IFHRA Helps Young American’s Dream Come True

Kentucky girl finishes mentorship in Ireland

10 July 2017, Abu Dhabi, UAE ~ When 20-year-old American rider Mahayla West from Kentucky got an opportunity to visit Ireland in May 2017, she not only fulfilled one of her biggest dreams which was to train herself in her passion for horse racing but she also got to make her first trip on an aircraft!

Mahayla, who had never flown out of the United Sates, was selected to train for six weeks in Kildangan Stud, Kildare, Ireland, as part of the International Federation of Horse Racing Academies’ (IFHRA) Racing Scholarship Fund, RSF. IFHRA is headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The IFHRA Mentorship program comes under the umbrella of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival and the Fund helps provide professional mentorship opportunities for students outside their countries. These students are either currently enrolled in or have recently graduated from an IFHRA member Racing Academy or national representative.

The young American said: “When I received the IFHRA scholarship and was told about the trip to Ireland, I could hardly believe it. Having never flown on a plane, much less have never been out of the United States, I was both nervous and excited. My worries were immediately put to rest as everyone welcomed me warmly to Ireland, and to Kildangan Stud.”

Mahayla’s focus of interest was horse farm or racing stable (yard) management/administration. After successful completion of her training, Mahayla is now back in her home country.

Mahayla said she was initially very anxious and nervous but soon got into the thick of things. Profusely thanking His Highness Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs for his support to IFHRA students, she said: “I am every grateful to His Highness but for whom I would never had this great experience. And my wholehearted thanks to Ms Lara Sawaya, Chairperson of the International Federation of Horse Racing Academies (IFHRA) and Executive Director of the HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival, Chairperson of Ladies & Apprentice Racing Committees in the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities (IFAHR) for taking His Highness’ vision forward and helping youngsters like us from all over the world.

Every day was a new learning experience. In the first few weeks I worked at different yards with mares, yearlings and stallions which really helped me to understand how the farm works together.”

I learnt that everything you do to a horse, especially at a young age, will impact him/her for the rest of his life. For instance, when the foals are a few days old they start getting their feet picked out and are led behind their mothers. As I worked with the older foals and the yearlings, it was easy to see how the early handling had made a positive difference in their temperament and behavior,” Mahayla said.

After this initial training she moved on to the administration side of the farm working her way through different department such as nominations, human resources, finance, and the stud office.

It is truly amazing how much work goes on behind the scenes. I think many people forget that the office work is just as important as managing the horses, you simply can’t have one without the other.”

She also got to work with the vets. “It was very interesting to watch them and help with reproductive work, vaccinations, and general health checks.

Mahayla also was able to tour some important Irish horse facilities including those of RACE, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), Weatherby’s, the Irish National Stud, Connolly’s Red Mills, and the Irish Equine Center.

Coming from a cattle farm in Kentucky, I also really enjoyed learning how the stud farm uses cows and sheep to help maintain the horse pastures. Throughout my time in Ireland, I had the opportunity to attend some of the horse sales and got to visit many of the racetracks such as Leopardstown, Naas, Punchestown, Cork, and The Curragh. It was very different from the racing we have in America, but I enjoyed it immensely,” said the American.

Excited and satisfied after her stint in Ireland, Mahayla feels every youngster in the horse industry should have an opportunity to experience the IFHRA mentorship program.
Ms Lara Sawaya was delighted over the success of the program. “IFHRA opened its doors in 2014 November but the RSF programs started in 2016. Already many successful youngsters have availed of this scholarship, thanks to His Highness Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In Mahayla’s case it is like a dream come true and we hope she will grow into a professional horsewoman.”

The RSF’s goal is to improve the horse racing and breeding industry workforce by providing deserving racing academy students or recent graduates with an opportunity to gain new knowledge and experience in equitation and overall horsemanship, while learning about new culture and customs,” she said.

The HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival is sustained by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and coordinated by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, with National Feed and Flour Production and Marketing Co. LLC as associate sponsors, The National Archives as the official partner and Emirates airline as the official carriers, in cooperation with Emirates Racing Authority, IFAHR, Emirates Arabian Horse Society, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare and sponsored by Ayadi LLC, Global United Veterinary Services LLC,  Wathba Stallions, Abu Dhabi Falconers Club, Emirates Falconers Club,  Mohamed Bin Zayed Falconry and Desert Physiognomy School, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), Al Awani General Enterprises, Kabale, Omeir Travels, Laboratories Fadia Karam Cosmetics, YAS Channel, Racing Post, Paris Turf,  Al Wathba Centre, the UAE’s General Women’s Union, The Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy, Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition 2017, Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, Eastern Mangroves Suites-Abu Dhabi by Jannah, Anantara Eastern Mangroves Spa and Resort.

~ end report

Photo credit: Aubry Boonstra