(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The three-decade-old Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club, home to the largest and most modern equestrian facility in the Middle East, has been instrumental in a large number of riders from the emirates achieving distinctive results at national and international competitions.
Known as the first equestrian club in the UAE, it has grown from its humble beginning in 1982 to one with the largest indoor riding facility in the Middle East approved by the World Equestrian Federation with a main arena of 65 x 45 metres, warm-up arena of 45 x 35 metres, 96 boxes, a restaurant and a VIP stand. Its Show Jumping Arena has witnessed numerous championships, from which many UAE and international riders have graduated.
Ashraf Gaber Elliathy, assistant general manager, says that the facility has evolved over the years with its race track and footing changed, the grand stand developed, a new timing and video system adopted.
The Sharjah Racetrack, first constructed to global specifications, organises periodic races at the state level, which earns the honour of being the first to start horseracing in the country as a sport.
Elliathy said that six competitions are organised every season with members, now numbering more than 5,000, competing. "We have ten national and two international shows being held in this facility, which include purebred Arabian horses. We have 500 horses being kept here, 150 of them are purebred Arabian horses."
Horses in the equestrian centre vary. Some are trained for the Riding School. Others have been bred at the Breeding Centre. Still others have been kept for racing. "For horse keeping, we charge Dh2,000 without A/C units, Dh2,500 with A/C units, and Dh3,000 indoor. Terry-bred horses for racing will cost their owners Dh100,000."
Established at the initiative of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, the entire facility covers an area of four square kilometres.
It houses a show jumping track, an international racecourse and a modern Grand Stand, Al Adiyat Hall, visitors' stables, a riding school, the Sharjah Arabian Horse Stud, a breeding centre, a quarantine facility, a hotel and recreation club and an indoor riding centre.
The Show Jumping is the venue of the club's international championship called Sharjah International Show Jumping Competition where local and international riders have developed their careers.
"The stables were built for the participation of horses from outside the club and a medical laboratory was supplied. Modern visiting stables are made available during competitions to accommodate 80 participating horses," Elliathy said.
During racing competitions, sponsors and their guests are seated in a special hall, Al Adiyat Hall, that can accommodate 300 visitors. Exhibitions are also held in this area.
As its facilities grow with time, the club organises an annual Festival for Arabian Horses, the first of which took place in 2000-2001 at the club's arena. Several successive competitions were organised between 100 purebred Arabian horses to choose the most beautiful according to the international rules and regulations governing these contests. "We have organised three festivals, one of which was at the international level for Arabian horses."
A breeding centre for Arabian horses has also been set up to give attention to these horses. "This is technology breeding for the horses," he said.
The hotel, swimming pool and recreation facilities have been made available to club members "The private hotel enables participants and delegates to move easily during activities such as race meetings, Show Jumping competitions and Arabian horse festivals."
For the riding school, the club has five qualified international trainers from the UK, Iraq, Iran and Syria. "But, lady riders are trained by two experienced lady trainers. Beginners need to get 20 basic lessons. Once they are certified riders, they can buy their horses and join the competitions."
He says that equestrian is the only sport which is non-stop and no limit, even in age. Children can start getting lessons at 8. Children younger than eight can go for pony rides.
The club is certainly living up to its vision of showcasing the highborn and elevated progeny of Arabian horses and encouraging the breeding of this noble horse to increase its pedigree in the Gulf and the Middle East.