The host nation took double-gold in Dressage as well as the Individual Jumping title while the United Arab Emirates proved unbeatable in Endurance and Saudi Arabia scooped the team Jumping honours at the 12th Arab Games staged in Doha, Qatar from 6 to 23 December. This was the first time for Qatar to host the event which is staged on a four-year cycle and embraces 24 different sports. Khalifa International Stadium was the main competition venue, but the equestrian activities took place at the Al-Shaqab Arena and at the Mesaieed Endurance Course, with keen rivalry in all three disciplines.
Qatari riders lived up to expectations when taking Dressage Team gold ahead of the Lebanon in silver medal position and Iraq in bronze. Ground Jury members Raphael Saleh (FRA), Juan Carlos Campos (ESP), Fouad Hamoud (ALG), Hans Christian Mathiesen (DEN) and President, Carlos Lopes (POR) all gave their highest mark to the experienced Rashid Al Marri who has competed in two Asian Games, and who partnered his new ride, Paso Doble, to a score of 68.784.
Team-mates Mohammed Al Marri (Brentano VD Zuuth) and Abdulla Al Marri (Mabruk) produced the next two best results to secure the team honours while the fourth, and youngest, Qatari competitor, 28-year-old Ahmed Al Badi (Argentino), also achieved a good mark of 61.946. This was fractionally less than the 61.975 awarded to Lebanon's Georges Bitar and Silvan, but there were only three riders on both the Lebanese and Iraqi teams, and the final tally of 58.153 left the Lebanon trailing Qatar by more than eight points.
"This is the first Arab Games gold medal for Qatar", said Rashid Al Marri. "We are very happy because we missed it in China (at the Asian Games)." Qatar's Al Marri family were again well to the fore on the Individual medal podium when Mohammed Al Marri claimed gold, with the judging panel in full agreement as the 20-year-old was awarded the winning score of 70.843. Rashid had to settle for silver this time out following a stumble on the final diagonal by Paso Doble, while Farah Al Khojai, riding Mazurka Grafin for the United Arab Emirates, broke the Qatari grip on the medals when clinching bronze with a test that began with great flow but lost some of its impact in the canter movements.
Al Khojai joked afterwards that her horse "almost gave me a heart attack!". She said "this was not our best day...things went haywire with the music because we had to change it to fit the test. With music you always have to catch up and slow down - but it worked out in the end!".
The newly-crowned Individual champion was delighted with his result. "I expected to be in the top three, but not to be in first place, and I'm very happy about that", Mohammed Al Marri commented.
Equestrian sport joined the Arab Games at Rabat, Malta in 1985 and subsequently visited Damascus, Syria in 1992, Beirut, Lebanon in 1997, Amman, Jordan in 1999, Algiers, Algeria in 2004 and Cairo, Egypt in 2007. Jumping has been included on the schedule since 1985, with Endurance joining the programme in 1999 and Dressage in 2007. FEI President, HRH Princess Haya, won individual Jumping bronze at Damascus in 1992.
Dressage Team: GOLD - QATAR 66.901, Mabruk (Abdulla Al Marri), Argentino (Ahmed Al Badi), Brentano VD Zuuth (Mohammed Al Marri), Paso Doble (Rashid Al Marri); SILVER - LEBANON 58.153, Rythm (Carla Kattouah), Silvan (Georges Bitar), Primo (Malih Dana); BRONZE - IRAQ, Absolut (Nooruldeen Al Azzawi), Louis Cristal (Mustafa Al Hussaini), Advocat (Ali Shbri).
Dressage Individual: GOLD - Brentano VD Zuuth (Mohammed Al Marri) QAT 70.843; SILVER - Paso Doble (Rashid Al Marri) QAT 68.990; BRONZE - Mazurka Grafin (Farah Al Khoji) UAE 66.667.