Abu Dhabi: Asked by doctors to stay away from horses, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda today is the leading Emirati owner and breeder of Purebred Arabians.
Coming from the family of a high-profile business group, Al Nabooda’s passion for horses started in his school years. “My family didn’t like me getting into this line, though they like horses. We didn’t have the heritage of dealing in horses. My father was worried that I would be away from studies. But after university I decided to follow my passion. Everyone was against me breeding horses. Only Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan was into breeding then,” recollects Al Nabooda, who started breeding horses from the early ’90s.
What sets him apart from other breeders is his success in breeding high pedigree Purebred Arabian horses in the desert, which most felt was impossible. He owns over 400 horses with some of them competitive enough to match the best in the world.
Al Nabooda, who has had a wonderful season so far with 22 winners this season, recollects that the initial days were tough. “I learn from my mistakes. There was always a will to learn and I kept trying. I learn from people who have the experience in the trade for long,” says Al Nabooda, who owns four farms in the UAE and one in France.
“Our weather is a challenge, our ground is a challenge, the feed you give to the horse here is a challenge and getting the right people is a challenge. I want to prove to the world we can breed top quality horses. Thankfully, over the years I managed to get horses running and winning races. I haven’t won Group 1 but AF Mathmoon won [in the silks of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance] and Al Tawaq finished second in Group 1,” said Al Nabooda, who also has to battle against an allergy every time he exposes himself to horses at the stables. “Not many know I’m allergic to horses. I’m asthmatic and I have been under treatment ... I’m not allowed to go to horses but I don’t care. I take medicine and as soon as I touch them I have to wash my hands or else it is a problem,” says Al Nabooda, who has yet to take his horses to compete abroad but reveals it is on the cards soon.
“Yes, ratings can be improved by competing abroad which I would do at some stage. However, I also keep asking myself, why I have to do that when other horses are coming here and competing,” says Al Nabooda, adding, “If I can compete with them here, I need not go there. Having said that, I would say we can go with a couple of good horses and compete there. Kahayla Classic is a good platform and for the past six-seven years my horses are competing there. Yes, they don’t win, but we are finishing fifth, sixth which is not bad and I’m happy with that.”
Al Nabooda was of the view that the marketing strategy in Europe has helped the horses there to get better ratings. But he is not an advocate of using a similar strategy for UAE horses. His best stallions so far have been AF Albahar and AF Al Buraq, both sold to Qatar.