Riding to happiness
A couple of months ago, Nadra al Amri became the first Omani woman to obtain the UKCC certification (an international framework of sports coaching) to teach horse riding.
At Qurm Equestrian Centre, where this young equestrienne trains children and other female riders, Nadra relives the first time she ever set foot on these grounds. “It was for my son’s registration to learn riding,” laughs the suave 32 year old mother of two. Nadra had rode horses as a child, but never foresaw it turning into her passion.
An IT consultant, Nadra recalls not having the best memories about an earlier stint with horse riding. “When I went riding in New Zealand, I nearly had an accident and I was like, ‘I’m never getting on a horse again’,” said Nadra, pointing out to the irony of her enquiring about adult riding classes next.
It was nothing but charming, the second time. “I fell in love with the experience of riding a horse. My coach, Said al Hashmi encouraged me and it helped me get the correct perspective.” She began her classes in January 2017 and there was no turning back.
All this unfolded in the backdrop of a stressful year. Nadra was dealing with severe depression and had quit her job, too because of that. Staying at home was not helping this talented professional.
“I had read somewhere that equine therapy helps with depression. So I tried, and it worked wonders for me. You just stop thinking about everything. It’s just you, your breathing and the focus on whatever you are supposed to do at that particular moment.”
While horse riding is therapeutic, it is also a good workout sport as “you use all your muscles”.
She picked up the reins quickly and within a year, got certified to teach, and is on her way to compete in the next show jumping season.
She recalls with a laugh that she was the oldest student in her class – the rest were children.
“I didn’t care. I just wanted to learn and I didn’t stop,” says the equestrienne for whom by then, riding had become a passion more than therapy.
Today, as a riding coach, she encourages women and children to follow the true spirit of horsemanship. “It’s not just about teaching people to ride a horse. The keyword out here is horsemanship.”
By this she means that a rider becomes involved with all elements of horse riding, right from tacking a horse, to setting the saddle to brushing the horse.
“You need to make some contact with the horse...you need to bond with it,” explains Nadra. “It is very important,” because every horse is different.
“Each horse has its own personality, and you need to get to know them so that you can get used to its movements…you practice till you end up studying the horse and its habits. The more you familiarise yourself with the horse, the better you get as a rider.”
Her fascination for horses runs deep. “ I’ve always loved horses, I find them beautiful and intriguing. Maybe that’s why I’ve wanted to know more about them.”
Nadra says that more and more girls and women in Oman are showing interest in riding, and many are taking it up as a sport. “A lot of girls ride now. When they heard I was beginning to coach, I got a lot of requests. They’re interested. A lot of them are getting into the groove.”
While Nadra prepares for a ride by tacking Maya, a majestic brown mare, she discloses a secret. “Maya has her mood swings at times. Sometimes, it's easy to get going and sometimes you have to put in a lot of effort. You just have to understand that and work around it.”
She applies the same logic to her teaching methods. “I will never force someone...it has to come from within,” says the equestrienne.