Horse of the
Month: Nobby

03 July 2018

In our latest Horse of the Month feature, we get to know more about this WEG Endurance legend...

Nobby and his rider Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton are the most successful Endurance partnership of all time.

 

They are the only horse and rider combination to ever have held World and European titles simultaneously.

 

In 2008, Nobby won the World Endurance Championship in Malaysia, and then In 2009, he won the European Endurance Championship in Italy. Nobby then went one to win the World Equestrian Games Endurance title in the USA in 2010.

 

This impressive horse then won his fourth major title in a row in 2011 when defending his European title in France.

His partnership with Maria was a beautiful one...

Not only is Nobby the most successful Endurance horse in FEI history, he proved he could do it over any terrain possible; flat, mountainous, dry, or tropical.

 

Nobby, a pure-bred Arab was born in 1995. He measures just 148cm which equates to 14.2hh.

 

Maria could often be seen, at the end of a race, heading to the final vet gate, patting his neck and pointing at him to all who were cheering them home.

 

Maria and husband, fellow endurance rider, Jaume Punti-Dachs, divide their time between their native Spain and Dubai, where they train Endurance horses for Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Maria says she owes much of hers and Nobby’s success to the Sheikh.

 

Maria began work in Dubai worked as a stable rider in 2001. The Sheikh supported her, allowed her to compete. It’s also how Maria met her husband.

 

After Nobby won the 160-km FEI World Endurance Championship in 2008 in Malaysia, Maria said:

“If I am standing here as the World Endurance Champion, it is only because of the support of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. He gave us everything. We owe everything we have or done in horses to him. This victory is his."

 

In 2010, when Nobby and Maria won the 160km Endurance race at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, USA. It was just a few weeks after Maria’s had given birth to their first child.

 

The course as well was more challenging than first appreciated.

 

“This is the most difficult race I’ve done with Nobby,” she said afterwards. “People say it’s flat, but it’s not flat at all. But for me, Nobby is the best horse in the world.” Maria trained Nobby in the desert, but with each victory in a different and testing part of the world, he proved his ability and versatility. Maria added, “He has a huge heart and it responds really well, but when he wins a race he doesn't just win it with his heart, he also wins it with his head!"

 

Maria and Nobby arrived on the international Endurance scene in December 2006 when finishing third in the 120km race in Dubai. When they won the European Championship in France in 2011, not only did they defend their European title, but it was their fourth major title in a row.

 

They had been unbeatable for four years which is a remarkable feat for such a physically gruelling event.

Nobby was
successful over
every terrain

The greatest Endurance horse of all time...

Once again, Maria paid tribute to Nobby. "I'm delighted with this win for myself and my great little horse - he really is unique. To win four Championships together is something very special!"

 

In 2012 at the World Endurance Championship in the UK, the Spanish two-some were attempting to match America’s Becky Hart’s record, to win three World titles in succession, with the Arab, RO Grand Sultan.

 

Despite finishing fourth, Nobby’s more travelled and varied victories place him as the greatest Endurance horse of all time.

 

In 2013, they were absent from the Euros as Maria was having another baby. By the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games, in his 20th year, Nobby had been retired.

 

Nobby became a figure head for the sport with his rider Maria; gaining accolades and fans where ever he had raced. Nobby’s world domination in that golden era between 2008 and 2011 will be extremely hard to beat.

 

Make sure you follow along with all the Endurance action at WEG on FEI TV in September!

 

Text by Katie Roebuck

 

Images by Giorgio Biffi/FEI