Showjumping Interviews & Stories

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Sheikh Ali Al Nuaimi 
Olympic Hopes
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Ahmed Mansour
Force to be reckoned with
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HRH Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi
My Equestrian World
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Nadia Taryam
Dedicated, leading lady in the sport.
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Dalma Malhas
KSA's first lady WEG competitor
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HRH Prince Mansour Al Saud
International rider
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Alaa Mayssara
World Equestrian Games Dream
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HRH Sheikh Ali Al Qassimi
Equestrian Life
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Tina Lund
Equestrian Life
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Maitha Al Hajri
Desert Rose
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Salem Al Suwaidi
All Round Sportsman
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Abdulla Al Marri
The Beginning

The Prodigal Son

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Omar and his father Abdulaziz being welcomed back to the UAE after Omar's astonishing success

Fifteen-year-old, Emirati showjumper Omar Al Marzouqi brought home silver from the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires 2018. The event in Buenos Aires drew competitors from 206 countries aged between 14 and 19 years old, competing in 28 different sports. 


Riding the bay mare La Corina Lala, Omar was one of only 5 in the 30 strong field to make it clear. The nail-biting jump-off saw just two clear rounds- Omar and Italy’s Giacomo Casadei- with the Italian two-seconds faster on the clock. Pedro Espinosa of Honduras took the bronze with four-faults. Showhub's Abby Blom met with Omar on his return to the UAE to find out more... .

Your father has been hugely influencial in your career to date, can you tell us a little more about his influence on your riding? 

My dad grew up in Abu Dhabi and began horseriding in the 80s. He trained with the Olympic medalist Hervé Godignon, silver world medalist Patrice Delaveau, and many other top riders of the day. When I was younger I was so inspired watching my father compete and rank, every time I saw him whether on TV or in real life, I just wanted to be like him. Today, my father produces horses for the higher levels. My current favourite horse, Albariz is actually trained by him, he got him when he was three-years old. I began riding Albariz last year when he turned nine,  I prefer him more than any other stallion because he is extremely friendly, he’s a hard worker and always aims to meet my expectations, for me, he offers everything I look for in a really high quality horse.

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What was your father’s greatest equestrian achievement to date? 

I would say, the WIG2010 in Kentucky, and winning the silver medal at the Asian games in in India in 1996. 


When did you find out you were picked for the Youth Olympic Games? 

I qualified during the 2017 season... it was based on certain qualifying classes. 


Tell us about your ride in Argentina-La Corina Lala?’ 

La Corina Lala was my ‘draw-horse,’ she is an Argentine showjumping mare. What were your thoughts when you knew you were going to the games? As soon as I heard I had qualified, I was excited and began practicing harder, my main aim was to rank to make my nation and father proud. How did you prepare for the games? My preparation to this competition has been to ride several horses that were nothing like each other, some were sensitive, and others were the total opposite.

Who trained you in the build up to the event? 

My father was my main trainer. He kept pushing me harder, setting higher and higher goals for me. He had full faith and trust in me, therefore I didn’t want to let him down.


What was the overall experience of the Games? 

This competition is my highest achievement to date, it was a magnificent and unreal experience. You had an amazing summer competing in Europe,


what was your favourite show and why? 

During summer of 2018 I competed in many shows, although my favorite was in Šamorín X-bionic sphere, because they had 5* layout, the stables were comfortable, the arenas were superb, and the hotel's location was perfect

What horses do you have for the season in the UAE? 

This season in the UAE I’ll be riding Albariz, Ugoline de le Pierre, Coral beach, and my new young mare Doubai de Hus. 


"When I was younger, I was so inspired watching my father compete"

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Who is your favourite rider and why? 

My idols are Christian Ahlmann, Steve Guerdat and Patrice Delaveau. Christian Ahlmann has a super quiet seat, he’s always calm and his horses are in the best form. On the other hand, Steve Guerdat’s top three / four horses jumping in the five-star competitions are really impressive, and I like how he always rides in a big rhythm maintaining calmness under pressure. 

Patrice Delaveau is one of the first riders I admired when I started competing. I like his style of riding with short reins and a big canter without time faults. He’s one of the riders that rides in the ‘pure French’ riding style.

If you could give any advice to younger riders, what would it be? 

My only advice would be- to train hard and train with love! 

What’s your favourite quote? “Before you give up, think of the reason why you held on so long.” Is the quote stand by. 


You’ve been home for two weeks now, how has it been? The past two weeks have been honestly, filled with proudness and joy. It all just makes me want to do even better and achieve more. 


Who do you want to thank? My goal is to improve and never impair. I would like to thank my father and Al Shiraa Stables and especially, Sheikha Fatima Bint Hazza Al Nahyan for their full support.

Click play to watch Omar's Silver medal winning round.

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ROB Besselink

International Trainer

The Show Hub’s Abby Blom meets showjumping trainer Rob Besselink, of The Netherlands When I was invited to spend the day with national and international coach Rob Besselink, who was in the UAE training one of his clients Sheikh Ali Jamal Nasser Al Nuaimi, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.


He was only over for a few days, and here at The Show Hub we have heard so much about his techniques and his sense of humour that we had to meet him. As well as being a trainer, Rob has also experienced success in saddle at CSI2* and had many successes training members of the Dutch show jumping team, who have competed in the Furusiyya Nation’s Cup series. Rob was born in The Netherlands and grew up there,

but moved to Belgium straight after school. After competing in show jumping for many years, he became a full-time coach to inspire and share some of the practices he had learned over the years.

Rob has an answer for everything, speaking about the feeling he gets from the horses. He’s also knowledgeable on the health side, as he works closely with Pieter de Vries, a vet from his home team. With Rob’s in depth knowledge of muscle reaction and movement, we can see how it really gives him the upper hand in understanding the horses. 


“The harmony between horse and rider is exceptionally important both mentally and physically and there is a bridge to the education,” says Rob. “Find your style and your own identity don’t be forced to conform.” 

“The harmony between horse and rider is exceptionally important both mentally and physically and there is a bridge to the education,” says Rob. “Find your style and your own identity don’t be forced to conform.” 

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Finding a trainer


Rob stresses the importance of finding a good fit with a trainer.  "Never stay with a coach you don't feel comfortable with. Remember a trainer only has one task, that is to make the rider train and perform better, with the end goal of making the rider happy and proud," he says.  

Training techniques 


Rob's training techniques are straightforward, interesting and extremely encouraging for the horse and rider and he makes the work out fun. When we visit we see various grids, pole work and schooling practices.


Rob says that success in the saddle is all about building a relationship and trust.


"Sometimes a horse can feel like a fearful rabbit," he says. "He doesn't accept your hands and gets himself into a panic. To produce a good relationship with it you must tame it.


"I can't let the rabbit free, as it's already gone, so I have to hold on tight, without damaging it until the rabbit relaxes more. After a few minutes I will be able to let go with one hand, and later with both. The rabbit now trusts my hands, she even likes them enough to return to them. For a lot of riders this is a good story to improve their riding, and many of them realise that what they were doing before wouldn't tame the rabbit."


However, he adds, sometimes a horse's mouth can feel like "a big dog pulling on a leash", which is a completely different story.


"That's why every rider should start by asking themselves, 'how's my horse today?'"


He adds that you need to gauge the horse's reaction immediately

and not influence them before you know how it is feeling. After Rob left school he began working at a riding centre as a groom. After a year and half he moved to Belgium as a junior rider at The Zangersheide Stud.


"After my time in Belgium I start riding at several stables in the north of Holland. Ten years ago my last sponsorship ended, at which point I felt like I was ready for the next step in my life. I didn't want to become involved in buying and selling horses, so after more then 20 years of riding day-in, day-out, I started with coaching and teaching. I enjoyed it from day one, and I still enjoy it now."


Rob says that when he coaches someone he is there to make the person a better rider and for them to gain more success, but that he doesn't want to overload people with so much technical information that they forget their own feelings and riding skills. 


"I want to make my riders think, and get into their heads with my vision, so they get the right ideas for riding," he says.


"My training in show jumping is simple. There's no 'abracadabra', it's all about hard work. 


"Stretching a horse is one of the most important parts of training, and I believe a lot of riders have forgotten how to do it, or have a wrong way of doing it."


Rob also stresses the importance of repetition and the amount of training hours put in.


"Do not practise something until you are able to do it, practise until it can't go wrong anymore," he says. "Some people think doing an exercise 10 times is a lot, but if you play the piano or do gymnastics, you need to repeat things hundreds of times before you are successful." 



According to Rob his most important rule is not to react to your horse, rather to let them react to you. This means that you should be telling your horse what to do, not what he shouldn't do. 

Image by Valerie Fomina



Working on Flatwork

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Suppleness and flexibility 


Rob often uses cavalettis for flexion but believes in plenty of schooling and, again, practise. 


"Flexion is also to do with going forward" he says.


"For example, if you do a very small circle at a slow speed you are are not benefiting the horse as much as doing the same circle riding him forward and at speed. This makes him use his body more, and doesn't give him the chance to hold his body tensely. 


"Every sportsman be they an athlete or ballet dancer uses stretching techniques to enhance the body's suppleness. A horse should be able to collect and get 'short', but I want that to be 20% off the time. 80% of the time it should be in a forwards rhythm. 

"Having full control over a horse at high speed is the most difficult thing in riding, and is what we need in competition, so it's what should be practised the most, that's why I made it my speciality. Lack of balance, rhythm and control are the reasons why the correct distance is hard to get and see. In my experience, you can improve somebody's eye to see the distance in just 10 minutes, if you concentrate on just that."

Mental coaching


"If people believe mental coaching will help, then they should do it," he says. "You should do anything and everything you think will improve you. However, I like to put it in the 10% bucket, which is filled with things like good food, stabling, a decent saddle, training aids, bits and more. The 90% left is how you ride and are trained on a good horse."

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Anita Sande

Ride for Fun... Not for a living!

Anita Sande is a highly accomplished equestrian athlete who competes at the very top of her game. Born in Bergen Norway in 1971, Anita learned how to ride at the tender age of 5 years old and quickly showed she had great potential. Anita won the Norwegian Championship as a Young Rider and went on to represent the Norwegian National Team as a Junior, Young Rider and also as a Senior.


She has become one of Norway’s top riders having competed in the European Championship three times as well as at international level for over a decade. Her list of achievements is too long and varied to fully detail but some of her accomplishments include; 1st place in the International Grand Prix Paris, 1st place in the International Grand Prix Abano (Italy) and 1st place Oldenburger Championat (Germany) to name but a few.

Fundamental to Anita’s development as a rider was her top-level training with renowned trainers Paul Schockemohle and Josef Klapphake. Anita was employed by Paul Schockemohle for nine years at the world class Competition Yard in Muhlen Oldenburg, Germany where she trained up to World Championship Level with six of the best horses. Anita recalls that it was during this time that Paul Schockemohle gave her some sage advice – “You must ride for fun…..not for a living”. 

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It’s clear that Anita has a lot of fun with her beloved horse For Cash. Anita bought For Cash during a visit to Germany after falling in love at first sight. Anita didn’t initially have all the money to purchase For Cash but with the support of her brother Tommy and parents was able to buy the horse of her dreams. For Cash has been with her from a Young Horse and she has brought him through the levels forming a special bond between horse and rider.


However, such a close relationship has peaks and troughs. Anita recalls her heartbreak as For Cash was very sick over the summer with ulcers whilst Anita was in Norway. She really was worried that she may lose him. However, Anita worked very closely with a vet in Sharjah to use natural products and feeds from India. Thankfully, after developing the best feeding regime and care, For Cash recovered and is already back placing in this year’s Big Tour season. 

Anita is currently based in the UAE with summers spent training in Europe. She has been in Dubai for three years and now lives in Ajman. Anita loves the UAE and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world saying “People are really nice in the UAE which is a quality you don’t always find in many other places”. Furthermore, the country suits her personality due to the encouragement she gets on the circuit and the superb shows and prize money make it much easier to actually live on the sport. Over the summer period, Anita teaches across Europe in Germany, Sweden, and Norway and has long term students ranging from 1.10 – 1.50m. One of her best students is 22-year-old Amanda Kegellbag who won Falsterbo (Sweden) this year.

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in addition to being a top athlete, one of Anita’s other passions is designing saddles. Anita was inspired to start making saddles for her own needs after riding a horse that kept jumping her out of the saddle. Building upon this initial endeavour, Anita now creates saddles for champions that are designed and built by riders where compromising on quality is a non-starter ( Her elite saddles are manufactured using the highest certified level of leather with the best quality wool filling and a wooden tree which is flexible. Anita utilises natural products and ensures that the design maximises rider/horse comfort and support. Saddle features include a tree far away from the spine and a wide channel that allows greater freedom of movement to mitigate against back pain. 


The deeper, highest quality wool makes for an easier seat (greater saddle contact for rider) and the wide flat cushion disperses the pressure of body weight more evenly. Furthermore, the higher gullet and smooth transition along the saddle reduce saddle movement, creating a natural union between horse and rider.


Anita is a truly world class and dedicated equestrian who excels in her sport and creates elite equestrian products for fellow riders. She is not only a top rider but is also known as great team player who exhibits great care and empathy for the horses she works with. Anita is an excellent female role model and concluded with a few parting words of wisdom. “Always take the chance and never have regrets. Jump on it and take the risks. Never say no.”