Saturday, March 7, 2009

Riding Horses in Arabia


A  lthough there are many things that women cannot do here in Saudi Arabia, horseback riding is not one of them. Private equestrian centers are places where women are free to take off their abayas and uncover their hair. I would imagine that this is not something that most Saudi women take advantage of because there are men workers all around, but it is more an activity that Western women and their children might likely do. Actually there is a passage in the Q'uran that specifically directs Muslims to teach children how to swim, shoot a bow and arrow, and ride a horse. Whether or not all Muslims follow this directive is unclear. A couple of days ago, my son Adam took his first horseback riding lesson at an equestrian ranch not far from our home. Amidst all the frenzied development taking place here in Jeddah, there remain pockets of desert and relatively underdeveloped areas. Our district of the city is a fast paced growth area, but not too far from where we live are vast desert expanses. We veered off the freeway exit through a stretch of winding road lined with hundreds of junk yards containing wrecked cars.
We arrived at the privately owned Trio Ranch at 8:30am while the temperatures were still quite comfortable. It was established in 1989 by an Italian businesswoman and caters mostly to young people. The 22-hectare sports complex is a large dusty facility which doesn't offer much shade, but has a comfortable clubhouse serving refreshments, several arenas where horses are trained and lessons are conducted, plus facilities for other sports including golf and tennis. Trio Ranch is fully staffed. All in all, there had to be at least fifty well cared for horses. There is even a swimming pool for the horses when the temperatures get too hot that the horses walk down into to cool off.


The ranch offers annual memberships which allow for reduced rate riding lessons. An annual membership is 1000 riyals ($250 US) which brings the rate for a half hour group lesson down to as low as 55 riyals (which is less than $13 US). Non-members are charged 150 riyals for a private lesson (less than $40 US). If you just want to ride a pony without any instruction, you can do that too.

Adam hadn't really ever ridden a horse before, and I must say, he was a natural. Just watching him riding around the arena, he looked like he had been doing it for years. I could see by the big smile on his face that he was thoroughly enjoying himself. But even though he's in pretty good shape from playing rugby, he's been complaining about how sore his back and thighs are from riding for the past couple of days. We're going to have to get Adam some riding boots and proper pants too.
There are several other places in Jeddah where people can ride horses. From what I've read, a large equestrian center is being constructed in a more central location of the city. Who knows, maybe one of these days, I'll even try it myself!

45 comments:

  1. Sorry I've ben MIA on your blog!
    How have you been? Good it seems!

    Ohh i miss horses!!!
    I would have so much fun here! In full abaya no less! Did you see any hijabis? I'm curious. Masha'ALlah it sounds lieka really nice set up!
    Your son does look comfortable in the sadle! Do they have Western sadles or English? You know us Arizona folk love the western style! I had English in Girl Scout Horse Camp, hated it after riding western for many years. Had to relearn the reins and all that.

    How did you hear about this club? Through a friend? Ads?

    I really liked this post! XOXOXbrandy aminah-zahira

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  2. Hi AMW - The only hijabis I saw there were a couple of moms who brought their children to ride - none were actually riding. They also sought shade, even though the sun wasn't harsh yet and it really wasn't hot. The women here really hate being exposed to the sun, something that a sunworshipper from Arizona has a hard time understanding.

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  3. Hi Susie, your son looks like a real natural on the horse. I am not sure Tim would be that confident.
    I really hope you get to try it out.
    Have a good week.

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  4. How wonderful that your son is able to ride horses! I've never ridden a horse. I've ridden a camel and a donkey... but no horses. Some day...

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  5. horses are so wonderful, what a great experience for your son, and for you to watch him

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  6. Reminds of my youth (many many moons ago) when my sis and I would ride our horse. Seriously miss that.

    I hope Adam hangs in there...riding horses gives you a sense of freedom like nothing else.

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  7. Hi susie,


    thanks for your great blog.

    just wanted to make a small correction.

    The "teach children how to swim, shoot a bow and arrow, and ride a horse" is NOT in the quran. It is a saying from one of the prophets companions.

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  8. LOL Suzie can you blame them? Their culture puts so much emphasis on white beauty. Maybe they feel any tan will make them look more *gasp* Arab. Whereas you know those bronzed beauties in Arizona, Cali, and Florida are the prize winners. Lol.
    I've always been an Ivory and now after too much Med Sun in Lebanon i got one shade darker and I was upset lol. Husband prefers a bit of sun kisses but not me I can't stand them. Heh.

    By the way I really love that Hadith~! I can do all three and insha'Allah I can't wait to show my family how much fun all three are!

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  9. Heels down Adam! He looks fantastic. Love your blog.

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  10. Looks like great fun - and your photos are lovely too!

    Why not give it a try? You might really enjoy it.

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  11. The neatest thing is that these Arabian horses are some of the best bred in the entire world. That would be funny if a niqaabi came out to ride, though it sounds like you didn't even see any hijabis. I';m glad your getting out and soakin up the culture. Love you Susie.

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  12. Seems like a great place and now you will be able to get Aafke over for a visit for sure!

    I've been horseback riding but it is rather painful when you aren't used to it. That's probably why I haven't done it in years.

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  13. Riding horses wakes up muscles that you never knew you had. :) I'm glad he had a great time. Horses make for great company.

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  14. HI susie can you tell us where exactly this place is located ??

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  15. Susie
    Beautiful horses.
    Jessie

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  16. Such beautiful horses! You should definitely give it a go!

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  17. Excellent and useful post. I love learning about the hadith--religiously justified sporting activity--although I must say I've never heard it before, and "my Muslims" the ones I know are deficient in at least one of these sports. Nonetheless, a fabulous reason to take up a sport. I do hope you indulge yourself with horseback riding--mom and son activities, voluntary saudization of self, etc. :)

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  18. Oh Susy I am glad your son is taking lessons! I love horses and horseback riding is such a wonderful activity. I hope you ride as well.

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  19. Hi Everybody - Thanks so much for your encouraging comments! I had a hard time narrowing down my photos for this post from the dozens that I took!

    For anyone interested in where Trio Ranch is located, their phone number is 02-628-1525. Not driving here makes it difficult to give directions!

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  20. The soeness goes away if you ride often enough.It looks like Adam is riding english style? That's how I learned.Looks Like fun, and affordable too.How wonderful!

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  21. I enjoy your blog a lot! I read your comment on Dancing Barefoot on Weathered Ground and I am glad I did.Thought I would let you know I stopped by.

    Tina

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  22. assalamu alaykum

    mash'Allah! So you didn't ride?

    PS: it's lovely reading your blog mash'Allah :)

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  23. I could be wrong (it has happened before ;0) but I believe that hadith you are referring to is the context of having an ummah that is well prepared for fighting wars and since they don't fight wars that way anymore (on horseback with bows and arrows)it isn't as important.

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  24. Now I am REALLY jealous! I rode one horse once in Riyadh. I adored the experience-- still dream about it twenty years later-- but I could not continue.

    By the way, you've been tagged:
    http://marahm.wordpress.com

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  25. Hello Susie,

    I'm glad you're having a quality time there.

    I just wanted to clarify that the passage you mentioned isn't actually from Quran, but a "weak/unreliable" hadith of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him). However, it doesn't change the fact that these are quite enjoyable sports :)

    Regards,
    Firas

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  26. Hi Susie,
    You have such a wonderful blog and I thoroughly enjoy reading it...
    You always have informative posts and, although, I was brought up in Jeddah, and never liked it much, you make me look at the place with a whole new perspective, your optimism is infectious and Im considering relocating now :)
    Thanks

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  27. I was about to congratulate you for citing a piece of Quranic lessons on teaching children the use of bow and arrow, riding horses, etc...when someone commented:

    The "teach children how to swim, shoot a bow and arrow, and ride a horse" is NOT in the quran. It is a saying from one of the prophets companions.

    ...then I said to myself: "ohh ohh..I must have to sharpen my Quranic knowledge yet..."

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  28. I like too the expression on the mare's face (I guess she's a mare?). She looks like she's turning on the charm. ;)

    If you cinch up the stirrups to English, his heels will go down. Toes in, squeeze with the knees. And yes, riding boots will be a good idea. Rubber soles can cause a "drag" if you slip off.

    Plus they're so much fun to take off after riding. :)

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  29. Thanks for all your comments, and especially to those of you who corrected me on the hadith about riding horses. I appreciate it!

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  30. Yes, This defenitely increases me wanting to come and visit! What a very interesting post! Mash'Allah it's great to see Adam on horseback! You should come and visit me! Adam can ride the Tarq!

    I am quite amazed at them letting a novice ride with such a severe bit as a pelham! (Adam will get a bitless bridle when riding the Tarq)
    (so we will defenitely keep the Tarq in the arena)
    (don't want to loose Adam)
    So Adam defenitely will have to keep practising! :)


    I loved to see the faces of the horses, do you know what breed they are? I would love to see more photos of horses, you ahvhe too many photos of the nice place and too few of horses!!!! More horses!!!! :)

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  31. PS, you néver pinch with your knees when riding!!! Totally wrong, that way you will be very stiff and you won't be able to balance and move with the horse, You will actually fall off very easily if you pinch with your knees. I have heard this many times and have no idea where this strange notion comes from.

    Adam, the soreness will go away eventually. It can be caused by the seams in your jeans. And you will have to learn to relax also while riding, you probbaly were very tense. That is something which will come in time as you bget more used to it! I really hope you keep it up!
    I would love to see you on the Tarq one day! A real captain Kabob on a real Arab stallion! ;)

    And yes Susie! Do learn yourself! You can keep a horse and go wherever you like! Horseriding is not restricted like driving a car }:)

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  32. No one is pinching ... squeezing. You squeeze with your upper legs, your knees being part of that when you trot, you can't put the whole pressure of the post on the feet in the stirrups.

    How about gripping, do you like that word better?

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  33. No, I don't, you don't squees grip or anything. When rising to the trot you don't do anything, you allow the momentum of the movement to let you rise.
    I really don't see where the squeezing comes in. You don't slough, you move and balance with the horse, but you don't squeeze grip or anything.

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  34. What muscles do you use to raise yourself up from the saddle?

    As I was taught, and always used my thigh muscles, buttock muscles, which required a grip of the knees ...

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  35. you don't use muscles, except from going all flappy. The horse trots, a difficult and complicated movement, you either move in complete balance (some muscle-use required) or you ''rise to the trot'' The point is you do not rise yourself, youallow the movement of the trot to lift you more or less, (depends on the horse) from the saddle. Minimal muscle-use, but NO muscles to ''lift yourself'' the movement of the horse lifts you.

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  36. While the rhythm of the horse allows for an easy rise in the post to the trot, there are still the muscles utilized.

    When you canter and/or, do you use them then? How do you manage to stay in the English saddle?

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  37. I said you use some muscles , but not to rise yourself up. When in a canter you make a circular movement with your hips so you will be perfectely attuned to the movement of your horse.

    There is no difference between riding an English saddle, a westernsaddle, or bareback. I ride bareback and I have all types of saddles.

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  38. My mistake, I thought you wrote that you don't use muscles.

    In the western saddle, there is a difference since you don't post in Western or bareback, only in English.

    The horse's gait in trot in a western saddle would have the flappiness you mentioned, being better situated in the saddle there's less need to secure with muscles per se, but the English (and bareback), you do use them to grip.

    At any rate, his instructor will teach him just fine.

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  39. I always wanted to jaunt to Saudi Arabia and when I found your blog I felt I should definitely read.
    So women must be happy unwinding at private equestrian centres, i hope I'm right. May be it will emerge as a most profitable centre like salons. What do you think?

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  40. Hey Susie,

    love this entry. I have to say, although I plan to go to Hajj when I can, I don't know how long I could actually live in Saudi Arabia. It makes me sad when governments twist Islamic laws in ways that are perverse and affect the population in such a profound way. The prophet's (SAW) first wife owned her own business and he worked for her. She proposed to him and he only had one wife while she was alive. I'm sure there are some Saudi women that work (although the only ones I know are doctors) but I hate the idea of covering even their faces, all wearing the same clothes (as long as your clothes are loose fitting, I don't see a need for conformity), and them shopping all the time. They don't know what they're missing. And I know they say that they wouldn't change it, and like living here. I mean it's better than some other countries. I think I would feel trapped. Also sports and exercise are so important for your health, as well as fresh air! ugh, now I feel angry. Especially, after I read your post on the religious police closing down clothing stores for selling slightly different clothes. I have more to say, but I've got to go now. Anyway, Wassalam everyone!

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  41. This is wonderful! If lessons were than inexpensive here, my daughter would be taking them. I hope you try it yourself, if for not other reason than to shed the confinements!

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  42. Their horses looks beautiful, I love riding horses. I've been reading some of your blogs and I'm enjoying reading all of them. I love your article on A Child's Custody.

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  43. Just to clarify, horseback riding is mentioned in the quran in Surah 8 verse 60 (Anfal), as well as Surah 16 verse 8 (Na7l Bees)

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  44. Hi Susie,

    Good I found you. We lived for many years in Riyadh. Now my husband is moving to Jeddah for his job, I have always wanted to learn horseback riding. Would you mind sharing the address and contact no.of Trio Club? I hope there is no restriction about Women riding at Trio Club. Would appreciate if you could send me some info at buraq18@yahoo.com. Thank you. Asra

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