History and development
Al Shaqab was established in 1992 by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani. Al Shaqab started as an Arabian breeding farm, located at the landmark Al Shaqab battle site where the Bedouins fought a pivotal battle leading to Qatar’s independence. In 2004, Al Shaqab became a member of the Qatar Foundation, focusing on breeding and showing Arabian horses of the highest standard. The breeding programme is divided into three categories: international Arabian horses, combining all Arabian bloodlines; Straight Egyptian Arabians, as defined by The Pyramid Society; and the traditional Qatari bloodlines of the past. Al Shaqab has bred three World Champion stallions, namely Gazal Al Shaqab, Al Adeed Al Shaqab and Marwan Al Shaqab.
Al Shaqab began a visionary expansion in 2006 with the development of a world-class equestrian centre based on excellence, education and heritage. Al Shaqab has a strong endurance department where many of the Arabians from the breeding programmes are used, and excel. The Al Shaqab team represented Qatar at the World Endurance Championship in Malaysia, finishing second out of 24 countries. The equestrian centre also offers multi-discipline riding lessons, including dressage and showjumping. The popularity of traditionally English riding disciplines is growing rapidly, with new programmes being developed to cater to these needs. This popularity is largely due to the high volume of European expatriates who come to work in Qatar. Al Shaqab’s offerings also include a breeding and show centre, competitors’ accommodation, dressage stables, endurance stables, showjumping stables, Emiri stables (only accessible to the Emir of Qatar), an equestrian club, an equine exercise centre, an equine education centre, staff accommodation, a veterinary centre, and a world-class arena facility comprising an indoor warm-up arena, outdoor arena and indoor arena.
CHI Al Shaqab
CHI Al Shaqab is an exciting competition series, which was launched in Doha in 2013. The CHI Al Shaqab competition series runs over four days covering three disciplines, namely showjumping, dressage and para dressage, with national and international riders coming to compete for top prize money and prestigious titles. CHI Al Shaqab is under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Al Thani and Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Al Thani. The competition series is also supported by the Qatar Foundation.
The fourth edition of CHI Al Shaqab took place from 2 to 5 March 2016 in Doha, which saw top international riders such as Scott Brash, Kevin Staut, Michael Whitaker and Ludger Beerbaum in the showjumping circuit. Top riders such as Carl Hester and Claudia Fassaert participated in the dressage circuit. The 2016 competition had a total prize money of €1.2 million.
The CSI 5* 1.60m Grand Prix, held on the final day of the series, resulted in the German riders taking the top places with Ludger Beerbaum and Chiara winning the competition, Daniel Deusser and First Class van Eeckelghem in second place, and Christian Ahlmann and Codex One in third place. The total prize money for the competition was €500,000.
Sweden’s Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic pulled out all the stops to win CHI Al Shaqab’s €100,000 freestyle with a score of 77.28%, just snatching the win from Carl Hester and Nip Tuck. The British four-time Olympian had won the Grand Prix the previous day on Friday, 4 March 2016.
Fahad Saad Al Qahtani, Executive Director of Al Shaqab and President of CHI Al Shaqab, said, “CHI Al Shaqab is the most anticipated annual equestrian event in the country, and it attracts world-class riders who compete at the highest level of the sport. With the successful conclusion of this year’s event we are continuing to build on Al Shaqab’s legacy of equestrian sports here in Qatar, as well as our growing international reputation of being a world-renowned facility.”
Qatar’s equestrian future
The FEI has confirmed that Qatar and Palestine will be among five nations, including Chinese Taipei, Dominican Republic and Zimbabwe, making their Olympic debuts at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Qatar will be making their debut in showjumping, and it is sure to be an exciting time for the Qatari team.
Qatar is definitely a country to watch in the equestrian industry, with top racing facilities, top-quality horses coming to race and compete in the country, and Qatar’s local horses being world champions in their own right. Al Shaqab is a jewel for Qatar, supporting their dream of being worldly advocates of their achievements and their passion for horses and multi-discipline equestrianism.
Text: Hayley Kruger