Dubai has a tradition of horse racing and with equestrian events spiking interest, Benita Adesuyan takes the reins.
As equestrian season steps up from a canter to a full-blown gallop in Dubai and across the rest of the UAE, there’s no better time to get back in the saddle – or indeed try taking the reins for the first time. There are a huge number of events taking place in the coming months, and not just the World Cup Carnival at Meydan (culminating in the Dubai World Cup at the end of March) but the lesser-known but no-less spectacular Dubai Festival of the Horse and the Dubai Show Jumping Championship.
For those who fancy throwing themselves into the sporting spirit of this particular season, Hoofbeatz Equestrian Centre is dedicated to the art of horse riding, and not just how to learn, but also how to care for horses and understand these beautiful animals. The organisation trains horses for shows, and has a number of prize-winning stallions and show horses. It also helps people to learn or improve their riding skills. Karen Stewart is the head instructor and has been riding horses all her life, so visitors are in safe hands.
‘At Hoofbeatz we have our own system of teaching,’ says Karen as we walk to the circle. ‘We like to ensure that our riders learn how to balance, have correct posture and poise on the horse and handle the horse correctly.’ The Hoofbeatz method doesn’t use reins – an instant difference to many other riding schools. ‘We put the horse first,’ explains Karen. ‘To put it bluntly – the reins are a piece of metal inside the horse’s mouth next to teeth and tongue and flesh. When you want the horse to stop – you pull on the reins, so if beginners have reins they tend to pull on the reins when they’re nervous, and this confuses the horse, also learning without reins helps to improve your balance and positioning on the horse.’
Karen describes herself as a ‘bit of a nag’, when she’s teaching because she likes to ensure the basics are right. But discipline is important – and this becomes clearer during Time Out’s lesson. ‘Think about a straight line from your ears, shoulders hips and heels – keep your heels down and your toes turned in,’ she instructs.
Horse riding is increasing in participation in Dubai and children as young as five can learn how to ride in a safe and fun environment. Many of the members of Hoofbeatz are expat residents but visitors of any ability can come and ride. ‘We’re like family here – and the horses are big part of that family,’ says Karen.
Hoofbeatz has plans to expand its current facility. The main teaching area is under cover and housed in a large tent, and is fully air-conditioned so it can offer classes all through the year. It is also in the process of building a new barn and stables for its 45 horses and an open air show arena is in the pipeline, too.
‘Interest is always increasing and we have more and more enquiries. We have a waiting list for some instructors but we’re always happy to fit in more.’ Hoofbeatz, opposite Dubai Outlet Mall, Dubai-Al Ain Road (E66), www.hoofbeatz.com (056 942 4551).
More riding classes to try
Riding Academy at the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club Get to learn a wide range of equestrian disciplines including polo, dressage and show jumping. The club also offers exclusive classes for ladies, which are taught by an Arabic-speaking female instructor in a private area. From Dhs160 for a 30 minute beginners’ class. www.poloclubdubai.com (04 361 8111).
Emirates Equestrian Centre Approved by the British Horse Riding Society, this centre offers classes for children and adults. If you already own your own horse, livery sessions can be arranged. The main disciplines on offer here are show jumping, dressage and eventing. Adult group lessons begin at Dhs165 per person for one hour. Near Dubai International Endurance City, www.emiratesequestriancentre.com (050 558 7656).
Unmissable equestrian events
Dubai World Cup Carnival, Meydan See 11 races concluding with the Dubai World Cup on March 29. Free general admission. 5pm, Thursdays until February 27 then Saturdays March 1 and 8. www.dubaiworldcup.com (04 327 0077).
Dubai Show Jumping Championship An exhibition of top show jumping talent. Free. January 30-February 1. Emirates Equestrian Centre (050 558 7656).
Dubai Festival of the Horse Some of the finest horses and their trainers from the UAE and around the world are expected at this event. There’s entertainment for children and free pony rides, too. Free. Thursday February 13- Saturday February 15, Emirates Equestrian Centre, near Dubai International Endurance City, www.emiratesequestriancentre.com (050 558 7656).