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A Quiet Christmas In Qatar

Adapting and creating opportunities - meet Clare!

While she is one of our best qualified horsewoman, top jobs in South African racing and breeding are scarce and one has to go where one has to go, to put bread on the table!

Chatting to the recently divorced 38 year old Clare Sapire, one realises that all the passion, love for the horse and experience in the world don’t necessarily add up to a snazzy job.

Clare and her 7 year old son Chaime, whom she labels the ‘love of my life’, are based in Qatar, where she manages the Al Samriya Riding School for Sheik Faisal Al Qassim al Thani.

“They say when you are ooking you never find, and when you find they all want you. This is partly true.  I received an offer in July to come to Qatar and accepted. Once I received and accepted the offer, a lot more jobs were being posted in SA, but nothing that could really sustain a two-person house, and was more suited to single people – so I had to take the plunge and return back to the Middle East.”

She says that her family were elated and many of her racing friends were extremely supportive.

“While we will have to be creative at Christmas, living here has been fairly easy as its nothing new to me, having been overseas for so many years – and with my past Middle East experience.”

Clare was born in the South of Joburg and attended Glenvista High.

“I never really had nicknames – Glen Kotzen had one for me – I blush to say what it was, and my Dad always called me Toffee,” she laughs as tells that she started riding early in her life.

“Thanks to my Grandmother, I would take riding lessons after school during the week. I remember the kids at school teasing me, because as it was I wasn’t popular and now I had all my riding gear at school with me, which gave them a full opportunity to be nasty. I loved being a rider but was never in the position to be a competitor due to limited finances. But what my parents could do for me I really appreciated.”

While Clare didn’t study further after leaving high school, she holds many equine certificates, which she is extremely proud of.

“I am a registered IQEC International equine teaching passport holder. I am a qualified Dressage Judge with the UAE, federation judging up to Advanced medium.I hold a BHS ( British Horse Society) qualification,” she adds modestly.

While horses was never a career choice for her growing up, when she met her now ex- husband, who is a farrier, the choice of horses as a career really kind of took the lead.

Tont Rivalland – mentor and guide

“My first Job in racing was as an Assistant to Tony Rivalland. He really developed my skills and  made me a horse woman and no longer simply a horse lover. And he gave me the opportunities to really see what the equine industry is all about and how horses should be handled in the racing industry.”

Clare’s second job in racing came via Michael Miller.

“Mike and Rae, were the most amazing people to work for. I had the opportunity to work with stunning horses who were sold on to Herman Brown for Dubai racing. The early mornings at Mike were an absolute killer, but never did I once not appreciate all I was learning from it.”

But love summoned and Clare left the Millers following her husband around the world for his career.

“I was a showjumping instructor in Kuwait, at Al Messilah Equestrian. I helped out at Basil Marcus for a short while in Singapore until the Singapore Turf Club saw it as a conflict of interest. I took on the role of Equestrian Manager in Johor Malaysia and then came the big move to Dubai!” she adds.

Meydan Racecourse Stands

Clare arrived in Dubai in November 2011, to work at the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club. But she always looked at getting back into the racing scene.

“A dressage rider in the UAE at the time, who worked in the international racing department at Meydan and needed an assistant, offered me a job. I happily accepted the seasonal role at Dubai Racing Club. It was the most intense and busiest I think I have ever been, but allowed me to keep my administrative side of horses in good form,” she says proudly.

She explains that they accepted entries for the Dubai World Cup Carnival, arranged flights for horses, flights for jockeys and family, accommodation for the Grooms and the related logistics.

“We also organised the Dubai World Cup pre-party for Trainers, Owners and Jockeys, worked at the racemeetings too. It was a broad scope! I learnt a lot and it always helps me today.”

Clare eventually took up a  permanent post with Meydan at Emirates Equestrian Centre, as senior riding instructor/head of dressage.

“This position was truly an experience and would take another whole story. But I was made redundant in February 2020 and made it back to South Africa three days before the first lockdown. Being home with family was so nice as I am the only child and we are a close family. But we also planned, as most had expected, for Covid to be a quick thing.”

She explains that she had an assistant job waiting for her in Macau.

“Unfortunately this did not go ahead as planned and Covid forced us all to  spend a year and more with our families. Not a bad thing for some, but unfortunately 2020 was not a year for me,” she adds ruefully.


“I also went through my divorce and needed to start looking for work in SA to try and support myself. I spent days sending out messages and emails to trainers offering my time three days a week, to those who would let me work in the yard and be around, to stay in touch with horses. Some trainers replied and had nothing they could offer me, but then a little message appeared in my inbox and Ashley Fortune said she would happily let me come around and be a part of the team until I went overseas.”

Clare says Ashley and Andrew were so welcoming and allowed her to see the ins and outs of the yard and made her feel a part of their successful team.

As the pandemic persisted Clare needed to find a permanent role though. And our local industry was struggling so there was just nothing available.

“I sat day in and day out and sent my cv to every job post that I found back in the Middle East and Asia. I needed to make a move that would be good for me and my son. I found it. I am happy here and thrilled to be working, have school and able to move on with life.  I hope in the future to take up bigger and better roles in the country – but for now life’s good. Please say hello to everybody at home in SA.”

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1 comment on “A Quiet Christmas In Qatar

  1. Kismet says:

    Awesome young lady who had done so much with all the Challanges life has thrown at her. All the best for the new chapter in your life

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