saudi female horse trainer rides roughshod over kingdom’s sport restrictions on women
Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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Saudi female horse trainer rides roughshod over kingdom’s sport restrictions on women

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Emiratesvoice, emirates voice Saudi female horse trainer rides roughshod over kingdom’s sport restrictions on women

Saudi Dana Al Gosaibi training a horse
Jeddah - Arab Today

Dana Al Gosaibi’s passion for horses has been hard to pursue in Saudi Arabia, where conservatives resist women’s involvement in sport.
But the kingdom’s tentative advancement of women’s rights has given the Saudi horse trainer hope that one day she might be able to realise her dream of starting her own business.
Many Saudi women are now taking riding lessons, says Dana, 35, "but it’s so much more difficult for a woman" with social norms seeking to keep them out of the public eye.
She dreams of opening her own stables to focus on "a more gentle" way of training horses than the standard approach in the kingdom.
And change is under way, says Dana, who returned to Saudi Arabia four years ago after more than a decade living abroad.
"I came back and I saw all these women" working as cashiers, in sales and in offices, she says ahead of International Women’s Day on Wednesday.
Since last year, a government plan for social and economic reforms has given more impetus to this trend.
The government wants more women in the workforce as part of the Vision 2030 plan to diversify the country’s oil-based economy, and is trying to expand sports opportunities for everyone.
Saudi Arabia last year appointed a princess to oversee women’s sports in the kingdom.
Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud in February said authorities would begin granting licences for women-only gyms.
"Even [in] sport they’re really encouraging women, which is a very new thing," Dana says, taking heart that the change heralds a more favourable climate for starting her business training horses.
But the horse trainer, who learned her skills in Britain and the United States, says she has faced resistance in her home country.
"There is this very weird belief that a woman shouldn’t ride a horse," Dana says, especially if she is not yet married as "she might lose her virginity".
"It’s amazing how a lot of people believe these things."
Dana, herself unmarried, says she has also struggled to be accepted by other trainers due to her approach to the animals.
Horses have been central to Saudi life for centuries, and the kingdom is famed for its strong desert-bred Arabians from which the racing thoroughbreds are descended.
The traditional way of training horses in Saudi Arabia requires "a lot of force" including spurs and whips, she says.
But Dana prefers to take her time, observing the animal and learning to understand the way it thinks until she "becomes part of the horse’s herd".
"You need to establish a certain relationship and understanding because the horse needs to trust you," she says, whether you are preparing a horse for show jumping or rodeo.
If she were a man, her unorthodox approach would be taken more seriously, she feels.
Women need permission from a male guardian to travel or study, and Saudi Arabia is the world’s only country that does not allow women to drive.
Dana’s solution: "Let women ride horses!"
Women rode during the time of the Prophet Mohammed, she says.
Dana keeps two horses at stables in Jeddah, where her baseball cap, collared T-shirt, trousers and riding boots contrast with the traditional black abaya women wear in public.
An entrenched system of male domination makes change difficult, she says, but progress is happening nonetheless.
"You can’t be stuck forever in these old ways of thinking," she says. "Women are becoming stronger and they have a voice."


Source: The National

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