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Posted On: 21 February 2023 05:00 pm
Updated On: 21 February 2023 04:30 pm

What you need to know about Arabian horses in Qatar

Vrinda Abilash
Vrinda Abilash
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Arabian horses have a long history that goes back centuries. In Qatar, these horses hold a special place in people's hearts and are part of the country's culture and identity.

Several equestrian festivals and competitions dedicated to this magnificent animal are held in the country. In this guide, the (ILQ) team gives you a quick read about Arabian horses, competitions and more.

History of Arabian horses

arabian horses
Image credit: Shutterstock

These are a breed of horses that originated from the Arabian peninsula. It is said that the silhouette of the Arabian horse was seen about 3,500 years in Egypt. Still, the nomadic Bedouins of the Arabian peninsula refined and selectively bred them to improve their strength and stamina. Their importance became more popular during the pre-Islamic era, and they were known for their contributions during wars.

It is also believed that Ghengis Khan and Alexander the Great favoured Arabian horses over other breeds. Horsemanship has been an integral part of the culture in Qatar. In the book Mu'jam al-Buldan by Yacout Al-Hamawi, it is mentioned that Qatar was known for its camels and horses and their trade in the olden days.

Purebred Arabian mares are based on 5 strains and classifications. Strain names represent the female line of descent regardless of the male parent of the animal.

The Arabian horse strains derived from their characteristics are as below:

  • Al-Kahila: for its dark eyes
  • Al-Abya: it got its name as it lifted its owner's cloak when it fell off him
  • Al-Habada: for its long forelock hair
  • Al-Saqlawiya: for its smooth and soft skin
  • Al-Dahmaa: for its darkness and strength

How to identify Arabian horses?

Souq Waqif
Image credit: Shutterstock

Arabian horses are identified by their slender neck, distinctive head shape and tail. They are quick, intelligent, and excel in sports, riding and endurance competitions.

The height of an Arabian horse ranges from 57 inches to 61 inches, and the weight ranges from 360 to 450 kilograms. Their lifespan is between 25-30 years.

Horses' importance in the establishment of modern Qatar

arabian horse
Image credit: Shutterstock

Sheikh Jassim Bin Mohammed Al Thani was known for his passion for horses and to have owned a group of legendary horses, particularly from the Al-Wathn strain that goes back to the Al-Kahila strain.

The Arabian horse was a soldier that stood by its owner during wars that shaped the country.

Learn about horses in Qatar.

Experience Al Shaqab tour — where people and horses connect
Image Credit: Al Shaqab

Al Shaqab is a leading equine centre established in 1992 by H.H. The Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Al Shaqab aims to engage the community through its riding academy and by organizing equine-related events and activities in the country.

One of these activities is a tour of Al Shaqab's facility. Take the tour, learn about Qatar's horses and equestrian life, check out the Indoor and Outdoor Arenas, interact with the horses and have an educational time there.

Horse racing in Qatar

Visit Qatar
Image credit: Visit Qatar

Horse racing is a popular activity in Qatar. The Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club (QREC) at Al Rayyan is a well-recognized horse training centre and a host of international horse races in the country.

Race events take place every Wednesday and Thursday from October to May. The events are suitable for spectators of all ages.

Horse riding in Qatar

Image credit: Katara Cultural Village

If you want to learn horse riding or do it as a fun activity, you can check out any of the places listed below.

  • Al Samriya Riding School (+974 4490 2359)
  • Al Shaqab Riding Academy (+974 4454 0268)
  • Al Gharafa Stable (+974 5053 8041)
  • Future Riders (+974 5500 3180)
  • Souq Waqif

Horse events in Qatar

Katara Cultural Village
Image credit: Katara Cultural Village

Arabian Horse Show Championships serve as a platform for showcasing the beauty and quality of Arabian horses. Qatar holds several events with respect to this.

What are the standards for evaluating horses in these championships?
The classification is based on 5 levels:

  • Type: what is the breed, its distinctive features, characteristics like small head, dark eyes and tail carriage are looked at here.
  • Head & neck: the head of an Arabian horse is wide at the cheeks and the nose and is curved inwards. The width of the forehead, eyes and their colour are considered.
  • Body & top line: the trait of an Arabian horse is short, and the back is relatively flat. Here, the shoulder height, width of the chest, muscle, and athletic appearance are considered.
  • Legs: well-muscled forearms, straight and sound bones, large and detailed joints, and round, proportionate feet are looked at.
  • Movement: how the horse covers the ground, its lightness, balance and grace are counted. The movement must be straightforward and free.

Here are a few horse-related events in Qatar

horse events
Image credit: Shutterstock

H.H. The Amir Sword Festival

The H.H. The Amir Sword Festival, is a prestigious event dedicated to horse racing. It has a high percentage of foreign participation with horses from stables with a history of racing on the largest international racetracks. This year's festival was held at the Racing and Equestrian Club racecourse in Al Rayyan.

H.H. the Amir crowned the winners on the final day of the 2023 edition.

Katara International Arabian Horse Festival (KIAHF)

The Katara International Arabian Horse Festival, also known as KIAHF, is also held to support Qatar's rich equestrian heritage. It also promotes the uniqueness of purebred Arabian horses at various local, regional, and international platforms by hosting a Title Show. The festival also includes many equestrian events and activities.


The premier equestrian competition provides a platform for top-ranking local and international equestrian stars to compete in show jumping, dressage, and para-dressage disciplines.

In addition to the sporting action, the festival also offers a range of cultural, educational, and entertainment activities suitable for all.

Longines Hathab

Qatar Equestrian Tour - Longines Hathab, an initiative of H.E. Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani, President of the Qatar Olympic Committee and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Al Shaqab, Qatar Equestrian Tour-Hathab is an equestrian competition series. It seeks to inspire the next generation of international champions and increase awareness of horsemanship.

The tours comprise a series of individual and team competitions and include multiple categories in showjumping and dressage.

Horse exhibitions

Press Release
Image credit: Press Release

You can visit the ongoing "Horse Month" or the Shahr Al Khail exhibition at Msheireb Downtown Doha to learn more about horses.

This art exhibition documents the authentic Arabic horse story and traces the legacy of Arabs through paintings, sketches, and photographic & audio works. You will also learn about the importance of Arab horses in the life and heritage of the Qatari people here.


  • Location: Sikkat Wadi Msheireb
  • Date: 12 February-6 March 2023
  • Time: 10:30 am - 9 pm
  • Price: It's free!
  • Website: Click here


Sources: Visit Qatar, Katara Cultural Village, Al Shaqab,, Shahr Al Khail

Do you love horses? Have you learnt or are you taking horse-riding lessons in Qatar? Let us know in the comments below. Do share this article - it keeps us going!