A unique program at Al Shaqab is developing the horse-riding stars of the future while also teaching them valuable life skills.
"Horse riding is not simply a sport – it is a discipline.”
This is how the award-winning Qatari rider Mohammed Sultan Al-Suwaidi explains what drove him to play his part in revolutionizing equine education in Qatar.
We established a curriculum that would support the needs of our students while also suiting Qatar’s unique context and environment.
Founded in 1992 with the goal of becoming a leading name in the equestrian world, the evolution of Al Shaqab has been guided by three principles: heritage, excellence, and education. And all of these are reflected in its Equine Education Department, established as a community asset to foster future generations of equine professionals.
“When I joined Al Shaqab, we had approximately 180 students enrolled in Al Shaqab’s equine education program, aged from six years upward, and the riding lessons were mainly recreational,” says Al-Suwaidi, who joined Al Shaqab in 2014 as the manager of its Equine Education Department.
“We started to put together a plan to establish our own curriculum by gathering information from other academic systems, and come up with a curriculum that would support the needs of our students while also suiting Qatar’s unique context and environment. I wanted to make the curriculum more focused on practice than theory.”
The curriculum at Al Shaqab – a Qatar Foundation member – is known as the Qatar Equestrian Classification, and is the first of its kind in the country. Divided into two levels, its foundation level consists of three elements that introduce riders to dressage, jumping, and groundwork (where the rider leads their horse through exercises using ropes) through preparatory lessons, while the intermediate level provides a more advance learning in all of these areas as well as in equine theory.
Once they have completed this, riders can select their own majors in each of these areas, and are eligible to receive the Equestrian Passport, which provides them with admission to any riding school in the world as well as qualifying them to participate in official competitions.
In addition to its role in promoting and preserving the Arabian equestrian heritage and its traditions, Al-Suwaidi says horse-riding also helps young people acquire skills and values that support both their professional and personal development. “I have experienced a lot in this sport myself, and I can definitely say that it helps riders develop great character,” he explained.
“It teaches them how to be leaders, and how to make quick and accurate decisions at the right time.”
Given his strong passion for horses and riding, which stretches back to his childhood, it is no surprise that Al-Suwaidi has been instrumental in transforming the mentality surrounding horse-riding in Qatar, bringing about change not only in terms of equine education, but also in the culture of the Qatari horse market.
We want our riders to learn how to mature a horse, not how to spoil them, and to educate them that as much as you give to these creatures, they will always give it back.
“People used to buy horses that were at high levels to compete in Qatar, but this would make it harder for the rider and require them to make additional efforts to adjust themselves to the horse,” he says.
“We contributed in changing this by shifting towards buying young horses that grow up with our students at Al Shaqab. We see their improvement day after day, and we are achieving the results we aspire to achieve, helping to put the sport in Qatar where we want it to be and push it to the highest level.”
According to Al-Suwaidi, the goal of Al Shaqab’s Equine Education Center is to nurture a new wave of riders who understand what horsemanship truly means. “Horse-riding creates a deep connection and an everlasting relationship between humans and animals,” he said. “We want our riders to learn how to mature a horse, not how to spoil them, and to educate them that as much as you give to these creatures, they will always give it back.
“Every rider who started with us is still committed to horse-riding, and I believe they will never give up on it, because the human-horse relationship is one that never ends.”
Speaking about the success of Al Shaqab’s Equine Education Program, Al-Suwaidi says: “The transformation that we have made in this area came at the right time.
“We now have around 400 students enrolled in our program, and we are seeking to raise this number to 600 over the coming years. Today, we can see the outcomes of the efforts we have put in – we currently have three riders in the top level in jumping, and two riders in the top level of dressage, at the local level.
“Through our focus on equine education, we will produce a new generation of riders that can represent Qatar at international level.”
The Equine Education Department welcomes both institutions and the general public to visit Al Shaqab, and organizes educational, informative, and recreational tours to raise awareness about equestrian culture. These tours run from 7:30-11:30am and 3-7pm, Sunday to Thursday. Equestrian enthusiasts can register through filling in the application form at https://www.alshaqab.com/tours/tours-en.