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.
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.