Al Khalediah: Enchanting Horses & the Allure of the Middle East
Words by Samantha Mattocks
Photos by: Irina Filsinger
January 2011 sees the fourth running of the world-renowned Al Khalediah Arabian Horse Festival. With an auction, endurance, racing and an ECAHO A class halter show, the Festival is a thoroughly enjoyable, week-long event that has become a firm favourite among the Arabian horse community.
The festival is run under the patronage of HRH Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and represents a coming together of his innovative vision in promoting the origins and versatility of the Arabian horse. Central to Arab culture, the Arabian horse has its origins in the desert and HRH Prince Khaled is proud to be behind this showcase event which captures the true magic of the Arabian horse, which has captivated so many for hundreds of years.
Flying into Riyadh is a magical experience, with the sprawling metropolis rising out of the desert sands to meet you. The largest city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is the nation's capital and belongs to the historical regions of Nejd and Al-Yamama. An hour's drive away is Tebrak, home of Al Khalediah Stables, and the setting for the Festival.
Al Khalediah Stables is home to show-ring stars such as Baanderos, Marquis and Layan Al Khalediah and with its beautiful layout, own racing circuit and endurance track, as well as a purpose-built show arena, the stables is the perfect setting for this benchmark show. Renowned for quality and depth of entries, the atmosphere at Al Khalediah is always one of calm and serenity, with guests able to sit back and relax, and enjoy the beautiful Arabian horses before them.
The 2011 Festival will begin with endurance. The Prince Khaled's Cup Endurance Challenge 2011 is a FEI CEI** 120km event, where riders are able to compete through the desert. With the safety and welfare of the horses of paramount importance, there will be ice water for cooling and drinking water available for the horses every 5km. The true spirit of the desert Arabian will be tested in this exciting opening to the Festival.
The Monday sees an auction of 70 pure-bred Arabian horses, providing a chance to purchase some of the treasured bloodlines of this region while on the Tuesday, the attention is focused on the racetrack. Open to pure-bred Arabian horses from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this five-race card offers all the thrills and excitement you would expect from such an event. With Al Khalediah Stables and Athbah Stud having had race winners across Europe and the Middle East, this will be an event not to be missed.
The final part of the Festival is spent at the horse show. Each year, the quality of entries has deepens and the horses that have ended up victorious have gone on to enjoy further success around the world. For 2011, the judges for this ECAHO A Show are Dr Gianmarco Aragno (Italy), Nayla Hayek (Switzerland), Holger Ismer (Germany), Jaroslav Lacina (Czech Republic), Dr Mohamed Machmoum (Morocco) and Marie-Louise van Wyk (South Africa).
HRH Prince Khaled has a clear and explicit desire for the show to be held in a natural, relaxed manner away from the bagging that accompanies many shows, and this is strictly enforced throughout. This desire runs through all aspects of the Festival and the wellbeing of the horse is the main focus.
During the three-day show, there are also the hotly contested desert-bred classes. For horses bred only in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and of the original desert lines, these are the classes that the local breeders most want to win.
On the Friday evening, the Festival finally draws to a close, and as the sun sets in the desert behind, the newly garlanded Champion Arabians sparkle under the centre-ring spotlights. This moment is a culmination of not just the week's events, but months of planning that has gone into making the Festival a success for everyone.
This exciting and all-encompassing Festival is capably run by Melanie Mannix with her dedicated team. Melanie has a strong equine background in racing which, combined with good business knowledge, ensures that the Festival runs smoothly for horses, exhibitors and spectators alike.
For more information on the 2011 event, please contact the Festival Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website: www.akahf.com. We look forward to seeing you there, where you can experience the majestic beauty of the Arabian horse, combined with the allure of the Middle East, for yourself.