Horses play an important role in Qatar’s culture, especially the Arabian breed. Qatar365 found out more about their beauty and endurance, spoke to competitors riding to success, and visited an equine education centre, where future champions are created.
Equine education at its best
Al Shaqab’s five-star stables and education centre, is inspiring a love for riding. With its hefty waiting list, places are sought after. Abdulrahman Eisa Al Bukhari, comes from a family of riders, starting the sport at the age of nine. Now at sixteen, he has scooped some of the most coveted awards in his age category.
One of his coaches, Benaissa Kennous, says his dream is to see one of his students participate in the Olympic Games. Another coach there, Maysam AlShhab, believes the key to a rider’s success is a strong relationship with their horse. Many riders say they feel especially confident because of how well the elite equestrian hub treats their powerful steeds.
Equestrian expert insights
Al Shaqab embodies a wealth of equine expertise. Khalid Al Jehani is the manager of the organisation’s breeding and show department, he says when it was established in 1992, the main aim was to bring Arabian horses back to their homeland. The team has now successfully bred more than seven world champions.
Showcasing champion horses and riders
The organisation also hosts some of the biggest global competitions on the equestrian calendar, like CHI Al Shaqab. Riders compete in the Olympic disciplines of showjumping, dressage, and para-dressage. It’s the only championship of its kind in the Middle East and Asia region. Local riders are making their mark, like showjumping champion, Mohammed Haidan, and Qatari dressage rider, Wejdan Al Malki, who told Euronews: “I never thought that one day little old me would be in an arena with the world's best riders. If I can do it then anyone else can.”
International showjumper, Shane Breen, from Ireland, says he was impressed with the challenging course at this year’s Longines Global Champions Tour, “The crowd are very appreciative of our performances. We're on the top stage, one of the best venues in the world and it's a pleasure to be here.”
There are other big competitions on the calendar. The most prized Arabian horses at the Katara International Arabian Horse Festival, are assessed on their special floating trot, form, grace, and the relationship with their handlers. For thousands of years, the breeds lived side by side with nomadic Bedouins. Surviving in harsh desert conditions, they evolved to have a large lung capacity and incredible endurance. As Katara’s director of Events and Cultural Affairs, Dr Khalid Abdulrahman Al-Sayed, reiterates, it’s a strong part of the culture here. It’s clear that not only does the country honour its horses, but it’s also inspiring future equestrian champions.