And it’s a win! Jad El-Dana is the recent winner of the Lebanese Championship in Show Jumping that took place in Dbayeh Country Club on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of November. With great passion for the equestrian world, and a genuine love for his horses, he continues to trot along a winning streak.
How many championships in Lebanon and/or abroad have you participated in and won so far?
So far, nationally, I have won the Lebanese championships 6 times (3 times children’s class, twice the junior’s class, and recently the senior’s class). I won the Lebanese Cup for the B class (heights up to 140cm) in 2014 and 2015.
In 2007, I won the CHIC competitions in Faqra Club and was leading in the Middle East, which qualified me to the final which took place in Mexico where I ranked 14th out of 470 international riders. I have also competed in international competitions in Holland and Egypt where I had great results as well. In 2013, I had the chance to ride an exceptional mare, Biranka, with whom I won 1st place within the qualifying competition and 5th place in the final. I also had very good results with another mare, Toffee; I ranked 10th in the final.
It seems that the love of horse riding runs in your family with the entire clan involved in the activity. How does it feel to share the same passion with your siblings and family?
My father is a rider and a trainer, and I dedicate my success to him. He always pushes to be at my best. My brothers Malih and Majd are also excellent riders and have their own horses as well. My mother believes in my talent and abilities which gives me a lot of confidence.
At what age did you become interested in the sport?
As a kid, I used to spend most of my time at the stables surrounded by horses. I first got on a horse when I was 5 years old and I fell for it right away. At the age of 8, I started in the N category (novice), and as of then, I started competing in the bigger classes to reach the highest level of the sport nationally, which I achieved through winning the Lebanese championship in the big class.
Do you each have your own horses and how often do you get the chance to ride and practice?
Yes, I have my own horse, Vita Nova, who is 13 years old. She is an excellent mare with a mind of her own, but I love her for it. I also ride Heartbreaker, an 11 year old gelding whom I won the Lebanese championships with. He gives me a lot of confidence and this puts me at an advantage. We still have a few years ahead of us with a lot of goals to achieve. I also ride horses for people who put their trust in me to improve their horse’s technique and ability.
What does preparing for a horse jumping competition entail? Who has trained you/coached you all along the way?
Preparing for a championship like the Lebanese championship involves a day-by-day plan over months. I knew I had to reach the championships having done the best I can to be ready for it. I had to consider many things that would contribute to my success. First of all, it is essential that the horse gets the basic health and nutrition. Second, I had to work on my horse’s physical condition (i.e. endurance, and being fit and muscular). Last, but not least, I had to work on my horse’s jumping technique through gymnastic exercises that I build myself. I ride everyday and work very hard in order to bring the best out of every horse I ride. My work is divided into two parts which are complementary: the flat work, which is the base of jumping, and the jumping itself. Finally, I had to be sure my horse was happy and willing to fight for me in the championship.
How would you describe your passion for the sport of horse jumping?
For me, horseback riding is not only sport, but a routine/way of life. I give it my all; I put so much effort in becoming a better rider and a better companion to my horses. My first objective is to put my horses in the ideal conditions because the welfare of my horses is my priority. I try to find the method that makes my horses happy because that’s what makes them give from their heart and jump out of their skin.
Do you follow an exercise routine in the gym to prepare yourself physically for horse jumping?
I do not have an exercise routine in the gym; I would rather go for a jog in the outdoors. I always try to keep myself fit in order to make the sport easier on me and on my horse as well.
What university do you attend and what are you studying? Is horse jumping a sport you see yourself continuing to pursue for years to come?
I am an AUB student majoring in Economics. I always organize my schedule in a way that allows me to ride every day. I try to dedicate at least 5 hours of my day to be at the stables. Although for now my studies are my priority, horseback riding is my passion and I give it my all!
Yes, I see myself continuing in the show jumping world. Whether I win or lose, I always consider it as an experience that will contribute to my progress because in this sport we can still be competitive at 60 years of age. My mistakes teach me a lesson and contribute to making me a top rider.
What is the most challenging aspect of this sport? What qualities do you have that make you successful in this sport?
In this sport, it is very difficult to succeed, and that doesn’t imply winning; anyone can win, but the difficult part is staying at the top of the sport. The best quality of a rider is ‘feeling,’ and it isn’t very common to find people that have this feeling with the horse that puts the rider and the horse in harmony; what counts is the horse and the ability to relate to him. As for myself, first of all, I love horses as animals. I have a lot of respect for them and am willing to do anything for their welfare; the only way to go is to listen to them because they make us better. I am very patient and always ready to take the longer way if I know it is the right way that lasts in the long term. I am willing to understand, change my attitude, and improve myself in order to get better results. Finally, I aim to see the horses grow and change, and to continue to grow with them.