Throughout history there have been long distance rides, transporting armies, passengers and mail. The Pony Express, for instance, achieved incredible long-distance speed records. The person who is accredited with creating modern competitive long-distance riding is Wendell Robie, an American breeder of Arabian horses. In 1955, Robie founded the Western States Trail Ride, which was a 100-mile, one-day ride from Lake Tahoe to Auburn, California via an old Pony Express route.
Originally, completion of the race was the goal because it was a real achievement considering the altitude, terrain and weather extremes. In 1959, the Tevis Cup was awarded for the first time to the rider with the fastest time. The Haggin Cup has been awarded since 1964 to the rider finishing in the top ten with the horse in best condition. Endurance rides have sprung up all over the world since then, based on Robie’s competition, and last year’s World Championships took place in Dubai.
Endurance rides in the United Arab Emirates, a sport loving country, was started under the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The UAE Equestrian & Racing Federation began in April 1992 and the sport has gone a long way since its inception in January 1993.
The first modern desert ride took place on January 7, 1993. Camels competed against horses in this 40-km pioneering event in the dunes of Dubai and the first 15 places were taken by horses.
The UAE Equestrian & Racing Federation has built up a very strong infrastructure to support equestrian sport in general and endurance in particular. There are three self-sufficient modern endurance centers or villages in the country and 22 riding clubs and equestrian establishments. Endurance riding has captured the top position in the equestrian sports held in the United Arab Emirates. Among its strongest supporters are many members from the Royal families of the country and several of Their Highnesses and Rulers of different Emirates regularly take part in endurance competitions alongside large numbers of UAE nationals and resident foreign riders and visiting riders from abroad.
All endurance rides are electronically monitored and controlled and receive comprehensive media coverage. The United Arab Emirates is working closely with several other in globally developing Endurance Horse Racing.
The first National Endurance Riding Rules were established in 1995. The period 1995-1998 saw long-distance point-to-point endurance rides in the UAE. For the first time the UAE riders participated in 1996 World Championship endurance in Kansas, USA
In 1998, for the first time the UAE hosted the World Championship endurance which attracted a record 162 competitors out of which 78 completed the 160-km ride. This record number of participants gained an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records as “The First Equestrian Federation to enter Guinness World Records as the organizer of the Biggest Equestrian World endurance Championship 1998”. For the first time, time control was fully computerized and the riders carried plastic swipe cards to register their arrival after each phase of the ride.
The first World’s Preferred Endurance Ride was held in 1999 in the UAE which is an annual feature and has been renamed FEI/UAE World Cup Endurance.
In late 2002, The Al Wathba Endurance Village in Abu Dhabi built in 2000 was refurbished and the HH The President’s Cup (160 km) and the National Day Cup (120 Km) rides are annual important events here.