September 10, 20011, Florac, France ~ Spain’s, Maria Alvarez Ponton, reining World and European Champion, rode her 16 yr old (correction) French-bred Arabian, Nobby (Prophecy EF x Nocturne), to another victory Saturday, as she again topped the best of European Endurance riders in the 2011 European Endurance Championship at Florac. Nobby, the horse on which Alvarez Ponton has won every major world endurance title for the past four years (World Championship, Kentucky, USA 2010, European Championship, Italy 2009, World Championship, Malaysia, 2008), Alvarez Ponton completed the course with an average speed of 17:68. She arrived in second place, as UAE rider, Abu Dhabi’s Ali Al Jahouri, arrived first finishing with an average speed of 18.55, and setting a new record for the course while gaining the Gold for the Open division. Riding in 2nd position as the loops progressed and into the finish, Alvarez Ponton was secure knowing she would be first for the European title. She arrived seven minutes behind Al Jahouri. Qatar’s Jasim Mohammed Al Maadhadi, riding Mazayha finished third, a minute later. Sabrina Arnold, riding Beau ox for the German team, arrived fourth by another minute. France’s Virginie Arnold riding for Team France on Antall de Jalima received Best Condition.
Alvarez Ponton said she trains Nobby in the desert and he has done well in his flat rides in Malaysia and Kentucky. “This was his first mountain race,” she said. “I arrived with a bit of fear of the mountain ride, as it has a certain reputation, and also I knew that the French riders are great competition. I can now see that Nobby is good at both desert and mountain rides.” Asked if he will race again, she said, “It was his choice to come. We didn’t push him.” Maria, 13 month old daughter, Maria, and husband, Jauma Punti- Dachs live in Spain and Dubai, where the two train endurance horses for Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Team prizes were: Gold -France, Silver- Spain, Bronze- Belgium
The Florac CEI3* in the Cézennes National Park in central France is considered to be one of the toughest endurance rides in the world, second only to the Tevis Cup ride in the United States.
Al Jahour knew that his fiercest competitor would be Alvarez Ponton and Nobby There was also the challenge of the French team riders, many who train in the mountains, and they would be riding to win on their home turf.
Alvarez Ponton headed a field of 84 riders and was in the front of the pack as Al Jahouri took the lead in a mass start at 4:30 am. Al Jouri increased his lead at each Vet Gate as the glow of his lone helmet lamp made only a small circle of light through the the heavy mist. He was ahead by 25 minutes as the riders floated through erie fog at the ride summit of Mont Aigoual at 1,565m. Al Jahouri’s lead looked secure until disaster struck on the last loop.
“I lost a shoe in the last loop, so I used an easy boot,” he said. He was not allowed any assistance on this portion of the trail. “I had to stop 6 times,” he continued. “It was good that I had a good lead time or I would not have won, but I am so very happy.” And what’s next for him? “My dream is to win the Tevis Cup,” he said. Kalifa, a grey half Arabian from Uruguay, shipped from the deserts of Abu Dhabi three days before the race but his talent in hill climbs was yet to be established.
The ride started 84 riders and finished 45.