HE is only 20 years old, but horse rider Muhammad Ziyad Muhammad Hamzah will be competing in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) for the fourth time at the end of this month.
To be held in Chile on Oct 23 and 24, WEC will see three other young Malaysian riders — Ahmad Faizal Ahmad Fanizar and Mohd Adhwa Embong of Terengganu, and Tengku Sharafuddin Abu Bakar of Perlis — competing in the equestrian world event for the first time.
“I have been preparing for the coming World Cup in Chile for the past two years since I came back from France,” said the soft-spoken Ziyad.
Two years ago in Tarbes, France, Ziyad rode together with the Yang di-Pertuan Muda of Terengganu Tengku Muhammad Ismail Ibni Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, who was only 15 years old then.
Ziyad’s father, Muhammad Hamzah Hanssen chipped in: “In 2012, Ziyad rode in the WEC with Tengku Ismail’s father, the Sultan of Terengganu Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin”.
Sultan Mizan is an avid endurance rider, who has competed in many prestigious endurance competitions worldwide. He is also responsible for Malaysia’s successful bid to hold the WEC in Terengganu in 2008.
Ziyad and his father, who is an endurance rider himself and also the manager for the Malaysian team going to Chile, regularly competes in national and international endurance competition at the Terengganu International Endurance Park (TIEP) and other venues in the country.
“My sons and daughter and I ride in endurance competitions regularly. This time the family has high hopes that Ziyad would improve his world ranking, or even come out first, God willing”, Hamzah said.
He said in 2012, Ziyad brought Malaysia a fourth place in the equestrian world cup, ahead of many European countries and America.
Despite a good track record, he said the sport did not receive the support it deserved from the relevant sports authorities.
“We wrote to the National Sports Council, not to ask for sponsorship, but merely to support our appeals of sponsorship from private companies and individuals. However, even that was rejected,” Hamzah said.
The lack of support did not deter the determined father-and-son team and the other three Malaysian riders from training hard for the coming competition in Chile.
The riders train separately in their respective states. The two Terengganu riders train at the well-equipped endurance stables in the state, while Tengku Sharafuddin trains at his father’s private stable in Kedah.
For Ziyad, his training routine is a daily 20km ride and being with the horses 24 hours a day at the Perdana Stables in Langkawi, which is run and managed by his father.
Ziyad was only 10 years old when Hamzah was recruited to run and manage the stables. The boy had started horse-riding three years earlier at the tender age of 7, when Hamzah was attached to another stable.
The family lives behind the stable and Ziyad spends day and night with the horses. This is more so when a mare is about to give birth. The whole family would practically sleep at the stable and patriarch Hamzah would personally tend to the delivery of the foal.
“Such close interaction with the animals makes us understand them better. In endurance ride, a strong bond with the horses is a vital asset,” Hamzah said.
“The sport places the welfare of the horses as its most important element. A rider is disqualified when a horse’s heart rate is above the stipulated rate, or when the animals limp afterwards.
He said throughout the race, the rider needed to look out for signs of stress and such, and act accordingly, like slowing down and walking the horse, or even dismounting and letting the horse rest.
“Imagine riding about 12 hours day and night into unknown tracks on a living animal. When a horse’s temperament is affected and its mood becomes abnormal, it can be scary.
“A rider needs to understand his horses well to overcome such situations. They are not machines like motorcycles and bicycles,” he said.