American Grand Prix rider and horse dealer Catherine Haddad-Staller has declared for Lebanon. The FEI recorded the change in its debate on 17 November 2023.
The 59-year old Catherine Haddad has lived in Germany for 20 years, moving there in 1993 to train with the late Willi Schultheis, before getting taught by Rudolf Zeilinger and Morten Thomsen. She ran a breeding and training facility in Vechta, Germany, before moving back to the U.S.A in 2012.
Her career making Grand Prix horse was Maximus JSS (by May Sherif x Hojvangs Lukas) with whom she competed at the 2007 World Cup Finals. At the same time she campaigned Cadillac (by Solos Carex x Ragtime) In 2010 she began showing Winyamaro (by Walt Disney x Trapper) and took him to the 2011 World Cup Finals. She represented the U.S.A. in the Nations Cups of Wellington, Aachen, Falsterbo, Rotterdam, and Mondorf les Bains.
In 2013 her next international Grand Prix horse was Hotmail (by Michellino x Havel) whom she showed through 2016. In 2017 she competed Semper Fidelis (by Sir Donnerhall x Welt Hit II) for one season and in 2020 she piloted Frankie (by Florencio x A Jungle Prince) into the CDI Grand Prix arena. Her last international show was the CDI Ocala in April 2021.
She is married to veterinarian Greg Staller and splits her time between New Jersey and Florida. She has earned her gold medal from both the U.S. Dressage Federation and the German Federation.
Lebanon: In Honour of Her Father
Haddad has now declared for Lebanon as its first ever rider to represent the country in dressage competitions.
“I have identified as Lebanese-American since the day I could understand my ethnicity,” says Haddad who was born in the USA. "I proudly represented my mother’s side of the family in sport for 20 years, riding for the USA in World Cups, Nations Cups and World Equestrian Games. Now, I will ride for Lebanon and honor the memory of my father."
Catherine’s father, Toufic Elias Haddad, was born in Ain Dara, Lebanon in 1923. He studied Medicine at the American University of Beirut and completed his residency in Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
“My father was a well-educated, and dynamic man. He spoke 5 languages and when he finally immigrated to the USA in the early fifties, he met my mother and decided to start a family and raise his children in the USA. He was a US Navy Ship’s Surgeon during the Korean War and the Chief of Surgery at Alma Community Hospital in Michigan before his premature death in 1982," Catherine told Eurodressage.
Children of the Lebanese diaspora become eligible for Lebanese citizenship when their parent’s marriage and their birth are recorded in their family’s Lebanese district. She first traveled to Lebanon in 1972 with her parents and two brothers. They were registered as citizens in Ain Dara and toured the country with her extended family. Even though Haddad has never lived in Lebanon, she has grown very close to her family.
Represent More Flags
Through her work on the executive board of the International Dressage Riders Club, Haddad understood the need for more flags in Olympic Dressage which prompted her to ride for Lebanon.
“Representing Lebanon is yet another way for me to give back to a sport I am very passionate about," says Haddad. “I love horses—I love their spirit and their generosity, and I have always wanted to help them by helping others understand them. I see dressage as the mastery of the Language of the Horse. That’s why I focused on learning and teaching for so many years. Dressage is a test of fluency. It’s beautiful.”
Haddad flew to Beirut directly after the World Young Championships in Ermelo in September to request permission from the Lebanese Equestrian Federation to switch flags. Federation President, General Souhiel Khoury, one of the most esteemed horsemen of Lebanon, welcomed her home and expedited her application with the FEI.
“Because I’ve devoted the last two years to building a new business in the equestrian industry—NorCordia Sport Horse Investment Portfolios—I had a long enough break from international competition to have my sport nationality change immediately granted by the FEI," she explained. "This is an era of innovation and growth in sports in the Middle East. I very much look forward to working with my colleagues in Group 7 to grow dressage as a sport on the international level. My co-founders at NorCordia fully support the initiative. Yallah!”
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