Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Malaysia: Meet ‘horse uncle’ Mutalib

The New Straits Times

HE proves that nothing is impossible if you put your mind and heart into it.

Abdul Mutalib Ismail, 43, who owns a logistics company, has won trophies in various landscaping, bird-singing and cat competitions.

This Penangite, known as mamu kuda (horse uncle), also set up the first horse endurance club in the state, the Al-Khamsa Endurance Club, in January this year. (Other states have similar endurance clubs.)

Al-Khamsa is an Arabic term to mean “the five” which refers to Prophet Muhammad’s five favourite horses.
The endurance race challenges both the fitness and skills of the horse and rider. The races are in the 40km, 80km, 120km and 160km categories.

Eight months prior to setting up the club, Mutalib learnt all he could about horses.

His interest in the sport was ignited after a few horse-riding sessions and visits to various endurance races.

He came across many talented Malaysian riders at the races, including the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin.

“So I learnt how to ride, bought my first foal and started training.”

After months of practice, he decided to form his own club.

“I started with 30 members. We are still small compared with other endurance clubs but I believe that one day we will be as big as them.”

“I currently own six Arabian horses. They are known for their intelligence and stamina, and thus ideal for endurance races. Riders must be able to communicate with their horses in order for them to perform well,” said Mutalib.

He said Arabian horses, with their distinctively shaped heads and high tail carriages, are one of the most easily recognisable horse breeds in the world.

“Today, Arabian bloodlines are found in almost every modern breed of riding horses,” he added.

Mutalib said that like most international sports, endurance riding has the potential to contribute towards the state’s tourism industry.

He wants to promote endurance riding and attract youths to get involved in the sport.

“Horse endurance racing is not easy. Both horse and rider need to be physically and mentally prepared. It’s tough but I love the adrenaline rush I get every time I race,” said Mutalib.

He plans to organise state events, open a riding school and teach endurance training to get Penangites involved in the sport.

“Many think it’s expensive to participate in the sport. But this is untrue. You just have to master riding — and you don’t even have to own a horse to do so,” said Mutalib.

He added that he intends to give free riding lessons to the underpriviledged such as orphans and the handicapped.

At the moment he is eyeing the Melaka Grand International Endurance Ride next month.

“Horses are passionate animals. As you ride the horse regularly, the bond between you will get stronger. Treat the horse well and it will treat you well in return.”

For more information about the Al-Khamsa Endurance Club, email Mutalib at alkhamsa5@gmail.com.

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