Last week, five French riders who are members of the organization team got together with four title holders from the national team and tested a part of the Gallops of Oman trail, a competition taking place from 14th until 23rd February 2014 in the Southeast of the country, starting in the Al Mintirib desert.
The aim of this reconnaissance was to test the feasibility of the stages, the abilities of the horses as well as the handling of logistics. The first conclusion: The Gallops of Oman are an adventure, not a promenade. Forty kilometers in the desert on horseback are nothing that can be improvised (that is the approximate distance of the first two stages concocted by Bernard Gallego; they will be followed by three shorter stages that altogether add up to 170 km).
The raid is thus designed for rather hardy riders who should be in good physical condition and have a feel for horses in order to cope with the distances as well as difficult sections of the trail, such as the passage through the crest of the dunes, where riders will have to get off their horses.
The reward: beautiful sandy landscapes with variations of color that range from yellow to red and white throughout the five stages… with a final blue reward at the end of the trail: the shores of the Arabian Sea. Enchanting moments await the riders, in which they will see but a few camels or goats with their Bedouins pass by, as well as nature’s incredible light show that varies throughout the day, the magnificent starry sky during the night – it’s an unsuspicious life. During the first stage, the desert inevitably becomes a passion one can never get rid of afterwards!
Riders of the Sultan’s Royal stables choose the horses that are all thoroughbred Arabian or sometimes crossbred with a thoroughbred English horse and thus something like a local, very brave Anglo-Arabian. They are naturally very persevering and those tested last week – although not fully prepared at this point - were very well able to endure two stages of 40 and 30 km (or “kilos” as the Omanis say!), at an average speed of 6 km/h at 35°C. The temperatures will be less high in February (22/23°) and the horses will then be more relaxed.
The Royal Cavalry and the interior ministry will assure the logistics – bivouac, attendants, security, communications, medical and veterinary assistance. Even though this trail as an orientation course is a real adventure where riders and horses are “released” into the desert with nothing but a road-book and every now and then a GPS, the contestants will be under good surveillance: the Royal Cavalry’s 4x4, helicopters and quads will watch the course, food and water supplies will be frequent. The five bivouacs will offer maximum comfort (or at least as much comfort as an adventure in the desert has to offer with that necessary Spartan touch to it), local colors and gastronomy (the Oman cuisine is particularly savory) and celebrations every night!
The Gallops of Oman promise to be a success, an adventure consisting of great encounters on horseback with welcoming people who are great hosts. Even though it is the very first edition, the spots for participation are already filled with one hundred European riders and a few Omanis who will discover one of the world’s most beautiful deserts, driven by their desire for competition and love for the unknown.