read elsewhere about Omair Husain Al Bloushi,
We watched - his horse was as bright as a button at the end. But let me tell you about crewing this ride.

In some ways crewing here seems easy - nearly all of the ride is accessible to 4x4 vehicles. You can literally drive alongside the course - hence the movie footage you can see. And this is made easier still by the marking - lots of flags, regularly placed and although many of the stages have common elements there are teams out all day taking away coloured flags from loops now completed to minimize scope for confusion.

But in other ways crewing is difficult. Firstly, there is a great deal of deep, deep sand to navigate - far more than the riders and horses have to contends with because (rightly) they get the best surface and the crews take whatever is alongside. Skillful experienced desert drivers can cope with this without getting stuck, those with less desert experienced or who are just bad drivers can only get through it if they drive at speed. You will be amazed how many Arabs join folk like me in the second category. Secondly there is a huge amount of traffic - especially on the first loop - and no rules of the road (because there is no road?) The organisers provided free 4x4 convoys for spectators; the nearby Bab Al Shams Desert Hotel did the same for their guests - and this was designed to REDUCE the number of vehicles following the riders!!

As you can imagine at the start traffic congestion is at its worst.

When we set off into the jet black of the pre-dawn desert at the beginning of the first 32km stage it was like being in the whacky races. All around us hundreds (literally hundreds) of 4x4 vehicles of every shape and make - including ambulances, police and TV crews. They all flashed through the desert, each one carving out its own route and seemingly oblivious to everyone else.

Every vehicle had two objectives: to follow the ride (and in the case of the crews their horse), and not to get stuck in the deep sand.

As we dodged our way through the cars that had already got stuck it became increasingly difficult to maintain momentum without crashing into someone. Eventually our luck ran out, as I swerved to avoid the suddenly stationary car in front the nose of our car dropped down into a deep trough and we were stuck. Buried up to our front axles we had no hope of freeing our crew vehicle. It was less than 20 minutes into the race, we hadn't seen our rider and we couldn't move.

All around us others were in the same predicament. We saw 2 police vehicle and an ambulance nearby - helpless in the sand.

We watched in desperation as the Dubai Equestrian Club's own tow truck slowly worked its way up the hill pulling out one car after another. By the time they pulled us out it was light and we were worried that we wouldn't get back to the vet gate before the horse. We drove back to DEC arriving just in time to get organised before Janice and Khadidja came in to VG1.

From that point on we left a crew member behind at the venue to ensure we would have some Vet Gate support if the worst happened.

Daylight, the spreading out of the field and the VG1 eliminations greatly reduced the congestion on the track. From that point on, although we had some scary moment, we didn't get stuck again. Many other crews did and it remained a real concerned right through to the end of the last loop.

The business of crewing from the start of the second loop was almost ordinary. We had picked up some bottled mineral water (provided free at the start) to use on the run and we made full use of the water stations - located 2 or 3 times each loop and offering a row of big drinking troughs constantly replenished by the organizers. These troughs gave us an opportunity to refill some bottles and to scoop water over the horse.

We were blessed with cool temperatures all day, so dehydration never became an issue for us.

Again thanks to conditions very similar to our summer back home the vet gate procedures ran smoothly for us. Khadidja du Pont presented to the vet in under 4 minutes (average across the day) and we were being conservative. She breezed through the vettings and the 3 compulsory re-exams. During the holds (30 and 40 minutes) we usually needed to put a rug on her to keep her warm. We used Equi-N-Ice coolant to chill leg bandages too - a big help as much of the course was very concussive.

There was just one other issue for us - fuel consumption. The high revving and hard driving to get through the deep sand pushed fuel consumption through the roof and my hired 4x4 ( a small Mitsubishi Outlander) simply didn't have a big enough tank. Before half way I realized that I was going to use MORE than a tank of petrol (another weakness: because the stuff is so cheap out here most vehicles are petrol doing less miles per gallon that the diesels we have back home).

At one Vet Gate as soon as the horse passed the vet I had to leave my wife and two fellow crew to manage the hold time and re-exam so that I could get fuel. Because DEC is in the middle of nowhere that was a 60km round trip. By the time I got back Janice and Khadidja where out on the 5th stage. I caught up with her as soon as I could, but it did cost us a little as the horse was not as wet as I would have liked leaving the vet gate and I'd missed some early opportunities to crew on the course. At this stage I think it would have been really helpful for psychological reasons as the two were all alone. There pace slipped a little on this circuit and I blame myself for that.

Iain and Khadidja du Pont
However normal service had been resumed and one more vet gate, one last loop and about 10km of that in the dark and we were home. The last stage was better - both the rider and horse knew they were on the way home and picked up the pace again even though they didn't see another horse.

Janice was the first British rider to cross the line finishing in 23rd place, the 4th European combination to finish. Not bad for our first trip to the desert.

And after all that it really did feel as if we'd taken part in the most prestigious ride in the history of endurance. Top marks to the Dubai Equestrian Club. What an experience...

Iain Cockely-Adams

vendredi 11 janvier 2008

Olympic Organizers Confident Hong Kong Weather will not Endanger Horses - Jan 10 2008 - Full story

by: The Associated Press
January 10 2008, Article # 11140

Olympic organizers do not expect other equestrian teams to follow the lead of Switzerland by pulling out of events at this year's Games due to Hong Kong's heat and humidity.

The Swiss team said Wednesday that it would not take part in the dressage event in Hong Kong because top rider Silvia Ikle was concerned about the stress of the weather and travel on her horse.

"We haven't been officially notified by the Swiss team, but we will respect their decision," Christopher Yip, media manager of the Equestrian Company, the body overseeing the Games' equestrian events said Thursday.

"We don't expect to see any other teams pulling out."

Hong Kong, which has a well-established racing circuit, was chosen to host the equestrian events at this year's Olympics...


jeudi 10 janvier 2008

Tropical horses could win the Olympic equestrian events - Jan 11 2008

By Elmer

Hong Kong's hosting of the equestrian events might give an idea to teams that unless horses are used to the tropical climate, it will be a monumental task to win the Olympic equestrian events, which will be held in a hot and humid August. But I guess since it's summer Olympics, many cities in the past shared a bit of this experience, though milder than Hong Kong's summers. Now, there are even teams pulling out of the competition, notably Team Switzerland.

The organizer of the Beijing Olympics equestrian events said yesterday the pullout by a Swiss team would not trigger a collapse of confidence in Hong Kong's ability to host the competition.

"We are not worried at all. It will have no effect whatsover," said Mark Pinkstone, a spokesman for the Equestrian Company, the body overseeing the equestrian events.

The Swiss dressage team announced on Tuesday it would not compete in this year's Olympic equestrian events in August, citing Hong Kong's heat and humidity as dangerous for its horses.

It also said the 11-hour trip from Switzerland to Hong Kong could affect the horses' ability to perform.

"We have all the evidence that heat is not a factor," Pinkstone said. "All the other federations throughout the world understand that."

The Swiss withdrawal was sparked by the decision of the country's lead rider and world No 4 Silvia Ikle not to risk the health of her horse, Salieri CH.

Her decision was made after consulting veterinarians.

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the highest recorded temperature in August last year was 35.3 degrees Celsius.

Cloudier and wetter then usual, the month also saw six tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific and South China Sea.

Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong president Timothy Fok Tsun-ting said the decision to participate or not is up to individual athletes.

Christopher Yip, media manager of the Equestrian Company, said he did not expect other teams to pull out.

Andrew Dart, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Sydney, said that while Hong Kong could provide some of the most challenging climatic conditions, the experience and skill of the veterinary team should provide all the equestrian teams with confidence.

Trials in the last two years to study transportation, stable, cooling, veterinary and equestrian services passed without problems.

A final workshop has been scheduled for next month in Lausanne, Switzerland, to complete preparations for the games.

The International Olympic Committee accepted Hong Kong as the venue for this year's equestrian events because of the city's history in managing race horses and the absence of some 17 equine diseases that are prevalent in the mainland.

More ...

mercredi 9 janvier 2008

Dubai: Liz Taylor back again!

With just one day left before the top-class AED1.5million HHSM Endurance Cup 2008 field line up for Friday’s pre-ride veterinary check, the Dubai International Endurance City was a hive of activity.

While the 26 international riders and horses have been training in their allotted areas, many UAE riders were also out having a feel before the world’s richest endurance race on Saturday, organized by Dubai Equestrian Club and sponsored by Omega.

Liz Taylor, who is one of the three British riders in the fray, is hoping to bank on the experience she gained last year in the HH President’s Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Taylor finished 18th last year on Falaina Bint Chatanz and is once again accompanied by the 14-year-old horse.

“That was the first time I was ever riding on sand and it was a good experience. It was a quality field and we finished 18th and we learnt a lot from that,” said the 24-year-old who is employed with the British Farmers Union.

Taylor, who has been riding in competitions for about 12 years, enjoys a good record with her horse.

“Falaina Bint Chatanz has been a consistent performer and we have completed seven 160-km rides together including a win, a second and a third-place finish,” said Taylor.

In the President’s Cup held in February last year, Taylor and Falaina Bint Chatanz completed the 160-km ride in 8 hrs 57 mins 56 seconds with an average speed of 17.85 kmph.

“We have done about 18.5 kmph and I would be glad if we cross the 19kmph speed level and finish well,” said Taylor.

John Robertson, the Technical Delegate for Saturday’s FEI CEI 3* 160-km contest, said the riders and horses were put through strict quarantine controls.

“Everyone has been obeying the rules and since most of them have been here before it is no problem,” said the Briton, who has been based at the Quarantine Stables in the DubaiInternational Endurance City.

“Our prime focus has been security of the horses and to ensure there is no contamination,” he said.

“We have demarcated separate areas for their training and since all these horses are fromEurope we just have one large stable here.”

With the final list of entries being finalized, the horses will go through the pre-ride veterinary check on Friday afternoon before the expected pre-dawn start at 6.00 am on Saturday.

Complete Coverage on

lundi 7 janvier 2008

Strong French line-up for HHSM Endurance Cup 2008

Strong French line-up for HHSM Endurance Cup 2008

For immediate release
Monday, January 07, 2008

The 12 French riders invited for the Dh1.5 million HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup 2008 are among of the best riders in the world and will be making a strong bid to extend their success to the UAE.

Returning to the scene of her historic triumph in the 2005 World Championship here inDubai is Barbara Lissarrague.

On board Georgat, Lissarrague had registered one of the fastest timings ever here at the Dubai International Endurance City - 7 hrs 04 mins and 14 seconds - to win the championship and she is back again, this time accompanied by a few other championship winners.

Jean Philippe Frances, winner of the 2006 European Open championship and also a gold medal winner with the French team in 2002, is also in the fray, as are World Equestrian Games team gold medal winners in 2006, Virginie Atger, Philippe Benoit and Sophie Arnaud.

Atger also finished second in the same World Equestrian Games, in which Elodie Le Labourier was third to boost the French dominance.

Among the French pack is the in-form Jack Begaud, currently ranked two in the FEI World Rankings. He has entered Idias Tohiba, the horse with which he finished second last November in the Malaysian World Championship pre-ride and adds to the strength of the French line-up.

Cecile Miletto, the 2000 World Silver Medalist is also back and along with Philippe Tomas, Jean Michel Grimal, Larent Mosti and Julie Lafaure, will pose a strong French challenge to the hosts UAE.

Though it is the off-season back home, most of the French horses and riders have already arrived here to acclimatize themselves ahead of the January 12, 160-km ride, which will be run in six stages.

Commenting on her preparation, Miletto, who is no newcomer to the Dubai course, said: “The weather will be a problem as it is snowing back home. Added to that will be the high speeds. We normally do an average speed of 19kmph but here it is about 22kmph.”

The riders, who are based at the Bab Al Shams Resort next to the Dubai InternationalEndurance City, have been giving their horses light workouts in the mornings.

Last Sunday, the Dubai Equestrian Club announced the world’s richest-ever endurance ride – the HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup 2008 – with Omega as the title sponsor.

Twenty six international riders will be joined by UAE and other riders from the region in the 160-km event which is an FEI CEI 3* event.


For further information please contact:
Media Department, Dubai Racing Club
Tel: +971 4 316 8653 Fax: +971 4 327 0048

jeudi 3 janvier 2008

Australia: Happy Trails Again - Jan 3 2008

Travel and movement restrictions on horses in some areas of Australia affected by equine flu are starting to ease. By the end of this month, some riders will be able to leave their properties to ride, and by March or April, begin participating in local competitions again. has the Full Story