Sameh El Dahan: A Journey of Passion and Dedication

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Early Beginnings: A Childhood Dream

Sameh El Dahan‘s journey into the world of show jumping began at the tender age of five in his native Egypt. Reflecting on his early introduction to the sport, Sameh recalls, “I was so small, and the trainer said, ‘No, you can’t try it yet because we don’t have ponies in Egypt.’ We had local horses, so they’re more or less the same size, 16 hands”

Despite initial obstacles, his passion for riding persisted, fueled by the influence of his older brother and cousins. “I see my brother riding and I see a lot of kids and this and that, so I was really upset , maybe with tears in my eyes, and the instructor he said, ‘Okay, you can ride this horse on the lunge.’ Yeah, and I don’t know how many years later, now I’m still doing it,” he fondly reminisces.

Finding His Niche: A Journey to Show Jumping

While Sameh’s early riding experiences were predominantly in dressage, a pivotal moment at the age of nine led him to discover his true passion for show jumping. Transitioning from a riding school focused on flatwork to one that incorporated jumping, Sameh found his calling.

“That was when I first jumped, and that’s when I felt that’s what I really like to do”

With newfound determination, he embraced the challenges and excitement of show jumping, setting the stage for a remarkable career ahead.

Navigating the Equestrian Landscape: A Quest for Quality Horses

Sameh El Dahan’s journey in the equestrian world has been shaped by the unique challenges and opportunities he encountered, particularly in his native Egypt. Reflecting on the limitations of the local breeding industry, Sameh notes, “We breed local bred horses which maybe are good until 1.10, 1.20. So we have to buy all the horses from Europe.”

This reliance on imported horses underscores the need for resourcefulness and determination in sourcing quality equine partners.

Gaining Experience Abroad: A Summer of Growth

To overcome the limitations of local breeding, Sameh seized every opportunity to gain valuable experience abroad. Recalling his summers spent riding in Europe and accompanying the Egyptian team, he reflects, “I traveled mostly every summer to either ride in a stable or go with the, at the time, the Egyptian team, young team like junior’s team abroad for a few months to gain experience.” These immersive experiences provided invaluable insights into European equestrian practices and the opportunity to test and select potential equine prospects.

Support from Unexpected Quarters: A Boost from the Police Academy

In his quest for excellence, Sameh found unexpected support from the police academy, where he honed his skills alongside a diverse array of horses. “Also the police academy, they supported me really well with that,” he acknowledges.

Describing the academy’s practice of purchasing horses annually and distributing them among riders, Sameh highlights the variety of equine experiences he gained. “I sometimes rode an experienced horse, sometimes I rode a young horse… So all these things I think helped my education,” he reflects, emphasizing the instrumental role of this unconventional training ground in shaping his development as a rider.

Adapting to Diverse Challenges: A Testament to Versatility

The diverse range of horses Sameh encountered throughout his formative years not only bolstered his technical skills but also honed his adaptability as a rider. “I can ride any horse on any day and get a good feeling out of he or she very quickly,” he asserts.

This ability to quickly assess and adapt to the needs of each horse reflects Sameh’s versatility and underscores his belief in the importance of rider adaptability. “I believe it’s really important to adapt to the horses rather than trying to shape the horses to the way the riders ride,” he explains, highlighting his commitment to fostering harmonious partnerships with his equine counterparts.

Balancing Act: Juggling Medicine and Riding

Navigating the demanding world of competitive show jumping alongside his medical studies presented Sameh with a unique set of challenges. Hailing from a family of medical professionals, he pursued his passion for riding while studying medicine. “I come from a medical family, so I actually studied medicine,” he explains.

Despite the rigorous demands, Sameh adeptly managed both pursuits, dedicating himself to his studies while nurturing his aspirations in the equestrian world. “I did both, and then in my third year of medical school, I said I want to do show jumping professionally,” he recounts, highlighting the pivotal moment when he committed to pursuing his equestrian dreams.

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Sameh El Dahan (c)

A Professional Calling: Representing Great Britain

Transitioning to represent Great Britain marked a significant milestone in Sameh’s career trajectory. Despite his Egyptian roots

and familial ties to medicine, the allure of professional show jumping proved irresistible. Reflecting on this pivotal decision, he acknowledges, “That came a bit later because I come from a medical family, almost everyone in my family is a doctor”

However, driven by his passion and determination, Sameh made the bold leap into the competitive arena, laying the groundwork for a successful career on the international stage.

Cherished Achievements: Pride in Representing Egypt

Competing for Egypt on the global stage has been a source of immense pride and accomplishment for Sameh. Recounting his standout moments representing his home country, he proudly declares, “I’ve competed twice in the World Equestrian Games under the Egyptian flag.”

Additionally, he fondly remembers being the first Egyptian to compete at the World Cup finals in 2011 and clinching victory at the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix in Calgary.

However, it was the historic qualification of Egypt’s team for the Olympics that left an indelible mark on Sameh.

“The day we qualified Egypt for the Olympics… I can’t explain those types of emotions.”

He reflects, highlighting the profound significance of the achievement for himself and his nation.

Bond with Suma’s Zorro: A Special Connection

Among Sameh’s treasured equine companions, one holds a particularly special place in his heart—Suma’s Zorro. Describing their unique bond, he enthuses, “Yeah, hands down. I’ve ridden so many great horses when I was younger and now, but like yeah, everybody asks me who’s your next Zorro, and I keep saying there’s no such thing.”

Sharing insights into their partnership, Sameh reveals, “She’s a horse that understands everything I’m thinking, not even doing. Just me going into her stable, she knows.” Their profound connection serves as a testament to the deep bond between horse and rider.

Future Aspirations: Aiming High

“My immediate goal is to compete in the Olympics and establish myself as a consistent top performer.”

Looking ahead, Sameh’s aspirations are as ambitious as ever. With his sights set on competing in the Olympics and establishing himself as a consistent top performer, he remains unwavering in his pursuit of excellence. “My immediate goal is to compete in the Olympics and establish myself as a consistent top performer,” he asserts, underscoring his commitment to pushing the boundaries of success in the world of show jumping. As he continues to build a formidable team of horses and surrounds himself with a supportive network, Sameh remains poised to achieve new heights in his equestrian journey.

Photos provided by Sameh El Dahan

V. Sozzi

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