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Event Director Martina Boor: “I am here to bridge the Middle East and Europe, to bring them together”

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

(c) World of Showjumping
Event director Martina Boor at the third edition of Al Shira'aa International Horse Show in Abu Dhabi. (c) World of Showjumping

In the middle of January, the third annual Al Shira’aa International Horse Show took place in Abu Dhabi, UAE. World of Showjumping sat down with Event Director Martina Boor to learn more about the vision behind the show and how the European showjumping scene is mixing with Middle East-traditions.

Originally from Slovakia, Martina has lived and worked in the United Arab Emirates for the past twenty years. “I come from an equestrian family, but I was always the none horsey one,” Martina tells. “My uncle, Boris Boor, represented Austria at a few Olympic Games. I have always been surrounded with horses,” she continues. “After school, I worked in the corporate world for a little over fifteen years. One thing led to another, and I got involved in the equestrian sports here in the UAE – but more on the business side. I ended up with the connection to Al Shira’aa and now I have the privilege of organizing the Al Shira’aa International Horse Show.”

Martina’s long experience in the Middle East has been helpful in organizing Al Shira’aa International Horse Show. “I have spent the last 20 years in the UAE, and I work well on the local market. Last summer I moved out of the UAE, to New Zealand. Now I visit here during the year, when we are planning the show and I am fully based here six to seven weeks before the event takes place.”

“Al Shira’aa Stables are looking at equestrianism from a global perspective. They wanted to bring the global standard of international showjumping to the UAE,” Martina tells about the vision the founders of the show. “Our goal was to bring the best horses and riders that we see around the world, to set the standard high. These visions basically come from the core of the Al Shira’aa philosophy; developing equestrian sports in the UAE,” she explains.

Bringing the best European horses and riders to compete in Abu Dhabi is part of the idea behind the show, but to keep the balance between international stars and the local talents is very important to Martina. “It is not an easy task to fulfil,” she says. “Obviously the sport is in its developing stage here in the UAE and bringing the top riders from Europe can at some point be a little intimidating. But, we believe that you can always learn best from the greatest. And over the past few years there has been a big shift in the training for the UAE riders; and quite few also base themselves in Europe for the competition season. Having this event here annually brings a lot of inspiration and a lot of knowledge to everyone in the region. And as everybody knows, in every sport and in equestrian sport in particular, it is all about development. I would like to think that all the visiting top European riders here are an inspiration. Not only to the local riders, but to all aspiring riders in the region.

In addition to the international four-star classes, Al Shira’aa International Horse Show also offered classes for children, juniors and young riders – something that is at the core of Al Shira’aa’s working philosophy. “Children, juniors and young riders are a very important part of Al Shira’aa International Horse Show,” Martina tells. “Al Shira’aa Stables, the head of the show, are extremely particular on supporting the next generation of equestrians. Al Shira’aa also sponsors a junior team, so Al Shira’aa has their own riders competing here. Having the whole community and the children involved is really important.”

Ahead of the weekend of the four-star show, a one-star show took place. “We thought in a broader spectrum this year,” Martina tells about the additional two days of showjumping. “We did it to give everybody based here – not only the UAE riders, but everyone based here – an opportunity to participate and compete in the same arena where likes of Henrik (von Eckermann) will be cantering two days later. I think it is really broadening the sport and getting a hold of the community,” she explains. “Al Shira’aa is a supporter of equestrian sports here in the UAE, right from the grass roots.”

Since its first edition in 2017, the show has developed year by year. “This is the third year for the event. The show itself is running really well, now we are really just fine tuning the details,” Martina says. “We are working on the courses, the fences, the music – all the small things that make a big difference. “I think we are really lucky to have great support and great sponsors. Thanks to them, we are able to realize our ideas and we are not limited to our fantasies. Everything that we set out to do this year; I think we achieved those goals. We are already thinking about next year.”

“I would not call it challenging, I would call it interesting,” Martina answers when we ask her about the biggest challenges involved in her job. “The interesting part is to see the mixture of the cultures, the European and the Middle East and how showjumping brings them together,” she explains. “I enjoy that part very much. As a show director, I am here to bridge the Middle East and Europe – to bring them together.”

As to its third annual edition, Martina feels like the event has earned its place as a well-known part of the international showjumping circuit. “We have been extremely lucky with the show and I feel personal pride when I am visiting a horse show in Europe and people actually know about Al Shira’aa International Horse Show,” she says. “We look after our riders, we look after our horses and everyone who takes a part of the show. In ten years time, I would like to be somewhere around the world and listen to a conversation on the table next to me where people are talking about this show and how to get into it,” she smiles. “That would be a dream come true.”


Text © by Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping

Photos © by Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

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