Meet the naay-bours

Love horses? Or just curious to learn a bit more about them? Karen Iley checks out a new show in town


I’ve never been a horsey person. Of course I admire these magnificent beasts, and I wish I could get close, but if I do, I start sneezing and can’t breathe. But, dear readers, we at Time Out Kids will put ourselves through hell to bring you the latest, so, armed with a large box of tissues and dosed up with anti-histamines, I head off to the recently opened Al Saheel horse show.

Al Saheel means ‘voice of the horse’ in Arabic and this ‘extravaganza’, the brainchild of equine management company Hoofbeatz, traces the history and influence of the beautiful Arabian horse through specially trained performing horses, sequin-clad riders and breathtaking stunts.

Our evening of entertainment begins with a stable tour and a chance to meet the stars of the show. Housed at the immaculate Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club, near Arabian Ranches, many of the four-legged performers are rescued or unwanted animals, rehabilitated by staff at Hoofbeatz. Visitors who fork out for a hospitality ticket can take a tour, where they’ll get to stroke many of the cast (not the riders, mind you) – the trainers will point out the friendly fillies and warn you away from the ones likely to take a nibble. Particular favourites include the Falabella miniature horses such as Gordy.

With his crazy afro he looks like he’s just woken up from a particularly heavy night on the tiles. His blonde buddy, Veronica, complete with braided mane and ready to squeeze into her angel costume, nudges in curiously to make sure she’s not missing out on any complimentary Polo mints.

Around 57 horses are stabled here, but only 30 or so perform in the show. The rest are being trained or are used in equine educational workshops. Our guide, pointing out the ‘bathrooms’, informs us that the residents’ glowing manes are shampooed and conditioned on a regular basis and my companion who, unlike me, can tell one end of a horse from the other, is certainly impressed with their top-notch condition.

Having been introduced to the cast – a clever move on the part of the organisers because we spend the entire show pointing out our new-found friends – we trot back to the Hoofbeatz pavilion for the spectacle itself.

The lights turn an atmospheric shade of blue and, to the sounds of Arabic music, the role of the horse over the ages comes to life. Voiceovers allow them to ‘speak’ and both riders and horses are bedecked in sumptuous costumes: it’s a striking display that illustrates – apart from the odd spirited moment – the bond of trust between man and beast. A little heavy and long-winded at times, there are moments of light relief with slapstick fun, which tickles the younger viewers. But the highlight of the show is undoubtedly the hair-raising rodeo sequence.

To gasps from the punters, seemingly unstoppable Arabian horses hurtle down the enclosure, their acrobatic riders perched perilously atop their mounts or dangling near the turf. Mattresses placed at the end do nothing to instill confidence as the horses tear around the corner and a delighted but slightly fearful audience visibly sits on the edge of its seat.

Drawing to a close with a magical, shimmering parade featuring all the performers, the finale is nothing short of spectacular, and the horse lovers in your midst will absolutely love it. ‘I want to come here again and again,’ eight-year-old Maya Constantiou-Malek gushes after the show. ‘My favourite bit was the rodeo where the horses came down really fast, but I also liked the little horses. They were sweet.’

Running every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening until June 27 and re-opening in September, Al Saheel will no doubt improve with practice. Some of the sequences are a bit long for young kids, although for safety and insurance purposes, the show is only open to youngsters aged six years and older.

Tickets available from with limited hospitality tickets priced at Dhs350 for all ages including a stable tour, welcome drink and Arabic mezze served during the show. Regular tickets priced Dhs110-190 for adults and Dhs50-85 for children aged six-12 years.

Horses for courses

Apart from producing the Al Saheel spectacle, a large chunk of Hoofbeatz’ work is the ‘learning through horses’ programme, which includes horsemanship courses for kids and adults. Much more than simply learning to ride, these sessions include stable management, equitation (how to sit on a horse and ride correctly), the basics of equine communication and the development of life skills such as leadership and team-building, all through working with horses.

Located in the grounds of the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club, the children’s sessions are for kids aged 11 to 16 years. They introduce kids and horses – and, let’s be honest, both can be scary and awkward depending on their mood – in a safe and friendly way. These ‘getting to know you’ sessions last 90 minutes, during which instructors teach kids about horse anatomy, history, and mutual respect. There’s even a module on how to speak ‘horse’. Naturally, the kids have a chance to get out there and ride, but only once they’ve grasped the basics. Riding is excellent exercise and great for balance and coordination, but, more importantly, horses and humans can learn a lot from each other.

‘Horses act as a mirror to the human condition; they perfectly reflect our mood, temperament and emotional state at any given time, and react accordingly,’ says co-founder of Hoofbeatz Anwer Sher. ‘Through association with horses, you will acquire certain skill sets to better handle and understand your emotional makeup.’ ‘Meet the horse’ experiences are available privately or as school outreach programmes and cost Dhs900 for six weekly sessions.
Call 050 673 1335 or email or for details.

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