Visit IAAF special preview page
Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
Visit IAAF special preview page
Visit IAAF special preview page

Riding to success in equine education

Grooming skilled riders, giving back to the community and making an international impact - this is what Al Shaqab has achieved with its Equine Educat
Mohammed Sultan Ahmed Al Suwaidi, Manager of Equine Education at Al Shaqab says the focus is to groom a generation of riders who understand horse riding and can help the community and the sport in the future. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

It was a bold step in many ways. No one in the Arab world had done it before. For that matter, it was a first of sorts in the world of equestrianism. An academic system in Arabic and English for horse riders. It is a badge Al Shaqab wears with pride. Three years since they introduced the system, where are they perched in terms of goals achieved? Manager of Equine Education at Al Shaqab, Mohammed Sultan Ahmed Al Suwaidi was waiting for just such a question. He gushes, “Our plan was for our riders to compete internationally in five years. We did it in two years”. To drive home that point, Al Suwaidi adds, “At international events, our students aged 14 to 15 years competed against riders from the Gulf region who have taken part in the Olympics and did better than them.”

Young riders are introduced to the basics of horse riding at Al Shaqab. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

The results reflect the effectiveness of the system. Al Shaqab follows a curriculum condensed into book form titled ‘Qatar Equestrian Classification’. It contains guidelines for each of the eight levels that students need to pass to progress from novices to advanced riders. The different levels pan across riders aged 6 to 18 years.

And this system seems to have had a snowballing effect. Performances of Al Shaqab riders have caught the eyes of the international community. This in turn has led to requests from other countries to conduct their camps at Doha’s well-known equestrian centre.

Earlier this year, 21 overseas riders were in Qatar for two weeks. They competed against each other in two big international events – the Longines Global Champions Tour and the Chi Al Shaqab. The riders also took part in clinics and rubbed shoulders with six of the top riders in the world.

A novel feature of the Al Shaqab system is the approach towards the horse and rider. Al Suwaidi elaborated. “We purchase horses of a certain age so that our riders grow up with the horses. Even as the rider improves, so does the horse. So, the value of our horses is always growing,” he said.

Having created an impact, Al Shaqab is now pushing forward. Their focus is on the Equine Institute. “The Equine Institute works on updating the curriculum. As there are a lot of changes in the sport every year, the curriculum also needs to change accordingly. Approving the curriculum and safety regulations, and ensuring that we are on the right path with our external and internal activities are tasks of the Equine Institute,” said Al Suwaidi.

With such an impressive track record, there is little wonder that Al Shaqab has a waiting list of 1200. The students number 400 now with a possible increase to 600 in the future. Of course quality is their focus and not quantity.

“We are trying to change and grow a new generation who try to understand horse riding academic-wise so that they can help the community and improve the sport in the future,” says Al Suwaidi.

With a firm goal in front, there is every chance that Al Shaqab will reach their objective of being one of the best international equine education institutes.