Interview with The Sustainable City Horse Show event president Farhang Sadeghi

Striding ahead

He’s Iran’s first and only FEI ranked and titled showjumper but when he’s not competing on the international stage, Farhang Sadeghi is at home managing his two busy riding stables, overseeing his two vet clinics and rescuing various animals. And yet, there is still much he wants to achieve.


Next month sees the third edition of his passion project – The Sustainable City Horse Show. In 2020, the event will host a CSI2* showjumping competition alongside a fun, family carnival. But unlike previous editions of the show, this year the event has the added benefit of a new performance horse embryo sale brought to Dubai for the first time by Horseman Elite Auction who are focused on
developing jumping and performance horses in the region.


But speaking to Farhang, what became quickly clear is that his plan for the show is ambitious – to develop the city’s biggest, most sustainable and family-friendly equestrian extravaganza.


Begin at the beginning


To understand Farhang’s passion for the event, you need to learn more about the man himself – and his story is pretty unique. Although not from a ‘horsey-family,’ Farhang says his passion for horses started young. “I began riding at five, entered my first jumping competition at seven and by fifteen, I
was the Iranian Junior Champion,” a position he held for several years until he left Tehran to study, and jumping took a back seat.


After finishing his studies, Farhang moved to Dubai permanently where he set up and managed the Jebel Ali Equestrian Club, a riding centre and livery yard based in Jebel Ali. In 2010, Farhang began working with Diamond Developers to establish The Sustainable City Equestrian Club. “We came with the owner of Sustainable City and saw the whole project, to me it was a totally new concept. Typically, clubs are outside of the city and so much work needs to be done attracting people to them. This was different, it was at the heart of the community.”

It was around this time that his jumping bug returned. “I started out in Dubai just riding normally, not competing, but by 2010 I was back jumping again.”

Not only did he start jumping and jumping well, he was winning – and his form since has been consistently good enough for him to qualify for major title events locally and internationally.

Farhang riding Quick N' Step at the Asian Games in Jakarta

Farhang, his wife Andrea and his family

“I have done two Asian Games and competed in many CSI5* competitions. My next goal is the 2022 World Equestrian Games and then the following Olympics in Paris.”


Talking of his participation in the most recent Asian Games Farhang says, “when you’re representing your country it’s a lot of pressure, especially as it’s the very highest level and you have the world’s top riders there; Saudi Arabia who were third in the London Olympics, Qatar whose riders are all top of their game, and of course the UAE; when your whole country is watching you, you have so much pressure.

“I’ve done well, I made it to the final in both Asian Games but I have had some bad luck. At the 2018 Games, my horse tripped before the first jump and crashed through the fence - that was Quick N’Step the newest member of the family,” he laughs. Farhang, like any good horseman, shares much of the credit for his success with his horses and has a really personal connection to each of them, considering each of them to be part of his family.

“My favourite horse of all time was Billy, he brought me to the Grand Prix 150/160 level. He jumped unbelievably. Billy was the best horse and my favourite … unfortunately he passed away…he’s one of the best horses I have ever known.”

The family man


For Farhang, horses and competing are both truly a family affair. “I met and married a fellow showjumper (Andrea Agnew) and now we ride, compete and love horses together,” he says. Following in mum and dad’s footsteps is their eight-year-old daughter Star, who has also now begun jumping. “She wasn't so keen at first, and we didn’t want to push her, but in the last two years she’s discovered she loves it and now has her own Dutch warmblood which she’s started to compete. My son is too young to ride yet, but when the time comes, he can decide if he wants to start riding.”


“But my hope has always been that we all continue as a family to help animals via our vet clinics, encourage young riders, and train and compete jumpers,” he says.

Farhang riding his favourite horse Billy

A love of animals


Farhang launched the Sustainable City Equestrian Club in 2016. The club offers beginner lessons and rider development training with international coaches in a truly unique location. But it is not just the location that is unusual. But speaking to Farhang, one thing becomes clear, that the love of animals goes beyond horses.


The Sadeghi family are also passionate about animal rescue and welfare, opening their first vet clinic - Star Vet Clinic in Dubai Sports City and expanding to a second located in Sustainable City itself. Both clinics quickly built a loyal fan base.


The family have also established an animal rescue facility, located in the middle of the Sustainable City community which is home to donkeys, goats, chickens and other small animals. “I went to buy a horse and the place also had donkeys, I could see the donkeys were unhappy there, so I bought them with the horse and took them all home,” he laughs. “I don’t have any work for them, but I’m really so happy Sustainable City is so supportive, and they let me keep them here.”

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Bringing it all together


So now understanding Farhang’s love of horses, family and showjumping, it is easy to see why his ambition has led him to work on what must be his biggest enterprise yet – The Sustainable City Horse Show. The 2020 event takes place from 12 th to 15 th February.


“I’ve travelled the world and been to the most incredible events, now I want to bring the best of what I’ve seen and experienced home to Dubai. For me I grew up in this sport, and I know how to take care of my horses and the other horses when they come to compete.


In the past, horses were not as expensive, now we’re looking at horses potentially valued in the millions of dollars. It means you need to be really careful. But we have the facilities to support the competition and we are very careful and secure for the horses, from the stabling to the arena surfaces.”

But while the intricacies of putting together a successful jumping competition are, and always have been a priority, it is building the show into a carnival for everyone – not just the horsey set, where Farhang really aims high. “Some events overseas are really exceptional at attracting not just jumping fans, but families too. We have purposely called it a horse show, not a showjumping competition, because its different. We have so many activities around the jumping… the other competitions are
always three-days, but we decided on four, so we can fit so many more really exciting things in,” he says.


The show is currently the only UAE jumping competition held on grass. “I’m super happy we have grass. we are the only event to use a grass arena which is something unique for the people watching and the riders here.

“Our grass is proven, we use it only once a year for jumping, so we keep the roots very strong and have a top Irish company (SIS Pitches) monitoring it, maintaining it, and making sure its top class. As a rider, my opinion is like that of the other riders; of course, fibre arenas are good, everybody is using them and everyone likes them, but the natural surface for a horse is grass and we want to use what is natural. The world’s top three jumping competitions with the highest prize money are on grass; Dublin Horse Show, Calgary and Aachen. Of course, it must be prepared properly, but grass gives the horses a different feeling.


“If you’re an international showjumper, you need to be able to jump indoor, outdoor, on sand and on grass. For us, reputation is everything, and we want everything to be perfect.”

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