ABU DHABI // Khaled Al Eid, the Saudi Olympic team member, believes the UAE will not be able to compete with the world's best showjumping teams unless they invest in the best horses.
"There are no substitutes for good horses if you want to be successful at the top-flight competitions," Al Eid said, shortly after winning the silver medal at the Global Championship Tour (GCT) at Al Forsan International Sports Resort in Abu Dhabi last month.
The Saudi team are emerging as a force in world showjumping - they won the 2010 Asian Games and recorded a top-10 finish at the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
They highlighted their strength - and a reported US$500 million (Dh1.84 billion) budget - by purchasing two of the world's best horses - Sultan V and Talan - from the Great Britain team just before the December 31 deadline for acquiring horses for the London Olympics in the summer.
"The Saudi Federation has invested well on quality horses and that reflects on the success we have had at the top-level competitions around the globe," Al Eid said.
"It is not easy to select the right horses because you need to make the right choice at the right time. Sometimes it may not work the way you plan but you need to take a chance."
Al Eid believes the UAE need to invest in quality horses.
"The Emirati riders are not far behind the rest of the world when it comes to skills and abilities, yet they can't compete without quality horses at the top-flight competitions," he said.
"The UAE have excellent facilities, they host top-class events and some of their riders take part regularly in regional and international competitions.
"So I don't see any reason why they won't be successful on the back of a quality horse.
"I guess it won't be too long because some of their own horses may mature and improve. The easier option is to purchase some quality horses and possibly success will encourage them to invest on the horses."
Adnan Al Nuaimi, the secretary general of the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club (ADEC), acknowledged the need to invest in quality horses but said prices of more than €1 million (Dh4.8m), the cost of a top horse, was too much of on investment for the Emirati riders.
"Although the equestrian industry has grown significantly over the years, showjumping doesn't enjoy the same popularity as flat racing and endurance," he said.
"It is true the Emirati riders lack the same quality horses to compete at the highest level but I believe these things may change with the number of top-class events the country will be hosting in the coming years.
"And hosting such competitions as the GCT, which is a five star event, provides the Emirati riders to compete against some of the world's best.
"Even if they don't win at this level, the experience would matter. Most of our riders are young and have time on their side to achieve better results in the future.
"And we have a lot of young horses and even they are bound to improve over a period of time.
"We have had some success at the regional level and I believe it is only a matter of time before the Emirati riders will achieve better results at the top-level competitions."
Today until Saturday, the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club hosts the latest leg of qualifying for the World Cup to be held in Holland in April.
Abdullah Al Sharbatly, the Saudi rider who won the Dubai leg of the World Cup qualifier last weekend, heads the list of competitors for an event that has a total purse of more than Dh1m.
There are two more competitions after Abu Dhabi. Sharjah will host the penultimate event from January 19 to 21 and Al Ain will stage the final leg of the qualifier from February 9 to 11.