H.E. Major General Dr. Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, President of the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation spoke exclusively to Sport360 following the conclusion of the eighth edition of the Emirates Longines Show Jumping League.
How pleased are you with the season?
It’s been a terrific season and definitely one that we have built on from previous seasons. More than ever before, we have seen more international show jumpers travel to the UAE to compete in world-class competitions. This season we have had 50 international riders and 180 from the Middle East including 100 riders from the UAE participate in shows across the UAE – this is a testament to not only the growth of the sport but also the caliber of the facilities, events and competitions we now offer on home soil.
What was the highlight of the season for you?
As with any season, I always look forward to the President of UAE Show Jumping Cup presented by Longines – not only is this event the most prestigious in the UAE’s show jumping calendar but it also includes the all-important Longines FEI Nations Cup of Jumping™ qualification class that determines the two Middle East teams who will have the honor of competing in the Nations Cup. This year, I had the honor of watching the UAE team as they qualified. I look forward to seeing them go to Barcelona this October – it’s an amazing opportunity for our country to compete at such a prominent global competition. I look forward to seeing how our national team will do in Spain but I believe they will be very well prepared.
What areas is the Federation looking to improve on for next season?
We are looking to make the sport even bigger and better. Through more work directly with local clubs, we hope to give them the support they need to build on their five-star competition venues to attract even more riders from overseas for the internationals. We will also continue to enable our local riders to be the best athletes they can be through the overseas summer training camps.
As the Federation, we are also working in line with the UAE’s Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. With the UAE being a regional leader in this field, we are deploying the best practices worldwide to provide our jockeys and the owners of horses with the best services available.
Are you pleased with the growth of the sport this year?
All disciplines of equestrian sport have had tremendous support this year not just from us as the Federation but also from the leaders of this country who believe in the importance of keeping an integral part of our culture and heritage as relevant to modern times as possible. Our efforts to elevate the level of show jumping in the UAE began in 2010 and slowly but surely, we gained the backing of international federations who would send their champion riders to compete in our five-star competitions. At the President’s Cup alone we had over 126 riders competing from 25 different countries.
How important is making the Olympics for the UAE?
Our flag flying high at the Olympics – that is the ultimate goal. Making it to the Olympics would be a culmination of all the efforts put forth by the Federation, the riders, the clubs and everyone in the equestrian world in the UAE – it would a very proud moment indeed for all of us. This achievement would not only solidify the UAE’s position as the capital of equestrian sport in the region but also put us on the map globally.
Where do you see the sport in 10 years time?
I see our riders’ abilities and skill levels steadily progressing until we surpass that of European riders. We already have a few riders whose riding is on par with the best show jumpers in the world but we will work to ensure that all of our riders are able to give even the best a run for their money.
What’s the best way of attracting new fans?
We are presently working on offering more attractions at the shows – usually people would come with their families for a nice day out and end up staying because they just develop a love for this magnificent sport. You can expect more family activities such as pony rides, kids’ activities and lots of food.
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