There are few certainties in life, but one thing unlikely to ever change is the UAE’s love affair with horse racing.
Today, the UAE is home to one of the biggest endurance industries in the world and boasts a world-class Thoroughbred and Arabian flat racing sector rivalling those of England, Ireland and the US. Yet, what becomes of these incredible top-class horses when they finish their racing careers?
In 2021, three passionate equestrians launched an initiative to start an ex racehorse league. Today, almost a year on, Life After Racing UAE (LAR) has over 100 members and continues to grow. The initiative has launched unique showing concepts which have attracted riders far outside the ex-racing community and hosted their first (of many) glittering annual award ceremonies.
Founder Debbie Armaly says, “over the years, I’ve rehomed quite a few ex-racehorses in the UAE, and there are many other people who are doing the same, we just felt there was a need to bring us all together, see where everyone is going, to bring ‘community’ back and encourage them to get the best out of their horses in their new lives,” says Debbie.
“I’d seen so many of the horses out competing and also knowing the great work the Retraining of Racehorses (ROR) do in the UK, I joined up with Karen and Sophie and we decided to launch LAR in the UAE.”
A UAE resident since 1992, Debbie is well-known in having shares as a racehorse owner, a jump judge and ex equine manager of the equestrian-focused breast-cancer awareness initiative- Pink Caravan.
She says, “Life After Racing UAE was created to promote and support ex racehorses competing within the UAE in their new chosen disciplines. The league promotes off the track racehorses and helps encourage riders to consider them as an option. LAR’s mission is to ensure these horses filter into a new home when their racing career has finished.”
Sophie, a co-founder has grown up in the UAE and become involved with horses both in her professional and personal life, having been instrumental in forming several UAE riding establishments and becoming an accomplished display-team rider.
Debbie says of Sophie, “Sophie arrived in the UAE with her family in 1994 and grew up here. We’ve worked together over the years in various riding establishments and fit perfectly together for this project given our different equine backgrounds.”
The third and final co-founder Karen Stewart is originally from the UK where she had a successful showing career. Moving to Botswana, she began retraining ex-racehorses for African safari work. It was while there she won the FEI World Dressage Challenge, was selected for Team Botswana in both Dressage and eventing and won the Overall Supreme Championship at Horse of the Year Show, South Africa, with an Off the Track Thoroughbred (OTTB).
The three women came together with the aim to improve the lot of the UAE’s retiring racehorses. To date they have successfully hosted what they call their ‘soft-season’ (2020) and with the UAE now opening up again post-Covid, they have launched an exciting programme of events for riders of ex-racehorses.
“We had a really successful soft season from February to May 2020, culminating in an awards night in May, with over 7,000 Dhs in prizes!”
“Over the hot summer months, we organised monthly online Dressage competitions, really just to help riders work on their dressage in the privacy of their own yards and without having to transport their horses,” she says.
This year, with the 2021/22 equestrian season now in full swing, Life After Racing UAE has already hosted two unique shows which have drawn not only many ex-racehorses, but also many of the UAE’s equestrian community desperate to get involved too.
The first, an In-Hand Showing class held at Habtoor Polo and Equestrian Centre, was so popular that an additional class was hastily added for horses not part of the LAR programme. More recently a Working Hunter class hosted at Desert Palm Equestrian Centre, (also the first of its kind in the UAE), also drew impressive entries from both the LAR and non-LAR communities.
And it’s not all, Debbie says there are still more innovative classes to come this season, with a dedicated LAR show to be held in February 2022.
In addition to showing classes, there is the primary LAR league. Members of LAR are encouraged to compete in their chosen disciplines at the various Equestrian clubs and shows across the UAE and submit their results throughout the season via the LAR website, Sophie then collates the info and allocates points based on results. These league results then go forward to the final award night where members are in with a chance of winning the overall annual classes.
LAR annual awards are then presented for the horse and rider combination scoring the most points in Dressage, Showjumping and Eventing. Other classes include Best Arabian, Best Thoroughbred, Best Junior, Best Emirati and Best Junior Emirati amongst others.
How Can You Get Involved With Life After Racing UAE?
If you have a Thoroughbred or Arabian horse and can prove it either raced or was in race training, you are eligible to join LAR.
Riders then simply continue their competition season normally, submitting their results to LAR as they compete. The LAR website hosts a live-leader board allowing Life After Racing UAE members to follow their overall progress throughout the season. The LAR league closes at the end of April and results are collated ready for the final award ceremony in May.
How Can You Find Out More About Life After Racing UAE?
Visit the Life After Racing UAE website to find out more about the founders, membership and results. It’s also packed with lots of additional info, including videos, news and success stories to inspire other members: www.lifeafterracinguae.com
Equitrans regularly ships and transports LAR horses both in the UAE to local events and for relocation abroad. Our horse trucks offer generous sized stalls, air-conditioning throughout, internal CCTV monitoring, and experienced and fully in-house trained drivers. If you would like to know more about our UAE-wide transport to shows and events, please call: Mohammed Hayat +971 (0) 50 940 3383.