Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Show Jumping In Riyadh

Lovely Lady, whom I am currently visiting the UK with, has a husband who competes in Show Jumping in Saudi.

She is his number one fan and last night received news that he jumped a clear round in his current competition.  She was so excited for him.  I was reminded of the evening  we spent at the show jumping arena in Malaz watching him compete at an equestrian show on a balmy winters evening.

Hubster and I were picked up in the Lincoln and transported to the arena where Lovely Lady met us in the carpark and guided us down a sandy path passed the stables to our seats. 

We were sitting outdoors beneath the shelter provided by tent shaped roofing on plastic chairs sipping qahwah and enjoying the nibbles that she had prepared for the evening while meeting her friends and family who were also there to support her husband.  We had an excellent view of the arena and looked across to the little grandstand with seating for the important men involved in Saudi show jumping.

Never having been to show jumping before I wasn't sure what to expect.  Lovely Lady pointed out her husband when he walked out into the arena with other men resplendent in their riding gear and strode between jumps, measuring the distance we were told, familiarizing himself with the course.

Horses are magnificent beasts.  I've always thought so.  Watching them up close and in action does nothing to lessen that opinion.  Once the show started we couldn't help but be awed by their power, strength and grace.   If I'd figured out how to operate my camera to take photo's of jumping horses without blurring the shot there would be one right here    'X'     but I hadn't, so here's the blurry one.

Her husband placed 7th this night despite the huge cheer and thunderous applause that welcomed him into the arena on his beautiful horse. That night was just not his night.   It was, however, a fabulous night for us.  We were taken into the stables to meet his stable hands and to get up close and personal with his horses. 

Other members of the watching fraternity came in to see the horses too.  As is typical in Saudi, people believe they have every right to do whatever they want so long as it doesn't breach a religious rule.  So complete strangers (because I asked my friend if she knew these people and she did not) were walking into the stable to pat the horse.  

I noted at these stables, as with the horse racing in Saudi, that the attitude of the general masses of Saudi's to animals is haughty arrogance and disregard for the animals feelings.  They don't seem to know how to be kind to animals.

This might seem like a very negative generalisation based on one or two visits to horsing establishiments (and OK, it probably is) but if you get to know the expats here who teach horse riding to the locals they will acquaint you with stories of the terrible attitude of many of the locals (not all, because there are some that are more clued up than the rest) to these lovely animals.  Here are my two stories, not totally horrible, so no need to change channels or turn the volume down, but they give an idea of what I mean about attitude to animals, in particular the horse.

At the races it is possible to pat the stewards horses and have your photo taken with them in between races.  The horses are left in the care of stable hands who try to take the horses away from people who think grabbing the reins and hauling the horse forward over the fence with them or yanking continuously on the bit is how to encourage a horse to smile.  The horses reaction (attempting to pull away) is not even registered.  My eyes met the stable hands one night when the man whose turn it was for a photo told the stable hand 'I know what I'm doing' as stable hand tried to get the horse back because it was obvious Mr Man had no idea what he was doing or simply didn't care about the discomfort of the horse.  It is sad, but I got the impression Mr Man thought being unkind is exactly what you're supposed to do with a horse.

While in the stables after the show jumping, this stable hand  tried to distance the horse from the young boys who were thinking it funny to pull its ears or stick their fingers up its nose. The horse was obviously not enjoying this.

Lovely Lady was trying to get the attention of her other half so he could come and tell the youngsters to bugger off but he was in deep conversation with another gentleman and hadn't noticed the concern in the air.  If the stable hand had said anything it is highly likely he would have been abused and/or ignored by the boys in question and as the horses belong to The Husband it is his place to educate unknown Saudi boys on proper treatment of horses, not the wifes.  Fortunately they got bored with their game and left.

Seeing this attitude did bring a bit of a downer to the evening and Hubster and I did discuss what we had seen on our drive home and the possible reasons for it, reasons I'm not about to share on this blog post (sorry).   However, I have to say overall going to watch show jumping was a great experience and it is nice to know it is possible, if you're looking for something to do on a winter's evening in Riyadh, to go and watch show jumping in Saudi.

Ka Kite,

1 comment:

  1. Hi!
    Nice piece......
    Could you elaborate on details of this place and the shows... I am new here and seeking avenues of interest nearby Malaz area ...


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