Quick, name an American equestrian idol.
Sure, we have stars, and even superstars, but there are a few people out there in the world who are on another level of celebrity status. Phillip Dutton can probably walk around in his home town. Beezie Madden isn't chased by a herd of television cameras if she goes to pick up a score sheet. But some people just can't escape the spotlight. And they bring the spotlight with them, wherever they go. And the World Equestrian Games is making that clear.
By now, Lexington, Kentucky realizes that endurance is not like other equestrian sports: No starched shirts, no polished boots, no stiff upper lips. To the uninitiated, the horses are a bit on the lean side and the tack is so padded with sheepskin it's hard to tell what's what.
And then there are the riders themselves. The intensity and the passion of endurance competitors, not to mention their idiosyncracies, is legendary. But until they come to your town, you might not understand this tribe.
Adding a superstar royal or two to the mix just makes it all the more interesting. And that is what is happening right now in Lexington as the al Maktoum royal family of Dubai brings the United Arab Emirates endurance team into everyone?s view.
How could you miss them? The pit crew must be 50 people. And when HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, is in view, you can add lights, wires and broadcast hardware to the mix.
But a lot of the international interest seems to be in the younger set just as the recognition and ?buzz? follows their father. Sheikh Majid Mohammed Al Maktoum and Sheikh Hamdan Mohammad Al Maktoum are heirs to the reins of power in Dubai, but in the meantime they hold the reins of the endurance world with their near-domination of the sport.
As their endurance accomplishments continue to grow, so does their celebrity status with a young generation of Middle Eastern and European royal-watchers. The pop-theme video shown here is just one of dozens found on YouTube.
The impact of the al Maktoum family on endurance at the World Equestrian Games doesn't end with respect or awe for their almost certain medal win and the distraction of their celebrity sideshow. Add the fact that this endurance event at the World Equestrian Games is sponsored by Meydan, Dubai?s massive new ?skyscraper city? development surrounding Sheikh Mohammed?s dream racetrack and you begin to sense the impact of this celebrity troupe on the sport of endurance, and by extension, on all equestrian sports.
It's all part of the ?world? of equestrian sports and people here in Lexington are not likely to forget that there is another horse side to the family that owns several of Lexington?s largest Thoroughbred farms.
How many of the other top Thoroughbred owners actually get on a horse and ride, and out in public, at that, and in an open competition?
At the World Equestrian Games you can see a family effort to uphold a riding tradition that is hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years old. Reins and reigns overlap in the al Maktoum family. They just keep on riding, and we're here to watch them do it on the world stage, where they are right at home.
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