Soraya Ourrais, the Franco-Moroccan winner of the FEI Development Award 2011, has set the bar very high for this category of the FEI Awards, for which nominations opened last week. The FEI Development Award rewards an individual, organisation or project that has in some way made equestrian sport accessible to a wider public.
“Development is often an adventure that takes place far from everyone and everything,” Ourrais said recently. “This award enabled me to make our project known on a bigger scale and take part in a superb gala evening where I was surrounded by equestrian professionals.”
Ourrais won the Development Award for her huge contribution to the revival of equestrian sport in Cambodia, where it had disappeared completely in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge regime.
Recruited in France in 2004 via an equestrian website, Ourrais’ mission to help set up Cambodia’s first equestrian centre morphed into a seven-year demonstration of resourcefulness and commitment.
Ourrais was the only professional rider in Cambodia. An FEI Level 1 coach, she trained grooms, 350 novice riders and the first Cambodian instructor and judge. For this country with no equine veterinarians, she travelled to neighbouring nations for advice and established a network for the provision of medicine and vaccines. Later, she initiated the training of two veterinarians.
She also set up the Cambodian Pony Welfare Association and Horse Future, a programme that benefits underprivileged children and has provided Cambodia with many of its national equestrian team members. In parallel, she tirelessly promoted equestrianism by organising school trips, youth camps and courses. Thanks to Ourrais’ commitment, the Cambodian Equestrian Federation was created in 2007.
Ourrais hopes the Cambodian national team will compete in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games in Burma. Commenting on equestrian development projects, she said: “For me, they are essential to the fruitful development of the equestrian pyramid, right up to the highest levels of competition: they are its base.”
Nominations for this year’s FEI Development Award, as well as for the Best Groom, HSBC Rising Star, Reem Acra Best Athlete and Against All Odds categories of the FEI Awards, can be made at www.feiawards.org.