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RAISING THE BAR
by Sarah Taryam November 10, 2017
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The Gulf Elite Tour is showjumping’s exciting new chapter

The sport of showjumping has grown tremendously over the last decade in the UAE. From well organised, competitive national shows to exciting, world ranking international events, the jam-packed Emirates Longines Show Jumping League has something for everyone. This season however, there is something extra special on the calendar. The Gulf Elite Tour, TGET, was founded by Rosanna Chopra, a board member of Mill Capital, the majority owner of The Gulf Elite LLC and title sponsor of the series. 

Rosanna, a mum of two young daughters, came to Dubai in 2006 and worked for Ziad Galadari for 10 years. With a background in sport as well as law, strategy and management, Rosanna’s experience combined with her passion for all things equestrian were key to getting TGET started. After forming a friendship with Sharjah showjumper Sheikh Ali Al Qassimi when he completed his legal training at Galadari, Rosanna went to watch him ride. Seeing Al Qassimi win the Emirates Airline Dubai Grand Prix FEI World Cup Qualifier back in January was a crucial point in the journey of TGET. It was that special win for Sheikh Ali on his little grey mare Cacharel that inspired Rosanna to wonder what she could add to the showjumping community. 

Sheikh Ali was also thinking along those.- lines. “I wanted to bring a sense of change to the showjumping community,” he explains. “The sport has been growing over the years, but things have become a little stale lately and we need a change.”

With overwhelming support from numerous angles, and in particular from Sharjah Equestrian & Racing Club and the team at Al Habtoor Polo Club and Resort, The Gulf Elite Tour was launched in the form of six competitions to be held over the six months of the showjumping season, one of which will be a an international CSI2*. The first show was held on Oct. 26-27 and the second of the six will take place this weekend.

A vital part of TGET are the seven ambassadors selected from the riding community to represent the tour. The ambassadors are Sheikh Ali, Sheikha Latifah Al Maktoum, Sheikh Ali Jamal Al Nuaimi, Nadia Abdulaziz Taryam, Abdulla Al Marri, Haysam Eid and Salem Khamis Al Suwaidi. The seven showjumpers each have a specific message they will be promoting throughout the tour. These include heritage, icon, equestrianism, women, unity, legacy and fitness. In addition to these seven dedicated riders who compete regularly throughout the year, TGET has a global ambassador. Olympic gold medallist and world ranked No. 5 Scott Brash was chosen to represent the brand on a global scale.

Speaking on her role as an ambassador, Emirati showjumper Nadia Taryam said, “Being an ambassador to the TGET is a great opportunity to showcase our love of the equestrian lifestyle and to show people, particularly women, that they too can be a part of this wonderful sport.”

Ambassador Haysam Eid is honoured to be part of TGET alongside “other talented riders who give their heart out everyday in the ring.”

After coming up with the concept for TGET, things progressed relatively quickly for Rosanna and her team. They worked closely with the Emirates Longines League over the summer to align the tour with the existing showjumping schedule. The location for the shows was chosen mainly for geographical reasons. The spectacular Al Habtoor Polo Club and Resort sits in the middle of the UAE making it easy to reach for competitors coming from all emirates. The venue boasts a five-star hotel ensuring first class services for all those who visit. Equine care is also top of the range. The stables are managed by Adam Snowdon and Mark Barsby, both of whom went out of their way to ensure the smooth running of the first event held at the club.

When it comes to supporting young, talented riders, Rosanna believes there is a lot more to be done. The UAE is not short of talent, one only needs to look at the ambassadors themselves for the best examples of what this country has to offer.

Sheikha Latifah rode in the Beijing Olympics back in 2008 on her brilliant chestnut stallion Kalaska de Semilly, one of the VIP tents at Al Habtoor is named after him, as well as securing numerous other wins in various high profile events over the years. She expressed her excitement at having TGET join the showjumping calendar saying, “It’s great to be part of something new. We have so many talented riders in the UAE, the fact that it gets non-horsey people to be more interested in the sport and showcases them is great.”

Sheikh Ali and Nadia have both won World Cup Qualifier Grands Prix and have raised the UAE flag umpteen times. Al Marri was part of the team that recently won the Challenge Cup at the Longines Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. On his return back to the local showjumping circuit after his thrilling win, Al Marri expressed his pride at being part of this new journey. He said, “I truly believe this is a new chapter in UAE showjumping history.”

Eid, Al Suwaidi and Al Nuami are also regulars on the podium in both national and international competitions.

Having ridden competitively herself until her mid-twenties, Rosanna knows exactly how it feels to be in the saddle and all the requirements that go along with it. This insider’s view combined with her passion for horses will prove to be vital as things progress for the tour. Al Nuami described the progress perfectly when he said that “It is people with passion that make the impossible happen.”

It’s not all about the riders though. Keen to promote that equestrian lifestyle, TGET shows offer two exciting days of competition where sponsors, fans and families are all welcome. Spectators will get a ringside view to the best riders in the country competing in a variety of different classes with heights ranging from 80 centimetres to 1.50 metres. There will also be plenty of entertainment for children including bouncy castles and face painting as well as a shisha tent for the adults. Foodies can rejoice at the variety of food trucks offering all types of meals from quinoa salads for the health conscious to juicy burgers for the rest of us.

When it comes to the future of TGET, the possibilities are endless. Al Qassimi wants to see the sport evolve in terms of professionalism. “Athletes need to be treated like professionals, we want to raise the bar when it comes to the way riders think about competing. It’s not just about the prize money, we want the corporate world to pay attention to the sport and become more involved.”

The first season of TGET is all about creating, learning and evolving with the aim of eventually taking the tour all over the gulf and one day onto the international circuit. “We have attracted the positive attention of conservationists, sustainable tourism pioneers, the equestrian elite as well as global industries,” Rosanna proudly says. With the right people paying attention and the support of the showjumping community behind them, the future looks bright for TGET.



 
 
 

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