French national champion Philippe Tomas will be the only competitor from Europe participating in the 120-kilometer race at CHI AL SHAQAB 2015 on Saturday. As a professional long distance rider and making a living for himself and wife Sophie, the world’s No.2 has probably ridden several times around the world on horseback.
From his farm in Toulouse Tomas runs a whole enterprise focused on long distance riding. For the European season, from March to October, he hosts around 100 horses from AL SHAQAB stables, either for competition or breeding. The sport horses and their grooms will go out for competition almost every weekend, either on 80 or 120 kilometer races, or do shorter stints, 40 or 60 kilometer for training towards the season in Qatar that opens in October again and lasts for the winter. That way Tomas tours with a group of up to 15 horses every weekend, either riding one of his own horses or in company of the horses from Qatar. His calendar has about 40 races per year.
On Saturday Tomas will be riding Perlando HLM from AL SHAQAB Endurance. Although the horse has spent two months on his farm, coming from Argentina and qualifying in Spain for larger events, Tomas will ride him for the first time. “If I can finish it will be a good result”, he takes the race in the true endurance rider’s spirit. “You don’t look towards the rider in front of you but you listen to your horse to make sure that it lasts until the finish line”, Tomas explains. The CHI ride will be his fourth start in Qatar. The main difference between the Peninsula and France is the speed and the terrain. “At home the course will be twisty and going over various terrain. In Qatar it is straight forward and the terrain is always flat. Therefore the speed is a lot higher.”
Why turning a professional endurance rider? Tomas has a short answer: “It is a great long term competition and yet it is more than just the technique of riding but about relationship with your horse.” And it gives you some travel opportunities like flying to Qatar on Wednesday, meeting your horse on Friday, riding on Saturday and then flying home again, only to ride some more. “He is happy when he is on a horse”, says his wife Sophie. Therefore for Tomas, all the training and travel is fun.
The competition on Saturday starts at 5:00 and the first horse will be at the finish line around midday. The list of competitors is close to 60 riders aiming for a 200.000 Euro prize