Dubai: In true horsemanship, it is never about how one rides.
It is how the rider becomes one with their equine partner on the tracks and off in daily life.
Shaikha Hessa Bint Hamdan Al Maktoum, a young horsewoman in Dubai, exemplified this in her book, Tajaarub (Arabic for ‘experiences’), From a Horsewoman’s Journey that was launched on Wednesday at the Desert Palm Polo Club.
The 161-page book chronicled Shaikha Hessa’s intimate moments meeting and falling in love with horses from a young age of four to years working with and learning from horses.
“My perspective of horsemanship has changed so much from the first few rides I had at the age of four until this day, as the owner in charge of her own stables and teams,” Shaikha Hessa writes.
“Throughout my years of riding, my attention shifted from concentrating on what the instructor tells me I should do to focusing on the horse’s signals and body language, listening to what it wants to tell me. My horse became my teacher.”
Shaikha Hessa admits in Tajaarub that she first wanted to ride a horse to please her father, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, himself a legendary horseman and well-known owner in the racing world.
But after connecting with the first horse she first rode at age four, she knew she was no longer riding for her father. She was riding for the love of the sport.
“I also discovered that you don’t have to sit in the saddle in order to learn horsemanship. A rider must first meet a horse on ground before mounting on its back. Mixing that order would only ruin the whole purpose of the sport,” Shaikha Hessa writes.
“She loves horses. She used to visit them at any hour of the day. She doesn’t really mind. At one time it was 11.30 in the night, she even sneaked away to witness one mare giving birth. She was just nine years old,” Shaikh Saeed Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum told reporters, describing her sister.
It is this deep connection between rider and stallion that sets Shaikha Hessa apart from her peers, said Dr Juan Gonzalez, who has been working with the family for 16 years.
“Shaikha Hessa is an excellent rider, a conservative rider. She doesn’t only ride to compete. She loves them, helps clean them. She goes to the horse not to win. She goes to the horse because of the horse, which is a sign of a true horseman,” Dr Gonzales said.
Dr Gonzalez said Shaikha Hessa treats her horses as if they were her “spoiled babies.” Among her favourites are Celieh, her very first horse, Rupert, a ‘very difficult horse,’ and Christina, a horse she “stole” from her brother, Shaikh Saeed.
“You can see many people on a horse but you won’t see many horseman. In order to have the talent to ride the horse, you have to be humble because it won’t understand your class, your social status, but they will understand your heart,” Dr Gonzalez said, “And she has that heart.”