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How a Love Story Between a 10-Year-Old Girl and Horses is Making History at the World Games

Sara Mashabek giving the peace sign in her equestrian outfit.
Sara Mashabek, 10, showing peace sign after prize giving ceremony at the Al Forsan International Sports Resort.

Sara Mashabek’s love of horses could be described as love at first sight. She was just two years old when she first saw a horse and she immediately started to imitate how it acted. From then on, a special bond forged between Sara and horses.

Youngest AthleteNow, after eight years, she is one of the youngest athletes to compete at Special Olympics World Games 2019, representing the UAE in equestrian. The 10-year-old has been training hard for the past two years for the Games. Powered by medals from a few domestic competitions, the Emirati athlete made her international debut confidently.

During the English Working Trails level CS (division 2) event on Saturday, she was calm and focused as she rode her horse, completing the course at the Al Forsan International Sports Resort, as guided by the horse’s caretaker, and receiving a loud cheer from the home crowd.

Proud“I am very happy and proud. I like equestrian because I need to be brave, need to be proud of myself, I want to win medal…That’s my ambition,” she told AIPS after the medal ceremony.

When asked how much she likes horses, Sara opens her arms wide, indicating a huge love for the animals. Sara finished in fourth place with 32 points, as 37-year-old Anna Christina Johanna de Villiers of South Africa claimed the gold with 51 points.

FamilyApart from her own achievement, Sara has another reason to be proud – her elder sister Fatima Mashabek bagged a bronze in the division 3 of the English Working Trails level CS. Sara may be the youngest but 13-year-old Fatima is not far behind as the third youngest athlete at the Games.

Deep LoveMeanwhile, Sara's coach, Nawal Maher Algaafari, told AIPS that her love of horses is so deep, she can’t stay away from them for even a day. Some days, Sara requests two training sessions to develop her skills in the sport, which requires deep understanding between rider and horse.

Sara will continue her Games experience with level CS English Equitation and Gymkhana Concepts of Riding events on Monday and Wednesday respectively.

This article was produced as part of the AIPS Young Reporters Programme at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, generously supported by the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF).

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