If you fancy a go at something different this year, why not trot along to your nearest stables and try horse riding? Kate Ginn talks to one enthusiast
Imagine galloping across the beach in the early morning as the sun rises over Muscat and the only sounds are the thud of the horse’s hooves and birds calling out overhead.
Head down to Qurum and you might be able to do just that. Well you could if you’re an experienced horse rider. Otherwise, you’ll need to start with lessons and group classes, but the promise of a canter on the sand and in the waves is the prize to aim for once you’re accomplished in the saddle.
“It’s the most special experience,” says Rebecca Elfverson, who has ridden as regularly as she can since moving to Oman from the UK almost two years ago.
“I have done a beach ride once since being in Muscat and only twice in my life (the first time was in Barbados). As you gallop across the sand and in the shallow water you have a feeling of absolute freedom. You really feel at one with nature.
Horses, particularly Arabians, have long been held in deep affection in the Middle East, a tradition that stretches back thousands of years.
In Oman – Muscat in particular – there is a growing equestrian community of local and expat riders who are sharing their passion for all things equine with each other.
Rebecca, who works at the Royal Opera House Muscat, is part of this, taking time out to go riding whenever she can. Her dedication sees her nipping off before work to the stables near her home in Qurum to fit in a quick ride on her favourite horse, Beau.
“I’ve been riding since I was 10,” says Rebecca, who grew up in Australia, and is pictured below.
“Riding became my life. By the age of 14 I knew that I wanted to become a riding instructor and teach. But an accident at the age of 17 ended that dream.”
Using a zip wire across a dry riverbed, Rebecca fell off and plunged 10 metres, injuring her lower back and causing nerve damage. Doctors told her it was too dangerous for her to ever ride again and that she could end up paralysed.
“Being told I could never ride again felt like my world was ending. This was the passion that I lived and breathed.”
Yet 13 years later, Rebecca is back in the saddle and enjoying life as a horse rider again following extensive chiropractic treatment in England, which allowed her to get back on a horse.
Since moving to Muscat, she has become a regular visitor to Qurum Equestrian Stables and a new set-up at Barka, reflecting the rising interest in riding among the community.
The stables have a mix of horses, Arabians of course, and larger, stronger breeds imported from Ireland. There are also tiny high-spirited Shetland ponies for children to start on.
“At the moment there aren’t many opportunities to ride out and see Oman, but hopefully that will change in the future.
“I would love to take a horse and have a big old gallop through the desert.”
Most novice riders need to take lessons and then start with classes before even thinking about venturing out.
Classes cost around RO15 for group sessions with a qualified instructor.
There’s a mix of expats and Omanis (mostly young adults, teenagers and children) who go riding.
There is a small equestrian community in the Muscat area and riders share information and details on social media. Showjumping competitions are held regularly during the cooler winter months and there are also chances to do dressage.
Rebecca says that riders do form a close bond with horses they ride often. One of her new favourites is a mare called Maggie who is stabled at Creo Equestrian in Barka.
“Horses are very sensitive animals,” says Rebecca. “They tune into your emotions and you tune into theirs.
“I had an Arab horse as a teenager and I was closer to him than my family. We knew each other’s emotions – he knew when I was having a bad day and I knew when he was having a bad day – we would feed off each other. I went through my terrible teenager years with that horse.
“At Qurum I have just clicked with one [Beau]. We challenge each other to do better.”
As well as being therapeutic – riding is perfect to blow away the stress of a bad day – it’s also good exercise and can be very social.
“After a hard week or month when we’ve been busy with shows, there’s nothing better than horse riding,” says Rebecca. “I feel very happy when I’m with the horses.”
● Qurum Equestrian Stables
Contact Stables Manager Astrid Arapakis on +968 9942 2401
● Creo Equestrian
● Qurum Equestrian