Gianluca Laliscia, ambassador of Italian endurance in the world
The world team endurance champion talks about his projects between sport and international relations
“I fell in love with horses at the age of 8 when my father gave me one for my birthday and asked me to take care of it completely. Today, 46 years later, we have more than thirty horses in the stable.” The speaker is Gianluca Laliscia, world endurance team champion, and ambassador for Italian endurance riding around the world, especially in the Arab states. A great sportsman, but also an entrepreneur. CEO of sistemaeventi.it, with which he organises international events that revolve around the world of horse racing, he is the creator of the Endurance Lifestyle, an annual international format event dedicated mainly to sport, business and networking but also tourism and culture, established 15 years ago to give voice to endurance riding as a driver for promoting Italian and regional excellence.
In Umbria he founded the Italia Endurance Stables & Academy, a true piece of paradise surrounded by unspoilt nature, entirely dedicated to Pure Arab horses and equestrian sports. It is located in Agello near Perugia and boasts two special addresses: Via United Arab Emirates and Piazza Dubai. One of the biggest in Europe, the centre guarantees horses, riders and professionals the best conditions to follow their passions and build on high-level projects. The stable represents true excellence, with the Academy dedicated to training, but Italia Endurance is also an ideal location for organising events and public relations, with its atmosphere and spaces inspired by the Arab world, making it particularly suitable for the meeting of minds, experiences and skills. Among the various facilities there is also a special Majlis.
When did your passion for endurance begin?
It began in 1988, the year in which I had the opportunity to get to know this wonderful discipline that celebrates the man-nature-horse threesome.
What does it consist of?
It is a marathon on horseback over a distance of 160km that takes place on trails over various kinds of testing terrain: deserts, natural parks, wonderful countryside. The horses’ welfare is paramount at all times in this discipline, to the extent that the animals are subjected to scrupulous veterinary inspections before, during and after the event where they are constantly checked for soundness and dehydration, and their pulse and respiration taken.
Endurance is known as the Sport of Sheikhs, is that right?
In the UAE, it is considered the national sport. In fact, it is the sport practiced by the majority of the Gulf States’ royal families, and as a result of the enthusiasm and dedication of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, this sport has seen a significant increase over the years, so much so that it has become the second equestrian discipline in the world for number of contestants.
You have had a special friendship with the Dubai Royal Family and in particular with Sheikh Mohammed for over twenty years. How did you meet and what can you tell us about him?
I met his Sheikh Mohammed in 1998, during the world championships in Dubai.
I can say that he is a man of great vision and that his point of view is always forward-looking. He is a true horse lover and I must admit that he is also a model for me, one that inspires me continuously. In addition to a professional relationship, what binds us is a good, sincere friendship, also based on a shared passion for endurance.
Which major sporting events have resulted from your friendship?
Without doubt, the most interesting result of our friendship was the creation of Endurance Lifestyle. The first event and some of the following took place in Umbria, two in Veneto, then in the Marche, in Sardinia and the last seven in Tuscany. Each of them was an opportunity to foster cultural exchange, networking and the creation of partnerships between the main economic players in Italy and the UAE, as well as promoting Italy in its broadest sense. The Dubai Royal Family, I am referring above all to Sheikh Mohammed and his son Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, have always supported our events, also participating personally in the endurance competitions we organize.
You must be proud of your Endurance Lifestyle.
Il Sole 24 Ore defined it as an “exclusive bridge for relations between Italy and the Gulf states”. In fact, Endurance Lifestyle has managed to promote Italy as a set of values and products, establishing international business synergies on several fronts, always with the collaboration and invaluable support of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the UAE of which I have been Board Member for several years. Especially in Tuscany, in San Rossore, Pisa, my two support companies sistemaeventi.it and Italia Endurance have been organising international Endurance Championships since 2018. And in 2021 we reached the top, with the organisation of a World Championship - Longines FEI Endurance World Championship 2021 - which despite the pandemic achieved record success, especially in terms of communication.
The face of the cover of this issue is Frankie Dettori: have you known him for a long time?
Sure, I’ve known Frankie for many years. The last time we met was at the Pisa Hippodrome in San Rossore on the occasion of the Premio Pisa. I am reminded of the remark he made about the discipline to which I have dedicated my life: “Dear Gianluca, for endurance you need a good backside!”. Frankie was obviously joking about the comparison between a 160 km long race and one of his super-fast races. He is truly a special friend and a great person.