How the horses perform, depends a lot on their training. Vets and trainers leave no stone unturned to see that the horses get the best of food and training for these races. As per the events calendar, five races were held last year and four more are slated this year, with the first race of 2014 on January 17 at Barka village.
Dr K P Nisar, veterinary surgeon associated with training of horses at the Ministry of Sports Affairs’ Oman Equestrian Federation, said the horses are made to follow a strict training schedule. Many precautions need to be taken and vets are constantly checking on their fitness.
“This is the time when the horses are ready to entertain viewers with a display of their talent. They also need to be healthy and fit,” he said.
Vets keep a close watch on the diet. For a horse to excel, its diet should have potassium and sodium salts in the right amount. Intravenous fluids give them the energy for long runs. There are blood tests every two weeks, Dr Nisar said.
The endurance races range from 90km (for juniors and women) to 120km, the qualifiers for which were held last year.
“Five races (some of them qualifiers) have taken place last year,” Dr Nisar said. After January 17, the other races will be held on February 14, March 7 and the last of the season on March 28.
According to Dr Nisar, a horse has to be at least six years old to compete and the route it will run depends on its strength and fitness.
“The routes are colour-coded ¨C red routes (30km), blue (60km), green (80km) and the yellow route (120km). The horses are also examined 15 minutes before every race. Age is a crucial factor in deciding the distance an animal will run,” Dr Nisar said.
Once the horse turns two, trainers begin preparing them for such endurance races by making them run for 10km every day, and gradually increasing the distance. “The time limits of the races depend on the category. The 80km ride is to be finished in seven hours, 50 minutes, while the time for the 120km race is 12hours, 20 minutes,” said Dr Nisar.
A well-equipped team of experts is on the field during the races to check on the horses.