A 29-year-old teacher from Galway has become the first Irish female camel jockey to compete in the UAE.
When Katie Higgins moved to Dubai to teach art, she had to say goodbye to the horses she’d ridden for all her life.
However, she found a surprise replacement for horse riding: Katie is now part of the first-ever women's camel racing team in the United Arab Emirates.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Katie said camel riding is similar in some respects to horse riding but totally different in some other ways.
She said: “What’s really different with camel riding is you don’t have any equipment like you would with a horse: there are no stirrups, no saddle.
"You have a cushion and blanket to protect and support the camel’s back, as well as your own bottom.
“You completely give in to your balance and trust yourself.”
She said camels are typically very "laid-back and relaxed" animals by nature, and on a casual stroll they move so slowly you could comfortably "have a cup of tea" while on one's back.
However, they get "super, super-fast" during a race - reaching speeds of around 45km/h.
Katie learned to ride camels at the Arabian Desert Camel Riding Centre.
Since the first licenced race in October, she and the other woman on the team have competed in several C1 Championship races.
Katie said camel racing is a "huge sport" in the UAE, with lots of money involved.
She explained: “There are plenty of races that happen here with camels… the royal sheiks from all the different Emirates come with their camels and race.
“Betting is not really something they do here, but there are prize winnings for those who come first, second and third.
“The camel is valued much higher if they win more races. It’s a little like horse racing in that sense, but spectators normally wouldn’t do any betting.”
While camel racing itself is centuries old, women have traditionally had much more limited rights in the UAE than they've had in Ireland and the sport itself has long been male-dominated.
Katie said there was "a lot of distaste" from men when her team first started training and competing.
However, she said: "When we proved we can actually control and handle these two-metre tall muscular camels, they’ve gained a lot of respect for us.
“Now, when we go out training, they’ll actually say hello to us and try to have a conversation with us as best they can.
“We started off getting laughed at and with a little distaste towards us… getting this respect now is a huge step forward to modernising camel racing and camel riding in the Emirates.”
With a number of races now complete, Katie's already enjoying some camel racing success.
She came in third place in the fourth race of the ongoing series on Saturday, with the next race already set for February 26th.