Tuesday, June 22, 2021 | Dhu al-Qaadah 11, 1442 H
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Horseback riding: Keeping an authentic Omani sport alive

By Talib al Wuhaibi

Horses are esteemed animals in the Middle East and among Muslims not only because of their domestic value but also because of their role in the Hadith of our Prophet (goodness is tied to the forelocks of horses until the Day of Resurrection.)

In the Sultanate, great attention has been given to them and numerous conservation efforts were made not only to enhance and advance the sport of horse riding in the country but also in horse breeding.

Oman has many well-known customs and traditions tied up with horses and these traditions had been passed from generation to generation with numerous races and contests held all over the country as evidence of how they’d been engraved into the society.

Salem al Ghafri is a lover of horseback riding. He used to be one of the avid fans of the sport and used to attend races on tracks held in different wilayats. That love for the sport eventually led him to practise and master horseback riding and become a professional on it.

“I feel very proud wearing the Omani knight outfit. It is an enjoyable pastime and a good sport”, he shared.

Al Ghafri owns several horses as of today. One of them he named “Jalmoud” and is holding an Oman Equestrian Federation passport.The other is “Al Balqa” with the Royal Cavalry passport. With these horses, he has participated in many different celebrations and have presented wonderful performances and won several prizes and races.

His love for horses and the sport would eventually flow towards his son. Al Ghafri is now training his son to follow in his footsteps and because of their keen interest, he instil in them not only the love for the horses but also a deep appreciation for customs and traditions at an early age.

Raising and owning horses had challenges of their own. For instance, the horse must reach two years of age before being tamed. After two years, breeders can start with some exercises such as using ropes and letting them run in circular motions. It must also be taught to obey instructions, and the horse must be fed healthy grass, fodder mixed with corn, dates, honey and other foods that give it activity, strength and health.

In Oman, a horse riders also have to abide by certain rules and conducts.

Al Ghafri said, “First of all, the Omani rider must be bound by the Omani dress, which gives him a strong personality. He must have fitness, especially as he stands on the back of the horse during parades.”

He added, “This skill is used in events like Al Ardah riding, ancient Omani art in which riders always compete to show their ingenuity and skill. Here the riders should have the courage to stand on the back of the horse while holding each other’s hands, each on his horse and at high speed. This type of sport is one of the most dangerous sports which can cause accidents if not practised with caution. The knight must be trained on riding the horse well and he must wear a helmet and other safety measures that protect the rider from fractures. “

For horses, Al Ghafri shared that they must come with exemptual personalities.

“Among these qualities that make horses different from other animals is, for example, the love of music, Some horses love music and in celebrations sometimes you can see the horse swaying to the beat of the drum and other musical instruments. Horses in general should be healthy, patient, and should have the ability to withstand hardships and win long races. They should be intelligent, witty, loyal to their owners and they should love learning.”

Al Ghafri said that there are different races organised with the horse serving front and centre.

Al Ghafri shared, “One is Endurance Race and this type of sport measures the horse’s ability to participate in other races as well as the hurdles race, which reveals the horse’s jumping ability.”

He added, “There are many different types of horses, such as the purebred Arabian horse, the English horse, the Arabian horse (hybrid), and others, and they differ in terms of shape, colour, size, speed, and the purebred Arabian horse is considered one of the best horses. They come in different colours: blond, grey, red and other colours that reveal their beauty.”

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