The Boudheib Initiative in Shifting Sands

7 December 2017, Abu Dhabi ~ The Boudheib Initiative (BI), the enduring passion of His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, has gained momentum far exceeding initial expectations. Now entering it’s third year since creation (2015), HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan first introduced the BI rules when he saw needed changes in the way endurance horses were literally going too fast on the desert tracks of the UAE.

HH Sheikh Sultan and the BI Committee have invested much time and effort to understand the challenges of terrains both home and away, whilst considering rider ability, and age and fitness of participating horses. The Boudheib Endurance Challenge Award (BECA) rules, implemented to reward good horsemanship and sportsmanship, are now firmly shaped with less emphasis on speed reduction, as this has naturally occurred die to the stringent rule of 56 bpm heart rate (variable in some international locations) within a presentation time of 10 minutes. In many of the technically based tracks that include hills, changes in direction, and attention to footing, the 20 kph rule is difficult to surpass, thus keeping competition competitive whilst ensuring horse wellbeing. The international endurance world has embraced this program to ensure the welfare of the endurance horse and help to return the sport of endurance back to its ethical roots.

Last month at Boudheib’s International Endurance Village’s (BIEV) first endurance rides of the UAE 2017/18 season, there was a notable shift in perception from local trainers, including some of the top UAE endurance stables. Seeing the improved condition of their horses after competing on Boudheib’s natural forestry tracks, has allowed many to gain a greater understanding of the fitness and potential of their horses using the BECA protocol.

This technical track training is reflected in the results in local and international competitions. An excellent benefit as well is competitors are enjoying the open spaces with no cars or trainers to be seen, allowing them to efficiently partner and enjoy their horses whilst appreciating nature’s desert at its most glorious.

The Organizing Committee has noted that in the last two years a rise in the standard of riding and the care and quality of horses has improved. This all adds up to one thing: Boudheib Initiative is making its mark and it’s here to stay!

Unique to Boudheib’s International Endurance Village (BIEV), Abu Dhabi Natural tracks have been introduced, slowing the speed whilst keeping rides competitive and so much more enjoyable for both horse & rider.

  • No cars or trainers are allowed on the natural tracks, allowing the riders to partner their horses in the manner for which endurance is intended.

  • Cameras have been placed at the Vet inspection areas to ensure no lame horses are passed, eliminating possible pressure put on vets by insistent riders and trainers to pass their horses and also preventing vets from favoring horses if they are not fit to continue. The camera film is kept for one month in case of any later recourse.

  • Cameras mounted in the rest areas are to discourage untoward treatment being given to horses in quiet corners.

  • There have been no leg fractures recorded in the last two years.

  • The clinic is always virtually empty during BIEV rides, and those who enter are quickly treated and sent home the same day fully recovered.

  • 10km & 20km rides dedicated to young riders entering the world of endurance – ensuring, through education, the future wellbeing of the horse.

~ article & photos by Leigh Young