Horse riding has strong roots in the Sultanate. Taking care of horses is one of the popular hobbies of Omanis and many of them take pride in keeping horses and taking part in equestrian activities.
Breeding, acquiring and caring for horses has been popular in Oman since ancient times. It is one of the leading countries known for developing, protecting and producing purebred Arabian horses. There are approximately 2,000 horses in the Sultanate, of which about 350 are purebred Arabian horses, 150 thoroughbreds and 1,500 indigenous breeds.
Annual races are held in the Sultanate’s royal stables and the culture is prevalent in the wilayats as well. Such events are held continuously throughout the year, especially on the occasions of important religious and national events.
Omani jockeys participate in horse riding shows, along with competitions of tent pegging, show jumping and carriage races. Keeping this tradition some individuals have established schools to teach riding, and these schools have received wide interest from the public and parents who want to teach their children this sport.
Ahmed al Ameri, a horse trainer, says “I have been training horse riding since I was 10 years old. Now I teach others how to treat horses and the basics of riding them.”
Lujain al Balushi, a trainee in one of the equestrian schools, notes, “Horses are my favourite pets. It was my dream to learn horse riding and become a professional. Today I train with confidence. I am encouraged by the young Omani trainers experienced in the profession.”
Late Sultan Qaboos paid great attention to horses in terms of breeding them and preserving their originality. He also gave great attention to equestrian sport. For this, the General Directorate of the Royal Stables of the Diwan of Royal Court was established to supervise the breeding of horses based on international standards.
Royal Horse Racing
Besides, the Royal Horse Racing Club was established which undertakes the task of organising and developing equestrian arts. Royal Equestrian Festival, which is held every five years, besides the annual Royal Race held in Al Adiyat is also the responsibility of the Royal Horse Racing Club. The Oman Equestrian and Camel Federation hosts races to preserve this original heritage.
Over the years, studies have proved the benefits of horse riding for the body and mind. It is an effective treatment for cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s disease. It stimulates blood circulation, teaches humans how to achieve balance of body and mind, strengthens muscles and boosts functions of the heart.
The benefits of riding are not limited to the body. Rather, it extends to mental and psychological health as well. It teaches young people the importance of caring for animals and builds confidence.
It builds rapport between the person and the animal and lays foundation of lasting care. As American horse trainer John Lyons said, “When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on yours, and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine, you know you are loved.”