Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Asian Games: First Endurance Test

Associated Press

DOHA, Qatar: Equestrian endurance will make its debut at the Asian Games with a sprinkling of royal families from the Gulf doing more than merely watching.

The endurance ride is scheduled to begin shortly after sunrise Thursday and will include medals in team and individual races. A country may enter a maximum of four riders per team and two individuals riders for the competition.

The Qatari team is expected to be led by Sheik Mohammed bin Hamad Al Thani, the son of Qatar's emir. Sheik Mohammed was involved in the cast of the opening ceremonies of the games, riding his steed up a ramp the full height of the stadium to light a giant gyroscope-like cauldron.

Members of Dubai's Al Maktoum ruling family are also expected to be among the national team of the United Arab Emirates. Last year's world championship took place in Dubai.

Horses and riders in the equestrian desert endurance event will traverse a familiar landmark for day-trippers heading for the Mesaieed beaches and sand dunes south of Doha.

The course includes five loops, each between 20 kilometers and 30 kilometers (12.5 miles and 16.5 miles) in length, for a total race distance of 120 kilometers (74.5 miles). The competitors will return to the start point at the end of each loop for a medical examination.

Temporary stands for 500 spectators have been built in the desert, with organizers warning that only experienced 4x4 drivers travel into the desert for a closer view.

Horses will be regularly vetted on the ride, where they are checked for soundness and dehydration, To continue the ride, the horse must pass the exam, including lowering its heart rate to 64 beats per minute.

The three highest placed competitors from each country count for the team event.

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