Zakaria Abd Rahman and Suzanna Musakal’s faith in their children Nur Qasrina Amani and Muhammad Yusuf Luqman paid off as they qualified for the FEI Junior and Young Riders Endurance World Championships in Pisa, San Rossore, Italy in September.
Although they went to France as Team Malaysia, they had to raise their own funds to send Nur Qasrina and Muhammad Yusuf, Muhammad Faris Haikal Mohd Hassan Sa’ari and Muhammad Aimin Azfar Nazulki plus four Benua Equestrian Stables officials-cum-chaperones to the Argentan International Endurance competition in France two weekends ago.
Faris Haikal booked his ticket to the world meet there while the other three narrowly missed out.
They then headed to the nearby Jullianges endurance race and all four riders beat the qualifying mark – while riding ‘borrowed horses’.
The quartet won a trophy as ‘the only country to have a 100 per cent qualifiers’ besides being the only Southeast Asian riders to qualify.
“We took this leap of faith in our children as they wanted so much to represent the country,” said Suzanna, who added Nur Qasrina Amani just missed the cut for the 2017 SEA Games.
“We told ourselves that no matter the cost, we would do what we can to help them as they are determined riders.
“This was their first overseas competition and I’m delighted all four are going to the World Championships.”
Zakaria said: “We made the decision to sell our car to fund the trip.
“We needed extra funds as we didn’t have the heart to leave Haikan and Aimin behind as they had been training so hard.
“Now we have to look for sponsors as there are still some outstanding bills to pay.
“We have done our national duty by sending them to the qualifiers. We hope the results will help us get sponsors as we representing the nation.”
Zakaria and Suzanna paid tribute to former world No. 1 equestrian rider Datuk Awang Kamaruddin Abdul Ghani who helped them source for the horses besides parting pearls of wisdom before and during the competitions.
The quartet had to use horses from Europe due to their familiarity with the course and weather.
Awang Kamaruddin’s experience paid off for Yusuf who lost valuable time when his horse lost a shoe.
Instead of panicking, Awang Kamaruddin who was in constant contact with the team, coxed Yusuf across the finishing line within the allocated time.
The riders completed a 130km and a 120km race within seven days
“The objective of these qualifiers was to make the cut for the World Championships – meaning the riders had to complete the course with an average speed of 14-8km per hour,” explained Awang Kamaruddin, the 2001 SEA Games endurance champion.
“When Yusof’s horse lost a shoe, I didn’t panic as I knew what needed to be done. I told him to go all out in the final loop and he made the cut with an average speed of 14.7km.”
Awang Kamaruddin explained the reason for ensuring all four riders qualified was to give them a better chance in the team event.
“We have to be realistic. We are using borrowed horses while the top riders have their own horses which have been especially bred for endurance racing.
“It will be impossible to challenge them but we can at least try to challenge in the team event,” he said.
“The riders’ performances impressed many people who have contacted me to offer discounts if we use their equipment.
“The value of the horses we rode has shot up because we have qualified for the World Championships.
“Let me see what I can do to reduce the price even more. We spent RM130,000 for each of the races but it will cost a lot more for the World Championships.”