Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah's decision to follow his passion and begin breeding horses more than 20 years ago has proved a fruitful one. The Emirati businessman has more than 400 Purebred Arabians in training since he first started out in 1996; he has two UAE Owner Championship titles and saddled two winners in the Kahayla Classic, widely considered as the Dubai World Cup for Arabian horses.
What makes his achievements all the more impressive is the fact that Al Naboodah is allergic to horses.
It is an affliction he has suffered with since childhood. So bad is his allergy Al Naboodah cannot even lead his own horses to the winner’s enclosure or shake hands with the trainer or jockey to congratulate them on their success.
“That’s the sad part but all of them connected with my horses understand my problem which I have learnt to live with,” he said.
“It’s like a kind of asthma; my hands, mouth and eyes starts to itch when I get into contact with horses or those who handling them.
“The doctors at that time told me my immune system would get stronger as I grew up but it didn’t. I travelled all over the world to find a cure, taking all kinds of vaccinations, it still didn’t work.”
Besides the obvious drawbacks of surrounding himself around animals to which he is hypersensitive, the finances involved are just as likely to have an effect on the body's immune system, as well as your bank balance.
Al Naboodah reveals though that the challenges of perfecting the breeding of Arabian horses in the UAE are more than just economical.
“Everything was a challenge from the harsh weather to the unsuitable soil and to the people around me, including my family and friends,” Al Naboodah said.
“They told me I was wasting money and time. Even now, some say this is not a hobby for a grown up man.
“What they don’t understand is it gives me a lot of pleasure, happiness and satisfaction, and above all, it relieves all my stress from my business and office work.”
Al Naboodah spent a lot of his childhood at the family farm in Al Aweer in Dubai. They kept domesticated animals such as sheep and goats, as well as a few horses. “I was around 15 when I got the urge to buy some horses but my father stopped me from going in that direction as he wanted me to focus more on my studies,” he says.
Like most teenage sons, Al Naboodah ignored his father's wishes and he would go on to purchase his first lot of Anglo Arabs and Crossbreds in the early 1990s.
He had bought 12 broodmares for breeding but was advised by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, Minister of Finance, during one of his visits to the farm that the climate in the UAE wasn’t suited for breeding thoroughbreds.
“I was taken aback as I already invested on good thoroughbred broodmares but I always listened to him and took his advice,” Al Naboodah said.
“I sold them for a song and started breeding Arabians on the advice of His Highness in 1996.
“He also presented me two Arabian horses for me to start with. He was always watching me from a distance and always advise me not to grow big because this hobby will be very expensive.
“Anyway, I started purchasing horses to establish my breeding programme. I still buy horses despite having more than 400. I just can’t help it.”
The commitment and hard work is paying off. Al Naboodah has won the UAE Champion owners' title twice in the last three years and was runner up behind President Sheikh Khalifa’s Al Asayl Stables in 2017/18.
His crowning achievements were at the Dubai World Cup when he saddled AF Mathmoon to win the Group 1 prize in the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, the Minister of Finance and Industry, in 2016, and AF Maher in his own colours in 2019.
“When AF Mathmoon won, my vision on the horse as he led in the final 50 yards went blank, and I was in tears when AF Maher won in my silks,” Al Naboodah said.
Al Naboodah credits his success to teamwork. Al Naboodah has more than 100 horses in training around the country at one of his four farms, with the majority of them under the watchful eye of UAE Champion trainer Ernst Oertel at the South African's Desert 1 Stables in Al Safa.
“There are a lot of people involved in the success I’m enjoying,” he said. “I’m really happy that the work of over 25 years has reached fruition. I wish we’ll have more success in the new season.”