We saddle up for a full moon ride with Mushrif Equestrian and Polo Club.
Walking into the equestrian club the first thing you’ll notice, not surprisingly, is the smell of the horses. Not in an unpleasant way, but in a farm folk, back to nature kind of manner, which sets the tone for the evening.
There’s three of us set to do the moonlight trek, and the level of the group is clearly beginners. We’re each giving a riding helmet and shown to our horses; one brown, one white and one grey. Climbing onto my horse, I’m a little nervous as it’s been years since I last rode. My friend looks even more nervous since she’s had very little experience of being around horses before.
Expecting a safety briefing, or at least some form of guidance, I look expectantly at our friendly guide but, somewhat worryingly, he simply smiles and says ‘walk on’ at which point the three horses taking part in the trek begin to follow him out of the stables.
I grip my reins a little tighter than I probably should and my poor horse is confused. He stops following the others and stands still. I pat his neck gently and try a mix of English and Arabic words that I think may get him moving again, but he’s decided against it, and is happily tucking into some grass instead. The guide comes trotting back to us, grabs the reins and pulls us up to speed. After that, my nerves slowly start to slip away and I realise that the horse simply needs someone to be in control. I loosen my grip, and use my legs to control the pace of our walk, squeezing a little whenever we need to catch up with the group and we begin to get into the swing of things.
The full moon’s glow and the ambient light from nearby Mirdif means that while its nighttime, it’s not pitch black. The horses look almost luminous in the light. The trees shimmy as we brush past them and the sand puffs up with each horse’s step, looking like dry ice in the soft light. The only minor distraction to the Zen-like atmosphere are the planes booming overhead every now and then.
After around twenty minutes of walking, our guide decides we need something more adventurous and suddenly takes off down the track at a trot. Our horses immediately follow suit, seeming somewhat delighted to be able to run. The same can’t be said for myself, and I desperately try to remember my horse-riding lessons from my school days, using my legs to rise up and down in the saddle in time with the horse. My companion is even less thrilled, as with no instruction she’s at a loss at how to control things. Eventually we catch up with the guide and she tells him that she happens to have a previous knee injury, which wasn’t helping the situation. Unfortunately, our guides’ lack of English means he doesn’t grasp exactly what she is saying and simply attaches her horse to his for the next spot of trotting. Afterwards, we stress to him that there should be no more trotting as my companion is in a lot of pain. Had she thought about the injury beforehand then she probably wouldn’t have come along but there were no safety advice or health questions asked when booking.
Returning to a peaceful walk, we get to relax again and take in the sounds of the park at twilight, birds tweeting and crickets chirping. It’s hot and sweaty (it’s summer after all) but not unbearable thanks to the breeze as the horses trundle on.
Returning to the stables I feel relaxed and elated, and love having been able to get outside and do something different. Despite our initial differences, I bonded with my horse and give him a quick pat on the nose before he is taken off to be hosed down and given some water.
Moonlight riding is more about the experience than a serious riding session but we’d stress that it’s still not ideal for anyone who hasn’t ridden much before because the level of instruction is almost zero. For this, the centre suggest booking a one-on-one lesson. The moonlight certainly makes for a very different atmosphere, spending time outside enjoying the night is a rare treat in Dubai. And doing so on horseback makes it even better.
The 90-minute Full Moon Ride costs Dhs300 and is held twice a month, around the time of the full moon. Mushrif Equestrian and Polo Club, www.mushrifec.com (04 257 1256).