Gift Horse(s): Sheik gives 16-legged boost to equestrian sport in Armenia

On September 21, Armenia’s Independence Day, four Arabs became residents of Armenia: Al Badih, Bint El Heluah, Faridah and Surhan.

Horses of Egyptian and Spanish heritage, they are the gift of sheikh Sultan Ben Muhammad al Kasimi, who visited Armenia last week. The sheik said he hopes his gift will contribute to the growth of equestrian sport in Armenia.

And these are no scrubs the sheik merely unloaded from his stable of 60. Among the horses, ranging in age from 1 to 4, are champions. Al Badih is a double world champion, while Faridah is a 2003 champion in Egypt.

The horses are valued at several hundred thousand dollars each. And, the little herd will soon grow, as two are pregnant.

“Of course, I am confident the horses will be carefully treated by the relevant bodies in Armenia, especially the Ministry of Culture; I hope they will develop here and will serve grounds for the development of equestrian sport,” said the Sultan.

The horses were trucked to their new home at the Hovik Hayrapetyan Equestrian Center.

The center itself is hardly a desired residence for equine royalty. Built in the 1950s, it went through the hard times of all such places in Armenia. It has been repaired in the last several years, however, and is now home to about 70 horses of English, Arabic and Akhalteke breeds.

The center promises the sheik, though, that the horses (worth more than the center itself), will be given proper care.

“I am simply shocked with the present,” says Hayrapet Hayrapetyan, president of the center. “We have never had horses of Egyptian or Spanish breed. I can say these are the most expensive horses in our center and we will be proud of them for sure.”

Local specialists, Hayrapetyan says, will go to the United Arab Emirates to learn the latest methods of horse care. Meanwhile Arab specialists of horse breeding have come with the sheik’s gift and have spent several days teaching the Armenian horsemen the peculiarities of their new residents.

“These horses are a marvelous gift to our republic since we can already register success in the development of pedigree horse breeding. We also promise these horses will not be mixed, their blood will not be spoiled and the pure blood horses will have success in Armenia,” said the Minister of Culture and Youth Hovik Hoveyan.

Foreign specialists also speak of prospects for equestrian sport development in Armenia.

“I have met Armenian specialists of equestrian sport, got acquainted with the breeds of the horses and I am sure the traditions of this sports in Armenia will allow it to develop; there is just a need to work more,” says Susanne Macken, horse breeding specialist of the International Equestrian Sport Federation. “All the seasons of the year are available in this country, there is a favorable weather, water and grass. That is, the climate conditions are also favorable for the development of equestrian sport.”