When I received a call from Samantha Mattocks, Editor in Chief of The Arabian Magazine, asking if I could attend the hotly anticipated Al Shira’aa Arabian Horse Show in Abu Dhabi, I must admit I had to pinch myself. Having previously been an ex-pat living in Dubai, I had not returned to the Emirates since my departure in 2017. I had become aware of Al Shira’aa Arabian Show through social media and marketing campaigns in Arabian specialist media. The brainchild of HH Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, owner of Al Shira’aa Stables, this B International Show run under ECAHO rules in the Middle East with prize money to the tune of 6,000,000 AED would most certainly catch the attention of Middle Eastern owners, but rather uniquely the show also drew entries from as far afield as France and Denmark.
The venue was Al Forsan Sports Complex in Abu Dhabi, a fantastic sporting venue for equestrianism with indoor arenas as well as grass and sand outdoor arenas. There is extensive stabling at the venue and plenty of room for temporary stalls. Being located within a 15 minute drive of Abu Dhabi International Airport, it was the perfect venue for those travelling by air.
I had the opportunity to meander the stables of the event and meet with a few of the exhibits, who appeared relaxed and exceptionally well provided for. It was evident from the moment I arrived that the show had been meticulously organised, from the welcome drinks the night before the show for competitors, organisers, media, and the committee, to the construction of the main ring, with generous proportions that would enable the best-moving horses to take full advantage. There was also LED advertising screens skirting the ring, able to be changed to the differing logos of the sponsors of the classes; seating flanked one side of the ring; an extensive VIP area situated the opposite side of the ring with lounge areas and tables seating up to ten people, all situated in a comfortable tent with excellent cloakroom facilities and within easy walk of the parking. At the head of the ring was a tent hosting the commentator, the livestream media team, and technical committee. Special mention must go to Dr Sujeet Bhaskar Suryawanshi, who relentlessly ensured the flow of horses in the ring in each class. Excellent organisation goes a long way to delivering a first-class show.
Coming from the UK where we are lucky to have 100 horses in attendance at an Arabian horse show these days, I was astonished to see 405 entered into Al Shira’aa Arabian Show. When I lived in the UAE, it was evident that popularity of showing Arabians was growing and to see this level of interest was very assuring. It is HH Sheikha Fatima’s desire to bring knowledge and interest of the Arabian horses to the world and looking at this show, her desire is surely to be realised.
The Judging Committee comprised of Nashaat Hegazy (Egypt), Mohamed Machmoum (Morocco), Renata Schibler (Switzerland), Gianmarco Aragno (Italy), Jerzy Białobok (Poland), Michaela Weidner (Germany), Eric Gear (France), and Marek Trela (Poland).
The show ran 11-14 February and the first day was all about the fillies, starting with two sections of yearlings. There were 25 horses entered in the first section and 24 in the second. Section A was won with a score of 92 points by D Sireen (D Seraj x D Ra’afah), Dubai Arabian Stud bred, and she had the class at the first walk around. This is a feminine filly with great presence, and she moved well. Second place went to Dr Ghanem Mohamed Obaid Al Hajri’s homebred Halhola Al Hawajer by D Khattaf (Royal Colours x D Jowan) out of ZT Magrumi (ZT Magnanimus x ZT Rumifantasy). She is a very pretty filly with great body and topline, and she gave a sound performance. ES Salma (AJ Marzan x ES Salama) took third for her breeders, the Emirates Stud; she has a good front and showed great charisma in her presentation.
D Shireen (D Seraj x D Ra’afah)
Halhola Al Hawajer (D Khattaf x ZT Magrumi). Credit Henrike Hörmann
ES Salma (AJ Marzan x ES Salama)
Section B saw some weaker bodies across the class; while we pursue perfection, one must never forget the attributes of a quality Arabian and a good body is one of these, well sprung ribs and short backs are type. The winner of the class was nigh on impossible to critique, however. She moved very well, had a fabulous body and topline, and she was feminine with great expression and a good neck. This was Al Aryam Banafsaj by Dominic M (Da Vinci FM x Rosa la Valentina) out of Al Aryam Basma (Marajj x RS Banafsaj). Bred by Al Aryam Arabians, this was a well-deserved win with a score of 93 points. Second place went to Ward Albidayer (D Seraj x Juri Albidayer) a very typey filly with excellent head – her eye banking is something else! She scored 92.88 points for her breeders, Albidayer Stud. Third place saw the first FA El Rasheem (FA El Shawan x Virtuosa MLR) youngstock achieve top three in the show. This was M.O Jawharah (ex D Athman), bred and owned by Mohamed Khalaf Ahmed Khalaf Alotaiba. As one would expect from her pedigree, she is a very pretty filly and she scored 91.63 points.
Al Aryam Banafsaj (Dominic M x Al Aryam Basma) (and below)
Ward Albidayer (D Seraj x Juri Albidayer)
M.O Jawharah (FA El Rasheem x D Athman)
The two-year filly class was again split into section A and B, each contacting 20 fillies forward. Section A was won by AJ Afkar (ex AJ Asyad), very Shanghai EA (WH Justice x Salymah EA) in look and it came as no surprise that he was her sire. Bred by the Ajman Stud, AK Afkar scored 92.13 points for owner Sheikh Abdullah Bin Majid Al Qassimi. Second place went to the very balanced Al Aryam Hawayel (AJ Mardan x Al Aryam Hanna), an extremely feminine filly with good character and flamboyance who scored 91.88 points. Third placed Malala Apal-S (ES Sarab x RA Anila Apal) tied with second but lost out on movement points. Bred by ME and Mrs Lievroow Seynhaeve and owned by Chantal Rigat, she gave a sound performance scoring well on type and head and neck.
AJ Afkar (Shanghai EA x AJ Asyad)
Al Aryam Hawayel (AJ Mardan x Al Aryam Hanna)
Malala Apal-S (ES Sarab x RA Anila Apal)
The section B winner needed little introduction. This was AJ Samara (AJ Mardan x Sama AM), a super feminine filly with fluid movement who is maturing beautifully, She scored four 20s for type and five 20s for head/neck to score a total of 92.63 for her breeders/owners the Ajman Stud. In second place with a score of 91.88 points was SQ Gharam, bred and owned by the Al Saqran Arabian Horse Stud, by SQ Burkan (Shanghai EA x LL Zamira) out of GAA Coquette (Psytanium x GAA Priceless Gem), and she gave a good show. Taking third place with a score of 91.75 was Kwathar Alsayed (Alexxanderr x Kahilah Alsayed), bred by Alsayed Stud and owned by Mubarak Ahmed Damina Almansoori, who tied with Dr Ghanem Mohamed Obaid Al Hajri’s Bareh Al Hawajer (FA El Rasheem x Gharshoub Al Hawajer) for third but won the tie on type.
AJ Samara (AJ Mardan x Sama AM)
SQ Burkan (Shanghai EA x LL Zamira)
Kwathar Alsayed (Alexxanderr x Kahilah Alsayed)
The three-year old filly class was also split into two sections, with 16 forward in section A and 15 forward in section B. Taking the win in section A, which was a very strong class, was the very beautiful D Nawahel (FA El Rasheem x D Noor), owned and bred by Dubai Arabian Stud. She scored four 20s for type and two for head and neck, totalling 92.88 points. SS Labella (Calypso OS X EF Bella Contessa), a typey filly with good expression, scored 92.25 points to claim second place for owner Al Saqran Arabian Horse Stud, being bred by Ottoman Arabian Horse Stud. Third place went to Ra’eah Athbah (Parys K x Hussa Athbah), a charming and very elegant filly bred by Athbah Stud and owned by HRH Abdulazziz Bin Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who scored 92 points.
D Nawahel (FA El Rasheem x D Noor)
SS Labella (Calypso OS X EF Bella Contessa)
Ra’eah Athbah (Parys K x Hussa Athbah)
Section B was the last class of the day and was won by the ultra-feminine D Gharam (FA El Rasheem x FT Shaella), scoring four 20s for type to win with an overall score of 92.75 points. She is bred and owed by Dubai Arabian Stud. A very pleasing Gallardo J (Emerald J x Gomera J) daughter took second place with 92 points. This was Fola Al Remas (ex AJ Assala), bred by Ajman stud and owned by Al Remas Arabian Horse Stud. The very beautiful Roaah Mughaider claimed third for owner breeder Rashid Saif Saeed Hammad Alzaabi with 91.63 points. She is a daughter of ES Harir (AJ Dinar x TF Magnums Magic) and out of Sheikha SQ (Farhoud al Shaqab x Ghanaj al Shaqab).
D Gharam (FA El Rasheem x FT Shaella)
Roaah Mughaider (ES Harir x Sheikha SQ)
So closed the first day of the show and the desert air was blowing from the east bringing a chill to the night that was unseasonable for Abu Dhabi. Most attendees of the show were staying at the nearby hotel, and the easy stroll among the noise of the rattling flag poles with the flags of the UAE billowing in the breeze made to a pleasant end to a memorable first day.
All photography unless stated by Paola Drera – follow her at www.instagram.com/paoladreraph