RACE KINGDOM SPEAKS TO KATIE HIGGINS
Meet Katie Higgins, the 29 year old from Galway, Ireland, who moved to Dubai to teach art and ended up creating history, (quite remarkably might we add) by becoming the first Irish female camel jockey to compete in the UAE.
Now part of the first-ever women’s camel racing team in the UAE, this achievement wasn’t exactly how Katie had planned her life in Dubai to be. With the pandemic pushing her out of her school, Katie decided to give camel racing a shot, and it changed her life.
Race Kingdom, the first ever camel racing game in the metaverse, decided to speak to this queen of camel racing in the real world, about what the experience has been like for her.
RK: Can you tell us about your experience as a professional camel racing rider?
Katie: It is an exhilarating, once in a lifetime experience. Nowhere in the world is there an all-female camel racing team practicing in the traditional Arabic way. We solely put our trust in the camel and ourselves. To connect with the camel and become one. This experience has created history in the UAE given that the sport was largely male dominated.
RK: We’ve heard that you used to be terrified of camels at first. Can you tell us what your first experience on a camel was like?
Katie: I had the same stereotype as many others of camels biting and spitting, being very aggressive, given that they are such large and tall animals. Moving to the Middle East, I developed a fascination for them from a distance. My only experience with them was at desert safaris where you get the 2-minute ride on them led by the owner or see them graze wild in the sand dunes. I fed them once where they stuck their head in our car window in search of fruits. It scared me having this huge camel head stick her way in the car and I was afraid she would bite my fingers, but she was incredibly timid and polite.
RK: What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a camel racing rider?
Katie: It can be quite taxing on the body and does require you to maintain a certain level of fitness but that goes with any sport. One of the main challenges is keeping your balance and rhythm and overcoming the fear of falling off from such a height. It is not like a horse where you have a set of reins to hold onto, stirrups to put your feet into and a saddle to hug you and keep you positioned. The equipment used for the camel is more basic and lighter, using only blankets, straps and a head collar with a rope attached as your rein. Mastering your balance in a very fast trot and learning how to guide and direct your camel would be what I found the most challenging but is incredibly rewarding when you achieve it.
RK: Are there many opportunities for women in camel racing?
Katie: In the past it was non-existent but gradually with optimism, dreams and sheer determination from the ladies who are interested and invested, it is changing old ways. It is beautiful to see men accept us and welcome us to this sport. The fact that the Arabian Desert Camel Riding Centre is an officially registered center to teach and train students about camels and the C1 Race Series is registered under the Dubai Sports Council just goes to show what can be achieved. It is only flourishing from here with the center developing into wider activities and options. Doors are opening everywhere for women and camels.
RK: What do you think can be done to encourage more women to participate in camel racing?
Katie: The center has received such a large support already and each day more women are getting to know about the center and coming in large groups and sizes. Social media has been huge for the center so following this further and joining Independent all female groups help also.
RK: Can you tell us about the training and preparation that goes into preparing a camel for a race?
Katie: The camels get regular weekly training at least twice a week to keep their stamina and fitness, a nutritional diet is also catered for each camel based on their needs and requirements to ensure they are fit and strong enough for the race. We care highly for their health. We have lighter equipment for the camels especially for the race to make it easier on them and ensure faster speeds.
Just like Katie and many others around the world have begun to love and conquer camel racing in the real world, you can now race your own camels in the metaverse, with none other than Race Kingdom.