Record numbers of showjumpers entered three-star classes at CHI Al Shaqab in Qatar (2-6 March).
According to event organisers, there is also an increasing interest in the sport among amateur Qatari riders and spectators.
Now in its fourth year, the competition offers three- and five-star showjumping, as well as international dressage and para dressage. It is the only para dressage competition in the Arab world.
“Showjumping is the sport for the [whole] country, for amateurs was well as professionals,” Bettina Weissenbach of the organising committee told H&H.
“All the big role models, the team that’s qualified for the Olympics, are showjumpers. Although we don’t have a long tradition of showjumping, there is a long tradition with Arab horses — the link is really strong.”
International riders — including Brits Scott Brash, Jessica Mendoza and Michael Whitaker — competing in the show’s five-star classes attend by invitation, with their expenses covered by the show.
The three-star classes are paid for by the competitors and are popular with local riders. Qatari showjumper Maryam Mubarak A. Al Ali took up the sport professionally three years ago.
“This season the Qatar Equestrian Federation is really promoting female involvement in the sport,” she said. “I look forward to representing my country in more international events like this.”
Affordable entrance fees are maintained to encourage spectators, with tickets starting at QR20 (£3.88).
Crowd numbers at the show have increased over the years and although attendance during daytime classes remains fairly low, the grandstand was around threequarters full on weekday evenings and at capacity on grand prix night.
“Before people used to watch the sport on television, now they realise it’s great to watch
it live,” said Ms Weissenbach.
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The show centre and stud, which opened in 2011, operates a riding school with a waiting list in its hundreds.
Meanwhile, eventing will soon make its debut at Al Shaqab.
A cross-country course is being built on the centre’s neighbouring golf course. It will offer tracks up to three-star level.
Ref: H&H 10/3/2016