Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Arab women clear the hurdles to their horse-riding dreams - Full Article

Ayesha Al Khoori
May 30, 2012

Ayesha Al Khoori talks to some female Arab horse riders whose families were not always supportive of the sport.

When she was a young girl, Salama Al Saadi's family members would laugh about her dream to become a horse rider.

She still sought her mother's permission, to no avail.

"I want to try, but they implanted fear in me," says Al Saadi, now 22.

While the men in her family are allowed to horse ride, Al Saadi's mother believes it is unsafe for girls in particular to engage in the sport.

"It's a culture thing," Al Saadi says.

"But the idea is still on my mind," she says, believing horse riding will instil in her responsibility and confidence. "I'm not losing hope. I still wish to be a horse rider one day."

For 21-year-old Dana Al Mutawa, it wasn't difficult to convince her parents to allow her to ride horses. "Although my father didn't accept the idea for a while, he changed when he observed how devoted I was," she says.

Al Mutawa, who has been riding for seven years now, adds that having male cousins and family friends engaged in the sport has "made it easier for my family to go through the process of acceptance".

While her parents like seeing her active, her father draws the line when it comes to competitive horse-riding events, finding competitions to be time-consuming.

Al Mutawa says this restriction once caused her to briefly withdraw from her family. "But I know they will reconsider it," she says. "And someday they won't pressure me to stop."

Her friends were initially against her hobby, but later on became supportive.

"Through the years many local girls have entered the equine field, so it became a normal phenomenon in our society," she says.

Referring to religious traditions, Al Mutawa argues that whenever she rides horses, she keeps herself fully covered...

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