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Al Shira'aa and the United Arab Emirates showjumping team: Reaching for new heights

Thursday, 01 February 2018
Interview

(c) World of Showjumping
Mohammed Ahmed Al Owais, Sport Director of Al Shira'aa International Horse Show. Photos (c) World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen.

A few days before the start of the CSI4* Al Shira’aa International Horse Show in Abu Dhabi, the main organizers of the show, Al Shira’aa Stables, announced that they will be supporting the United Arab Emirates showjumping team in 2018. For some it might come as a surprise that behind the whole operation is a young woman - Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Hazza Al Nahyan, the founder of Al Shira’aa Stables and Honorary President of the CSI4* Al Shira’aa International Horse Show.

World of Showjumping sat down with Mohammed Ahmed Al Owais, Sport Director at Al Shira’aa International Horse Show, and Mohammed Al Hajri, member of the UAE showjumping team, to learn more about the new partnership.

Even though showjumping is a developing sport in the region, horses have always been a big part of the Arab culture and it is the love for the sport that is also the foundation in Al Shira’aa’s commitments. “Showjumping in our region is growing and has developed a lot in the last few years,” Mohammed Al Owais tells us. “I think that Al Shira’aa International Horse Show reflects our passion for the sport and it gives a complete picture of how we are. We are not only going to Europe to buy horses and compete there, but we also have high level competition in our own region. This show is mainly managed by local people – it is a good reflection of how the sport has grown.”

“The Arabian horses have always been a big part of our tribes and families and we are very familiar with horses, even though showjumping as a sport is new to us,” Al Owais continues. “Everything is developing, and we are trying to import the knowledge about the sport.”

“Horses in our family are a tradition, from my grandfather and my father, who breed Arabian horses,” Mohammed Al Hajri, member of the UAE showjumping team, fills in. “I have loved horses since I was very young, and in the beginning I started to jump on the Arabian horses that we have. But then I found out that they are not really for jumping,” he smiles. ”So, I went to Europe and bought some horses there. That is how I started with showjumping.”

(c) World of Showjumping
Mohammed Al Hajri is a member of the UAE showjumping team.

“Actually, the difference between Europe and our region is that here showjumping is a developing sport. Here everyone is more focused on endurance and race horses,” Al Hajri continues. “But in the last years showjumping has grown a lot, and now you can on occasions compete in the UAE against the same riders you would in Europe. The only difference is, we don’t have so many shows here as there are in Europe. This year we have three five-star shows here. That means the sport has improved a lot.”

The multiple aspects of the sport are what Al Owais enjoys the most. “I enjoy the whole process,” he explains. “Because this sport is not only about those moments of riding in the ring. It starts with finding the right horse, training them and managing them right, making the right plan. Of course, you get your fruit when you win something big and that is what makes it so fascinating.”

“I like jumping,” Al Hajri continues. “I like the competition, but we are all friends – whoever wins, we are happy and always support the winners. That is the nicest thing about this sport; in the end we are all friends.”

(c) World of Showjumping
Karl Schneider is training the UAE showjumping team.

With the support of Al Shira’aa Stables, the United Arab Emirates team has their goals set high for this year. “Our short term goals are the Asian Games and the World Equestrian Games this summer,” Al Owais says. “I want to go to the WEG and make good rounds, to earn the respect of the people. And I think we have to fight for a gold medal in the Asian Games. The support from Al Shira’aa is very important for us, because they are professional people in this sport. Our top results last year, winning the Challenge Cup in Barcelona and placing third in our first Nations Cup of the season in Roeser, Luxembourg, showed that Al Shira’aa knows what they are doing.”  

Al Hajri is of the same opinion. “In this sport, it is very difficult to organize everything. With Al Shira’aa’s support, it gives us a very good chance to keep good horses, have good training and be organized.” Last year the team spent six months competing in Europe and are trained by Germany’s Karl Schneider. “I have been training with Karl for a long time now,” Al Hajri says. “I think he is doing a super job.”

Al Shira’aa, who is also the title sponsor of Hickstead Derby in England, has tight connections to showjumping and the new partnership with the UAE showjumping team is another sign of their vision to support equestrian sports. As the sport director of the second edition of the CSI4* event in Al Forsan Village, Al Owais is always looking for ways to improve. “We try to add new ideas every year,” he explains. “From the sport side, our feedback from the riders here is that the classes and the facilities are good. Of course we can add more - we would like to see more professional horse people here, but our wish is also to attract the non-horsey people. With more exhibitors we could make this show more like a horse festival for everyone.”

“Horses are a tradition in our country, we have always loved horses,” Al Hajri closes off. “Showjumping is getting stronger and stronger every year with good horses and talented, young riders coming up. I think in the next ten years, we will get some surprises!”

(c) World of Showjumping
Horses are a part of the family tradition in UAE.


Text and pictures © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen

No reproduction without permission

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