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Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani: A Personal Profile
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August 28th, 2016

Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani

Breeding and Show Manager: Al Shaqab Stud, Qatar

 By Lisa Abraham

with Judith Forbis

photos by Irina Filsinger, Judith Wich, Javan, Rik van Lent Jr, Erwin Escher, Suzanne Sturgill, Darryl Larson and Lisa Abraham

 

 

 Congratulations to Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani! In addition to managing Al Rayyan Farm, Sheikh Hamad recently returned as Al Shaqab's Breeding and Show Manager, a position he held most of the time during his varied equine career. For those who have known Sheikh Hamad, his return comes as no surprise. Under his direction, Al Shaqab Stud became one of the most important and influential breeding programs in the world.

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His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, The Emir of the State of Qatar, and Sheikh Hamad...Al Shaqab archival photo furnished by Judith Forbis

When His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, The Emir of the State of Qatar, founded Al Shaqab Stud in 1992, his goal was to breed superior Arabian horses that would uphold the tradition and culture of his Qatari ancestors and also advance the quality of Arabian horses worldwide. His Highness, an excellent horseman, enjoyed riding as well as teaching and mentoring enthusiastic young horsemen.  Among them was Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani.  Noting his love for horses and wanting to encourage him, His Highness gifted him a stallion and mare to ride when Sheikh Hamad was only ten years old. It wasn't long before Arabian horses became the young Sheikh's passion, and in due time, his life's work.

Sheikh Hamad inherited his deep love and appreciation for Arabian horses from his Bedouin ancestors.  For centuries purebred Arabians were an integral part of Qatar’s history.  When courageous Qatari warriors astride their valiant warhorses won the battle against the Ottomans at Al Shaqab in 1893, it set the stage for Qatar's eventual independence. Their leader, Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani and his agile horsemen, exemplified the ancient traditions of the Arabian knights (known as fursan) by combining chivalry, valor, heroism and generosity, along with superb horsemanship.  A century after the victorious battle of Al Shaqab, His Highness The Emir, a direct descendant of Sheikh Jassim, established  the modern day Al Shaqab with two goals: to commemorate that milestone battle and victory; and to breed spectacular Arabian horses - the kind that not only enabled Qatar to be free, but those that could “make a difference” in the modern world.

Throughout his life, Sheikh Hamad had enjoyed riding and other equine activities, as well as breeding horses for himself.  Knowledgeable of his skills as a horseman and his excellent ‘eye’ for a horse, His Highness asked Hamad to manage the stud and riding club at Al Shaqab, the new farm he was building.  Given the task of making the breeding program a success, Sheikh Hamad set out to put Al Shaqab on the world map.  "It was, of course, a job I was very happy to do - as it was the best way for me to express my love for my country and the Arabian horse," Sheikh Hamad shared with Judith Forbis during an interview for "The Heritage of Al Shaqab."  He did his homework, studied pedigrees and set forth to accomplish his mission. 

Within a decade of its founding, Al Shaqab's horses were winning national, international and world championships.  It became a familiar sight to see Sheikh Hamad joyfully leaping and smiling as he took the horse's lead from the trainer and ran around the ring in a victory lap with his newest champion.  Having strong backing by His Highness the Emir, who almost daily visited the stud, Sheikh Hamad was given free rein to purchase the best horses he could find.  It was Sheikh Hamad's wisdom in selecting breeding and show stock, as well as his competitive spirit, that cast Al Shaqab into the spotlight and global prominence. Additionally, Al Shaqab's magnificent Arabians inspired the creativity of artists, photographers and writers, and also energised owners, trainers and breeders worldwide. 

As a breeder, Sheikh Hamad’s reputation is legendary. Under his direction, Al Shaqab bred three of the most important show horses in modern times: Gazal Al Shaqab, Marwan Al Shaqab and Al Adeed Al Shaqab. However, their most meaningful achievements have been as sires who have consistently passed on their superior qualities into future generations. Without question, an exceptional show horse is hard to breed; however, to breed a show horse that can become a superior sire is far more difficult. Not only have these three stallions, in combination with a carefully chosen band of mares, laid the foundation for Al Shaqab, but also, they have significantly contributed to some of the most prominent breeding programs around the world. The overwhelming influence of the Al Shaqab stallions cannot be denied.

In my coverage of Arabian horse shows, I often include a pedigree analysis of the champions and other winning participants. For the last several years, due to the number of champions that stem from Gazal Al Shaqab and Marwan Al Shaqab lineage, this has not been a difficult task, as they both have multiple generations of descendants that are now producing champions as well. Because their collective influence is enormous in scope, it seems ludicrous to reference a single show. However, as a brief example, in the yearling championships at the 2016 World Breeders Cup in Las Vegas, five of the six champions were either by a son of Gazal or a son of Marwan. This, of course, was in addition to the other championship  winning horses sharing their lineage as well.  If one were to make an analysis of all the prestigious shows worldwide, the findings would be similar.

Sheikh Hamad’s ability to promote is only second to his ability as a breeder. His methods are an interesting, effervescent, even entertaining mix of the conventional and unconventional--but razor sharp in their effectiveness. Not only is he able to make the entire world aware of his intentions, his methods create tremendous support. Even though he operates at the very top echelon of the Arabian horse world, he has a special gift for making members of the community feel appreciated for their loyalty and even a part of his and Al Shaqab's success. If one were to label his style of promotion and public relations, it would most likely fall into the category of “Emotional Branding.” In her online article, “The Power of ‘Emotional’ Marketing,” Jamie Anderson remarks that “Studies have shown that the factors influencing purchases are 80% emotional and 20% intellectual.”

In an industry whose growth is enhanced by emotional energy, Sheikh Hamad‘s natural skill for creating this type of effective exposure has served him very well. Nevertheless, the beauty of Sheikh Hamad‘s ability to create both “Al Shaqab brand excitement and loyalty," is due to his outstanding public relations ability that is a direct reflection of himself as a person.  As a result, Al Shaqab is perceived throughout the industry as "sharing” its success with the world. This is also likely the reason he has been able to create such an impressive support base of people who are: (1) eager for his success; and (2) enthusiastic to share it with him.

Sheikh Hamad is also a strong patriot—deeply loyal to his country and to his countrymen. At the 2016 Qatar International and Peninsula Arabian Horse Shows, I observed  another very special side of Sheikh Hamad. All of the main Qatari farms were there with countless numbers of horses. However, it appeared to be as much a family reunion as it was a high-quality show--the camaraderie was as impressive as the competition. Sheikh Hamad, as the Manager of Al Rayyan Farm, certainly earned his share of medals with the farm's exquisite horses. However, when his competitors won, he was the first to offer them sincere congratulationAt Al Rayyan: 2016...photo by Lisa Abrahams

Without question, Sheikh Hamad is a man of many dimensions. As an active member of the Arabian horse community, Sheikh Hamad's demeanour could be compared to a    kaleidoscope in which the view quickly changes yet still maintains a bright potpourri of colour. He is a fierce competitor, yet he puts people at ease and makes them feel relaxed and welcome.  He is always approachable and is usually found wearing a huge smile.  His “on line” social media presence is proof of the wide spectrum of individuals he supports--and those who support him, as well. 

In writing this story, I would like to share one final observation about him that has touched me the most, namely, his love and compassion for animals.  During the 2015 All Nations Cup, I was fortunate to have quality time with him. At that particular show, gelding classes were offered for the very first time. Over breakfast one morning this addition was a topic of conversation. Sheikh Hamad shared, “I absolutely want to support the gelding—this is very important. First, when it comes to horses, of course I love Arabian horses, but really--I love all horses—any kind of horse. I love the animal first. Then when I love this animal—I love the gelding too." He further remarked, "Opportunities to showcase geldings supports my marketing. If an animal is not of the quality that I desire for reproduction or showing as a reproductive animal, such as in the halter ring, then I must find a way for him. I need to find people who like to ride for endurance or other types of sport. Shows are a great place for people to find geldings and this in turn, helps the animal too.”

However, as the modern version of this 14th-century proverb states, “The proof is in the pudding.” The greatest testament to this man is the magnitude of sincere affection the Arabian horse community holds for him. It is not often when someone comes along who not only lights up a room, but also, an entire industry. With the announcement of Sheikh Hamad’s return, Arabian horse people from all four corners of the world celebrated—and continue to celebrate the news. Social media has buzzed with excitement—in different ways, in different languages; people in various walks of life and from all levels of the Arabian horse business. As the author of this article, and having personally experienced Sheikh Hamad's hospitality, as well as his profound devotion to Arabian horses and the international Arabian horse community, I thought it would be appropriate to invite other admirers to join me in sharing their experiences or sentiments about Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani.

 

 

Contributions from Members of the Community...

 

2015 US Egyptian Event: Sheikh Hamad and Michael Byatt...photo by Lisa Abraham

 

Over the last 25 years much has been documented about my friendship and working relationship with Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani. One less documented portion of our friendship is one that I value the most as it was at a time when I got to know the depth of Sheikh Hamad as a person. Several years ago, Sheikh Hamad underwent a kidney transplant. At that time, his future was unknown and his very survival was in question. But through it all, at least outwardly to me, there was always a sense of optimism and belief--he always believed in tomorrow. Later, when he was out of the hospital and able to travel we would meet in Paris or London, far away from the horses that brought us together. Although his physical condition was still fragile, his spirit was always intact.  Sheikh Hamad is, and was, the eternal optimist, and it is through his way of looking at life that he has always been rewarded with life blessings.  He truly embodies the concept of “reap what you sow.” I never departed a visit with Sheikh Hamad without feeling better about a day. As for our professional relationship, I have been proud to contribute to a program that has influenced the direction and history of the Arabian horse.

~Michael Byatt (USA), Michael Byatt Arabians. Michael was deeply involved in the careers of the three pillars of Al Shaqab: Gazal Al Shaqab, Marwan Al Shaqab and Al Adeed Al Shaqab. He was also at the lead when Marwan and Al Adeed became World and International Champions. (photo above: Sheikh Hamad and Micheal Byatt, by Lisa Abraham)

 

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Eileen Verdieck showing Imperial Phanilah became Al Shaqab’s first World Champion...photo by Irina Filsinger, furnished by Eileen Verdieck.

Before Al Adeed Al Shaqab, Gazal Al Shaqab, Marwan Al Shaqab and Al Shaqab Stud became household names throughout the Arabian Horse world, a very successful and  lasting friendship was created between Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Al Thani and me. These were the early days, between the years 1992 and 1996.

I first started going to Qatar in late 1990 as a guest of Sheikh Nawaf Al Thani of Al Nasser Stud, as he had purchased four fillies and one colt from Imperial Egyptian Stud where I had been the manager and trainer for over 15 years. While showing in the 1992 Qatar Show, Sheikh Nawaf introduced me to Sheikh Hamad, who had recently been named the Manager of Al Shaqab Stud.  Sheikh Nawaf asked me to assist Sheikh Hamad in acquiring high-end show and breeding horses for the newly formed Al Shaqab Stud.

Sheikh Hamad and I became very close friends as we began searching the world over for horses to be the foundation stock. One of the first groups of horses I purchased in early 1993 for Al Shaqab and Sheikh Hamad was a group of straight Egyptian horses that included Imperial Phanilah, who was Reserve World Champion Filly in Paris as a two-year-old and then in 1994, became Al Shaqab’s first World Champion.

Also among that first group was the international champion filly Kamasayyah. She arrived with her dam, Sundar Alisayyah, who in 1995 produced one of the greatest show and breeding sires of all time, the remarkable Al Adeed Al Shaqab.  Sundar Alisayyah proved to be a remarkable broodmare who consistently produced international champions by a variety of sires.  Later groups acquired for Al Shaqab included such greats as Amber Silk, PR Padrons Jewel, Kajora and Little Liza Fame.

Sheikh Hamad was always juggling many plates, but especially when the Qatar International Horse Show was being held. He made sure the show horses were ready to compete; he oversaw or actually rode in several Endurance races with Al Shaqab horses; he would make all the arrangements for the Al Shaqab Open House; as well as balance the needs of all guests and handlers.  He ensured everything ran like clockwork and that everyone was having the time of their lives—and in the middle of it, he was right there enjoying himself.

Sheikh Hamad is a man with many remarkable talents and qualities.  He has a spontaneous sense of humor and a tremendous work ethic.  Although he is a hands-on leader and decision maker, he surrounds himself with talented, capable people whom he works with as partners. He and I worked well as a team and he counted on me to assist him in important matters.  We had a great time together and managed to keep most the plates in the air.

To my little brother-Mabrouk,

Sheikh Hamad, I’m glad to see you back where you belong!

~Eileen Verdieck (USA), Arabquest International, Inc. It was Eileen at the lead when the yearling Marwan Al Shaqab earned his first competition title and became the 2001 Qatar International Junior Champion Colt. (photo above: Eileen Verdieck showing Imperial Phanilah who became Al Shaqab’s first World Champion, by Irina Filsinger)

 

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David Boggs with Champion Falah Al Shaqab...photo by Javan

We had the pleasure of Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani’s very first visit to Midwest in Scottsdale Arizona, a few weeks ago. I was amazed with his infectious smile and the  genuine love and passion he has for the Arabian horse. Sheikh Hamad is a true horseman and we are proud and thrilled to have him as a very important and new client. Presenting the great horses of Al Shaqab Stud has always been a badge of honor for Team Midwest and now we have a new friend in Sheikh Hamad anchored in a mutual desire to present and care for some of the best stallions and mares in the breed history--The Stars of Al Shaqab!

~David Boggs (USA), Midwest. David has earned top championship honors with several of Al Shaqab’s finest, which have included: Falah Al Shaqab, Kahil Al Shaqab and Hariry Al Shaqab. (photo: David Boggs with Falah Al Shaqab, by Javan)

 

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I’m looking forward to seeing Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani back holding the reins of Al Shaqab Stud as his energy and presence have been missed. I wish him all my best and personal good luck in this function. Also, I look forward to the new creations in breeding he surely has up his sleeve and we all will be seeing soon. Welcome home Sheikh Hamad!

~Bart Van Buggenhout (QATAR/ USA), Farm Manager at Al Jassimya. Bart was also the former Farm Manager of Al Rayyan under the ownership of Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Khalid Al Thani.

 

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The global success of Al Shaqab Stud and its triptych of World Champion Stallions and super sires – Al Adeed Al Shaqab, Gazal Al Shaqab and Marwan Al Shaqab – would never have been possible without the discerning “eye,” vision and dedication of Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani. 

 ~Cynthia Culbertson (USA). Cynthia is an internationally respected Arabian horse historian and author with a degree in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

 

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I met Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani over two decades ago at Al Shaqab Stud.  It was Michael Byatt and Eileen Verdieck who made the introduction. Sheikh Hamad was a visionary who was not afraid to take risks. Unlike most Middle Eastern farms at the time, Sheikh Hamad established two significant breeding herds--one straight Egyptian and the other non-Egyptian.  Sheikh Hamad was also an excellent ambassador for the Middle East.  He travelled to all the large shows both in Europe and the United States and in return, invited others to Qatar. 

In 2000, the year Marwan was born, I went to Al Shaqab for a showing.  To say the least—seeing these horses personally presented was a monumental experience--but it wasn’t the only one…Sheikh Hamad owned a Harley Davidson Heritage Springer Softtail motor cycle.  At the time, I owned the same bike. Among Harley owners, there is an unspoken rule: never let anyone drive your bike.  But when Sheikh Hamad heard I had the same bike, he insisted on me taking it for a spin.  I’m sure it was quite a site seeing a woman ride a Harley in Qatar!  Not only was my visit great fun, but also, I left Qatar that year with memories that I will never forget.

 Since that time, we have witnessed the Al Shaqab bred horses take the industry by storm and write history.  For me, Al Shaqab all began with Sheikh Hamad.....welcome home.

~Kimberly M. Jarvis (USA), President at C. Jarvis Insurance Agency

 

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The 2016 Qatar International Arabian Horse Show: Luca Oberti with Silver Champion Senior Mare Darine Al Rayyan...photo by Lisa Abraham

I congratulate Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani for his position at Al Shaqab Stud, in addition to his accomplishments as the Director of Al Rayyan Farm. Sheikh Hamad is not only a special and talented breeder, but he also has an excellent eye for finding champions. Absolutely, he is the right person to lead both farms into the future. I’m honored that he has given me the opportunity to be part of his team and has trusted me with his horses. In Italian we have a saying, “When one has a sixth sense, he is sure to have one to get the Gold” …for me, this is Sheikh Hamad.

~Luca Oberti (ITALY), Luca Oberti Arabians. Luca manages the European breeding and show operation for Al Rayyan Farm. (photo above: Luca Oberti with the 2016 Qatar Arabian Peninsula Silver Champion Senior Mare Darine Al Rayyan, by Lisa Abraham)

 

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At the 2016 Al Rayyan Presentation of Horses: Michael Byatt, Mohammed J. Al Marzouk and Anna Bishop...photo by Lisa Abraham

Looking back and reflecting on my journey with breeding Arabian horses, I must give recognition to the huge contribution of some of my closest friends and among them is  Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Al Thani. I would proudly say that Sheikh Hamad not only brings with him the knowledge of breeding, but also enthusiasm and excitement that always make our journey extremely memorable and without a doubt more enjoyable. With due respect I can point out that it is a fact today, Sheikh Hamad is one of the strong pillars of the Arabian horse world. I am sure Sheikh Hamad will continue to pursue his passion and contribution for the Arabian horse and I wish him all the best.

~Mr. Mohammed J. Al Marzouk (Kuwait), Ajmal Stud. Mr. Marzouk is also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Bait Al Arab, the State Stud of Kuwait.

 

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A cloud of dust and a big smile are among my favorite first memories of Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani. During my first trip to Qatar in 2000, I had the opportunity to visit Al Shaqab Stud, located on the outskirts of Doha.  A city teeming with building cranes in every direction the head turned, it was obvious this was a city on the move and that the old sections of Doha would soon make way for the new.   However, Shaqab was still the “old Shaqab” and the drive to the farm itself seemed miles from the Sheraton, one of the only hotels in the city at that time.

Once inside Shaqab, we wound around long-standing buildings, barns and court yards.  An outdoor riding arena and several hectares of open space also remain fixed in my memory as part of that historical landscape.   Upon arrival at the presentation area, a lavish assortment of delectables set the stage for our Middle Eastern gathering.   Amidst the socializing and tasting, I soon saw--and heard--a motorcycle heading up the long drive with a cloud of dust trailing behind.  I recognized one of its passengers, but not the other.  I also remember laughter as part of their “grand” entrance--a light-heartedness of people enjoying themselves and their surroundings.

Proper introductions followed to those of us who hadn’t yet met the “other” passenger, Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani.  His stature as both an astute breeder and leader at Shaqab were well regarded.  However, his instant approachability and likeability were first impression traits that further identified this remarkable man. The evening concluded with a presentation of some of the most incredible horses I had ever seen, with Sheikh Hamad proudly reciting pedigrees and accomplishments of each.  His passion was as obvious as his mastery. I left that evening the happiest person on earth to be at that place, at that time.  Return visits proved those earlier observations to be true. Doha continues to be a city on the move, with countless five star hotels, ultra-modern shopping centers, museums and high rises.   Al Shaqab has also been completely transformed with its very impressive state-of-the-art breeding and show facilities. However, with each subsequent visit, like Dorothy, I am always transported back to that special time and place that hold so many “first” fond memories of both the horses and the man. Indeed it is heartwarming to have him back home.

~Anna Bishop (USA), Executive Director of The Pyramid Society. (photo above: At the 2016 Al Rayyan Presentation of Horses: Michael Byatt, Mohammed J. Al Marzouk and Anna Bishop, by Lisa Abraham)

 

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  photo furnished by Karen Kasper photo furnished by Karen Kasperphoto furnished by Karen Kasper

My husband Ray and I first met Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani in 1994, at the Qatar International Arabian Horse Show.  That year, we had sculpted the four bronze championship trophies, and Al Shaqab horses--under Sheikh Hamad’s management--won three of the four trophies.  What we most noted about Sheikh Hamad was his boundless passion for the horses themselves, and his remarkable enthusiasm has never wavered in all the years we have known him.

One of my most memorable recollections is receiving a phone call from Sheikh Hamad, excitedly informing me that I was commissioned to sculpt life-size portrait bronzes of Al Shaqab’s three World Champion stallions – Al Adeed, Gazal, and Marwan Al Shaqab.  Beyond the great honor of this commission, was the opportunity to team with Sheikh Hamad--combining my passion for sculpting portraits from life-study to immortalize these three historic stallions that he had bred and guided to their highest successes.

Sheikh Hamad’s exuberance and sincere love for the Arabian horses of Al Shaqab continues today, if anything, even greater than before.  With his deep dedication and vision, we look forward to seeing the new heights the Al Shaqab breeding program will achieve in the years to come.

~Karen Kasper (USA). Original works by Karen Kasper are sought after by important private collectors and are included in royal collections in England, Kuwait, Oman, Morocco, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and several of the United Arab Emirates.  Karen’s bronze sculptures of Gazal Al Shaqab, Marwan Al Shaqab and Al Adeed Al Shaqab were installed at Al Shaqab in 2015. (photos above: left~Gazal Al Shaqab:  Detail, bronze sculpture from life-study by Karen Kasper; middle~Al Adeed Al Shaqab: Bronze sculpture from life-study by Karen Kasper; right~Marwan Al Shaqab: Detail, bronze sculpture from life-study by Karen Kasper)

 

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I first met Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani with Lisa Abraham and Dr. Hans Nagel at the 2015 All Nations Cup, in Aachen. Without realizing, we sat at his reserved VIP table and had been asked to move.  Sheikh Hamad arrived and very kindly said, "No, no, of course you must stay"—an incredibly kind gesture as we had never met. The next morning, we all had breakfast together in the hotel and I found him to be interesting, charming and amusing. I told him that a godson of mine from Argentina was working at his farm and he was most interested. I am very glad he will be running Al Shaqab Stud as I am sure he will take it to even more success and I really hope to meet him again one day.

~Lady Gina Pelham, La Catalina (ARGENTINA). In December of 2016, Lady Gina will celebrate her 50th anniversary breeding Arabian horses. Also, since 1990, she has been the delegate for the Argentine Stud Book; and since 2014, has been a member of the Executive Committee of WAHO, representing South America.

 

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At the 2015 Kuwait International Arabian Horse Festival, Eileen Verdieck introduced me to Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani. It was a lovely show and comfortable social affair. Sheikh Hamad was sitting at his table surrounded by guests. After we were introduced, he commented on how it was nice to meet me and that he was “rather new to breeding”—to which everyone laughed! I would like to extend congratulations to Sheikh Hamad and I look forward to our next encounter which I’m sure will be just as enjoyable.

~Debbie Fuentes (USA), Registrar of the Arabian Horse Association

 

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2015 US Egyptian Event: Sheikh Hamad, Lisa Abraham and Santi Fornieles...photo by Cookie SerleticWorking for Sheikh Hamad has been an amazing experience. As a breeder, I sincerely think he has the “touch.” His breeding visions are often difficult to see, but in the end,  produce results. When we bred our first mares at Al Rayyan, I wasn’t always confident of the outcome. Sheikh Hamad made all of the decisions and while I knew some would absolutely work and be amazing--I was equally positive that others had no chance of producing a quality foal. However, when the babies came, I had to bite my tongue…they were just incredible.

But there is much more to Sheikh Hamad than being a great breeder. Sheikh Hamad really cares for the people who work for him. For example, when a groom was having problems in his home country, Sheikh Hamad personally paid for him to be able to go home to resolve his issues. In return, he is greatly loved by the staffs both at Al Rayyan and Al Shaqab. When he returned to Al Shaqab after a three-year absence, I was with him as we drove through the facility. It took us a half an hour to go 800 meters because every few moments a groom, a trainer or someone from the maintenance crew would stop us to excitedly greet him and show their support.

With me personally, Sheikh Hamad has also been very generous. In 2015, as a birthday gift to my wife, who also works at Al Rayyan, he sent us to Paris for the World Championship. I offered to pay, but he immediately said, “Habibi, you both have worked hard this year--this is a gift so just be happy.” He was also excited for us and gave us a list of things he wanted us to enjoy while there—that’s just the kind of guy he is.

Finally, he has the ability to evaluate situations and make decisions that no else thinks about and actually do work.  But what I particularly admire is that he is not afraid to consider a variety of perspectives and even alter his original choices if necessary. For me, in this world crowded with egos, this is something that is very valuable.

~Santi Fornieles (ARGENTINA), Farm Manager at Al Rayyan (photo: Sheikh Hamad, Lisa Abraham and Santi Fornieles, by Cookie Serletic)

 

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2016 Qatar International Arabian Horse Show: Scott Bailey and Sheikh Hamad...photo by Lisa Abraham

My first trip to a European show was Aachen in 2004. On this trip, I met two very interesting men: Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Al Thani and Majdi Al Salah. Although from different  countries, both men represented Royal families and both have remained friends to me.  Sheikh Hamad had so much fun at horse shows and his positive energy was infectious to be around. But my very best memories have been far away from horse shows. I have laughed so hard watching Sheikh Hamad and Michael Byatt playfully going at each other, like they have for years in their close friendship. To this day, I love how Sheikh Hamad is always trying to get the best of Michael--and most often does.
 
Many years ago, Sheikh Hamad and Michael came through Scottsdale looking for horses for Al Shaqab. They spent several days here and I had the privilege of driving them around--it was a great time with lots of laughs. But in addition to the fun, we were also fortunate to host Sheikh Hamad at Stonewall Farm.  He was so impressed with our program that he wanted to buy our foundation mare, her daughter, the foals they were carrying and a son at her side. It was a very proud moment for David Cains and myself as breeders. However, as a breeder himself, he understood why we couldn't sell the entire family, but we did settle on a package. To me, that was the very best sale we have ever had for reasons way beyond the money.
 
We have never lost contact and remained connected via social media. Sheikh Hamad lives large and happy, and freely shares his life's adventures with the world. Anyone who has had the privilege of meeting him walks away a happier person just for being in his presence.  In my 20+ years in the Arabian horse business, Sheikh Hamad has been one of the very best individuals to have crossed my path. I'm so glad he is back at the place he started as our little world just feels better with him in it.
 
~Scott Bailey (USA), Arabian Horse World and Stonewall Farm (photo: Scott Bailey and Sheikh Hamad, by Lisa Abraham)
 
 
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I have always loved those who love everything about the Arabian horse. Sheikh Hamad is just one of those rare jewels who loves deep with a glowing and beautiful passion that is truly second to none. I am proud to call him my friend.

~Jeff Wallace (USA). Jeff is an internationally respected writer and has made contributions to many important publications.

 

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Continuity is so critically important in all things. It is especially important in Arabian horses who have survived for centuries to be the oldest and most admired breed of Equine. Continuity is even more important in the breeding of Arabian horses especially in these rapidly changing times of challenge. I humbly offer my sincerest congratulations to Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani in carrying forward the incredible legacy of Al Shaqab Stud. He is a blessing of continuity for an assured future.

~Joe Ferriss (USA). This year marks Joe’s 46th anniversary of involvement with Arabian horses. Among many things, Joe has authored numerous articles on Arabians that have been published internationally and has designed and produced books of Arabian horse and on related Middle Eastern subject for various authors and The Pyramid Society.

 

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I am very excited to know that Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani is back at the head of Al Shaqab Stud. Anyone who breeds Arabian horses knows the history of his breeding which has included horses like Gazal Al Shaqab, Marwan Al Shaqab and Al Adeed Al Shaqab—all of whom are not just great as show horses, but as breeding animals as well. Although there are so many great breeders in the world, very few will ever experience this kind of breeding record. No matter what lines you choose to breed, I feel Sheikh Hamad’s return is a good sign for the entire breed. I wish Sheikh Hamad the same success that he has enjoyed previously at Al Shaqab Stud and at Al Rayyan.

~Jorge Concaro (ARGENTINA), Haras Solyman. Jorge also manages Haras La Catalina and is a former President of the Argentine Breeders Association (AACCA)

 

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  The 2012 Egyptian Event Senior Stallion Gold Champion: Hadban Al Shaqab...photo by Darryl Larson

Congratulations to Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani on becoming the Al Shaqab Stud Breeding and Show Manager! Sheikh Hamad’s love and passion for the Arabian horse is obvious and readily apparent to everyone around him.  My memories and experiences with Al Shaqab Stud go back about 20 years when I first visited Qatar and attended the shows and open houses.  I vividly recall Sheikh Hamad presented many of the beautiful horses himself and he did so with such pride and joy—smiling the entire time!  I particularly remember a "very promising young colt" named Al Adeed Al Shaqab who was probably only a yearling at that time.  He certainly fulfilled his promise--and then some. 

In the years to follow, I was afforded the opportunity to incorporate Al Shaqab breeding into my own breeding program.  I was lucky to be able to lease Al Adeed's brother, Hadban Al Shaqab, who was very successful in the American show ring winning 2012 Egyptian Event Gold Champion Stallion, US Reserve National Champion Stallion 8 and over and US National Top Ten Sr. Stallion.  Now his daughters are part of our broodmare band.  We were also fortunate to lease Lebinon Al Shaqab who has produced extraordinary foals for us and other American breeders. The foundation that was created at Al Shaqab has helped us to raise the bar and bring our breeding program to the next level of excellence. Thank you Al Shaqab and thank you Sheikh Hamad!

~Dr. Joseph (Jody) Cruz (USA), Rancho Bulakenyo. Jody has been breeding Straight Egyptian Arabians for 46 years and is also a Trustee of The Pyramid Society. (photo above: Hadban Al Shaqab, by Darryl Larson)

 

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Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani is a passionate and influential driving force behind the improvement of the Arabian horse in Qatar and worldwide. Not only is he an accomplished breeder with an open mind, but he is also a man of vision, knowledge and dedication. With Sheikh Hamad in charge of the well-respected breeding programs of Al Rayyan and Al Shaqab, I believe their futures look highly promising. In addition to his love for the Arabian horse and being an inspiration to fellow breeders, Sheikh Hamad is “down to earth” and a fun person to be around who always has an enthusiastic, positive outlook on life.

~ Glenn Jacobs (QATAR), Breeding Manager at Al Naif Stud. Glenn is also respected internationally for his skills as a photographer.

 

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I first became aware of Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani in 1994, when I purchased Imperial Madheen and Anaza El Farid for Count Federico Zichy-Thyssen. After that, everywhere I went--there he was, and looking at every horse he possibly could. He was a vibrant personality and a quick study who had defined the type that he liked. He was also very excited about the Arabian horse and his part in its future--and that excited the people around him as well.

Our first business dealings came in 2010 when we were approached by Sheikh Hamad's previous assistant to lease several of our mares with *El Shaklan blood. This resulted in several very lovely fillies for Al Shaqab Stud, and for us at Peregrine Bloodstock, the opportunity to breed to Marwan Al Shaqab, whose fame (and stud fee) were already well established. As time went on, our business relationship evolved.

Currently, we maintain many of the Al Shaqab breeding mares and young stock at Peregrine, in Lexington, Kentucky. Although this has been a mutually beneficial relationship, we are proud to be able to raise these horses in Kentucky as it is a great opportunity due to both the land itself and to the infrastructure of many of the world's leading veterinary specialists and horse professionals. Also we have purchased more than 40 breedings to the best of the Al Shaqab stallions over the years, which have included a significant number to Gazal Al Shaqab, whose fillies we will retain as future broodmares. 

Recently we were honored by a visit from Sheikh Hamad. He showed us that he has not lost his ability to evaluate quickly and immediately choose with precision "his type of horse." We look forward to the future with Al Shaqab.

~Mark Wharton (USA), Peregrine Bloodstock, LLC. Mark has a lifelong history of breeding Arabian horses and also judges internationally.

 

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  Giacomo Capacci showing World Champion Hariry Al Shaqab once again at the 2016 Qatar International show where he was also Champion Stallion...photo by Lisa Abraham

I was very fortunate to meet Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani at a very young age. He made me a part of his team more than fifteen years ago. Since then we have shared many emotional moments, difficult challenges, amazing victories and many, many laughs. I have always been inspired by the passion and energy that Sheikh Hamad puts into the Arabian horse. But more than anything, in such a difficult business, through his unique creativity and genius, he has achieved what no one else has ever before-- and made it look easy.

The world of Arabian horses is not just a lifestyle, but also, a way of life—in which changes do occur. As time passes, we all experience highs and lows. Our ideas evolve and sometimes even our behaviors become different. As we age, some of us go through illnesses and treatment—and thank God for recovery. But FEELINGS do not change. For me, from the day it was founded, Sheikh Hamad has always been Al Shaqab. Even in his absence, his influence and vision of breeding was present.

The beauty that makes these creatures so special is also such a difficult thing to create and then to make famous is equally challenging. Sheikh Hamad has the genetic understanding and creativity to breed a dream horse, he has uniquely innovative ideas in business and he is a vivacious competitor. I am proud to be with Sheikh Hamad and will always be grateful to be part of the Al Shaqab team. My eyes are set forward to a bright future with more inventive breeding and championship wins around the globe. My  commitment and passion are with Sheikh Hamad and Al Shaqab who will continue to write history!

~Giacomo Capacci (ITALY), Giacomo Capacci Arabians. Giacomo Capacci Arabians has been home to some of Al Shaqab’s most important horses and it was Giacomo at the lead when Fadi Al Shaqab, Kahil Al Shaqab and Hariry Al Shaqab became World Champions. (photo above: Giacomo Capacci showing World Champion Hariry Al Shaqab once again at the 2016 Qatar International show where he was also Champion Stallion, by Lisa Abraham)

 

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I've known Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani since the early l990's when he and his friends first came to the Egyptian Event, in Lexington, Kentucky (USA). Before they arrived they sent a huge Bedouin tent complete with oriental carpets and other accouterments as well as posters of the Emir and Qatari flags. When they arrived at the show they proceeded to rent golf carts, affix the flags atop them, and with Sheikh Hamad in the lead, set off at high speed (not to the joy of the Park police) around the Park, going from stable to stable to see horses.  Sheikh Hamad was on a mission, and within two years amassed a collection of superior stallions and mares, including World Champion Mare Imperial Phanilah, among others. 

Many Al Shaqab-bred champions emerged under his guidance, including World Champions Gazal Al Shaqab, Marwan Al Shaqab and Al Adeed Al Shaqab.  Although he hired Eileen Verdieck and Michael Byatt as trainers, Sheikh Hamad was always "hands on" with his horses and often ran the winning horse around the show ring, grinning from ear to ear.  In fact, it is rare to see him when he isn’t smiling or laughing.

Over the years I watched Sheikh Hamad journeying from country to country with the Al Shaqab show horses and going where nobody from the Middle East had literally gone before.  He set the pace, while always giving great credit to the Emir of the State of Qatar, HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who was a major player in sponsoring the renaissance of the Arabian horse in the Arab world during the l990's. 

While I was a consultant to Al Shaqab, I witnessed that it was truly Sheikh Hamad's tireless efforts that contributed to the success of Al Shaqab Stud--in the show ring and in selection of breeding stock.  He has a keen eye for a horse and has owned and ridden horses from the time he was very young.  He was well-qualified when the position was offered to him by HH The Emir. As a patriot, Sheikh Hamad  was always proud of his country, the State of Qatar, which arrived into world prominence during his lifetime as a power in the energy field.  Modern Qatar looks nothing like it did when he took the reins of Al Shaqab in 1992, and the first Al Shaqab stables have given way to the expansive new Al Shaqab facility of which he is again show and breeding manager.  In 2017 Al Shaqab reaches its 25th anniversary and Sheikh Hamad will rightfully be there to lead the celebration.

Whenever I think of Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani, I think of perpetual motion. If there ever was a human being that could compete with the Energizer Bunny, Sheikh Hamad is it.   

~Judith Forbis (USA), Ansata Arabian Stud. Judith is also a co-founder of The Pyramid Society and has served as its president and is now a Trustee. She is also known worldwide for authoring important reference and educational books. (photo: Sheikh Hamad with Ansata Halim Shah by Rik van Lent Jr~Al Shaqab archival photo )

 

 

 

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For more information about Al Shaqab Stud, please visit:

http://www.alshaqab.com/


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Lisa Abraham is an International Journalist and Photographer from the United States. Although she does free-lance for various media, her primary dedication is to Arabhorse.com as a Premier Contributor and Representative.

 

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Photos on both the front and back covers were taken by Rik van Lent Jr. at Al Shaqab in 1994~Al Shaqab archival photos