By TEAM SATPAL
A FEAR of heights might have ended Muhammad Ziyad Muhammad Hamzah’s horse riding career before it even started, but growing up in a family of professional endurance horse trainers gave him the motivation to continue.
“It was my father,” Ziyad replied, when asked what inspired him to ride horses at the tender age of seven.
His father, who currently manages Island Horses, an equestrian park in Langkawi, was a national trainer of endurance horses in the Malaysian horse racing team in 2015.
Ziyad’s proudest achievement was representing Malaysia in the 2013 International Equestrian Federation (FEI) World Endurance Championships for Young Riders and Juniors in Tarbes, France.
Despite strong competition from countries like America and Argentina, team Malaysia placed fourth overall. On top of that, Malaysia ranked first in the Asia-Europe region for the Junior Riders category.
From the age of 13 to 23, Ziyad takes part in 10 endurance tournaments each year. This is evident from the wall full of awards proudly displayed in the stables of his family’s equestrian park. In 2008, he took part in the Sukma Games and one year later, represented Malaysia in a tournament held in Australia.
“My time in Australia was very different from that in Malaysia. In Malaysia, there are usually around 30 to 40 participants. In Australia, the number could reach close to a hundred. The most challenging part of it was the cold weather and mountainous racing tracks that were different from the ones in Malaysia.”
Ziyad kickstarted his journey in endurance horse racing when he was 13. With no prior experience in such competitions, he took part in one held in Kedah and came home defeated. However, Ziyad and his family later stumbled upon the Terengganu International Endurance Championship where they learnt more about the sport.
Ziyad made it clear that horse riding skills are not hereditary as some people might believe.
“The most important factors to be a good horse rider are your fitness, experience, balance and time spent on the horse. Without sacrificing your time, you will not be able to gain experience on the horse,” he explained.
Training an endurance horse has its ups and down. Throughout his journey, Ziyad has had some brushes with danger, which include being kicked in the back by a new horse, and falling off a horse during training.
“If you ever fall while riding a horse, you have to get back on it immediately, even if you can still feel the pain from it. It’s a basic rule for us. The reason for this is that if you don’t do it, you will be too afraid to get on a horse again,” he shared.
As someone to look out for in the field, Ziyad felt that endurance training should be given more emphasis. He hopes that more junior endurance horse riders would be nurtured and that endurance horse racing would be considered an Olympic sport in the near future.
Discipline, according to Ziyad, is the most important trait that every aspiring junior rider should observe in order to be successful in the sport.
“No matter how great you are, if you do not have discipline, you will fall,” he said.