Eventing could be the next discipline to benefit from Qatari investment, following the oil-rich state’s involvement in racing and showjumping (news, 30 January).
The Qatar Equestrian Federation (QEF) is aiming an eventing team for the Rio Olympics, via the Asian Games in South Korea.
A team of riders and grooms have been based at Joss Gray’s Oxfordshire yard since 2012. 5 riders are currently preparing for September’s Asian Games.
Although Qatar won team gold and individual silver at the Doha Asian Games in 2006 in eventing, its riders have had a quiet time since.
Joss Gray, who coached the Indonesian team for 12 years, thinks Qatar’s eventers could be the next big thing.
“Their showjumpers are flying now and the eventers are brave and keen,” he said. “They want to compete at top level for the highest honours.”
The riders — Hadi Al-Marri, Ali Al-Marri, Manif Al-Naimi, Saeed Al-Rashdi and Hassan Al-Naimi — are currently riding up to intermediate level, in preparation for the CIC* Asian Games. Most of the riders have already showjumped at 1.40m and have “a good grounding”, said Joss.
“They find eventing showjumping comparatively easy, so it’s about cross-country training,” said Joss. “Everything in Doha is on a flat surface, so they are getting used to the mud and hills here.”
“The QEF is committed to provide the best trainers and horses available for the riders, as well as the best facilities,” said the federation’s Mohammed Thakur.
And is eventing likely to follow football to the Gulf?
“Doha could be a future venue,” said Joss. “It was used in 2006 and the track still runs through the park, where they’ve kept a memorial fence to the Korean rider who was killed at the event.
“It’s 55°C in summer, but in winter it’s like summer’s day in Europe — and Al Shaqqab is an outstanding facility.”
This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (3 April 2014)