Spacecraft engineer’s stellar role at Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Equestrian Festival

Maria Hernek
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Updated 21 December 2019

Spacecraft engineer’s stellar role at Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Equestrian Festival

  • Chief steward applies her Dutch space agency experience to Saudi international horse-riding event

RIYADH: Organizing and managing international horse riding events on the scale of Diriyah Equestrian Festival (DEF) is no small feat.

With more than 150 competitors hailing from 17 countries and 170 horses in attendance, the logistics require precision, sharp attention to detail and unwavering passion for the sport.

Enter Maria Hernek, DEF 2019 chief steward, and her team of experts who oversee the daily running of the festival and are responsible for ensuring the welfare of riders and horses alike.

The code of conduct that Hernek follows, which ultimately defines her role, is threefold. “Help, prevent and intervene.” Simple terms, yet the impact she and her team’s actions have on an event’s success are undeniable.

“One of the responsibilities is to ensure it’s fair play for everyone, a level field of play. Everyone should have the same possibility to warm up in the same conditions. For instance, the footing needs to be the same from the first horse to the last. If there are 100 horses, it is quite difficult,” she said.

Speaking about how she navigates the policies around horses that have traveled from all around the world to participate in the competition, Hernek added: “We work with the quarantine team to support.  The quarantine procedure here is different to what it is in other nations, for example, it differs in America to here in Saudi Arabia. So, for that we need to know a bit about each country and what their rules are and adjust according to them.”

Getting under the skin of different cultures and understanding their ways of operating is another skill that helps Hernek in her role as chief steward, and one she is not unfamiliar with.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Enter Maria Hernek, DEF 2019 chief steward, and her team of experts who oversee the daily running of the festival and are responsible for ensuring the welfare of riders and horses alike.

• The code of conduct that Hernek follows, which ultimately defines her role, is threefold. ‘Help, prevent and intervene.’

Taking the top stewarding role at DEF has been a passion project for the Swede, rather than just a day job. Normally, however, Hernek can be found working out of her base at the Netherlands Space Office (the Dutch space agency) in her impressive role as a spacecraft engineer.

“One part of my normal work is to read rules of spacecraft engineering. At the space agency, I work with over 25 different nationalities, which helps me while I’m stewarding as I can catch up with different cultures quite quickly and understand different language intricacies. I’m quite accustomed to it,” she added.

No stranger to hard work, Hernek opts to forgo relaxing holidays, instead spending her annual leave traveling to competitions such as DEF to pursue her passion.

It is a hobby that has taken her to great heights over the course of her 25-year stewarding career, including stints at the Olympics in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016, and an upcoming placement at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“Every time you’re appointed (to steward) at the Olympics, it’s a huge honor,” Hernek said.

Despite horses and spaceships being two dramatically different vessels, Hernek has learned that many of the core skills are interchangeable — that is being a true “people person” skilled at reading situations and being a stickler for the rules.


Shoura Council tackle breach of trust, anti-fraud laws

Updated 27 min 34 sec ago

Shoura Council tackle breach of trust, anti-fraud laws

RIYADH: The General Assembly of the Shoura Council has reviewed topics on its agenda, which include a number of reports submitted by specialized committees.

This came on Sunday during the work of the council’s first ordinary session of the first year of the eighth session, held remotely under the chairmanship of Dr. Abdullah Al-Asheikh, president of the council. The council agreed to refer the report of the Committee on Islamic and Judicial Affairs on draft regulations against fraud and breach of trust for return to the council for consideration and review.

It also referred the report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Family and Youth on draft law pertaining to fundraising and disbursement within the Kingdom.

Further reviews will also be referred to and discussed in upcoming council sessions on draft law reports filed by the Management and Human Resources Committee regarding functional discipline and the Hajj, and the Housing and Services Committee’s draft law on amendments to the contractor classification system.