Enrolling yourself or the children in an outdoor activity during the UAE’s scorching summers may sound oxymoronic, but desert riding is having its day in the sun, with stables seemingly popping up all over the Emirates.
DXB Horseriding, located at Sahara Stables off the Dubai-Al Ain road, is one such outfit that offers desert and beach rides, with lessons for adults and children. What’s heartening about this operation is that many of the horses available for guests to ride are rescued animals.
Riding with rescued horses
Stable manager Fay M Ali says DXB Horseriding started from her passion for horses, many of which have come from other stables where they might not have received the care and attention they need, especially the European breeds that can struggle in these climes.
She says most of the problems are down to a lack of education and to get many of these horses back into a good condition can be a long process; it can take six or seven months before you begin to see a difference.
However, once the horses are fit, healthy and ready to be ridden, guests enjoy the experience even more because of the calm and quiet demeanour that makes the animals suitable for riders of all levels, from enthusiastic beginners to equine experts.
“Sometimes, both adults and children are fearful because these are huge animals. But once they get to know that the horses are quite nice, they start trusting them,” says Ali.
Most rides take place at sunrise or sunset; however, even early morning and evening can be extremely hot during the summer months, so how do the horses cope with that? “We hack a lot earlier and later, and also reduce the work. We have to continuously explain to riders why we're not cantering as much … it's really bad for the horse and they can get dehydrated or their metabolism becomes too high,” says Ali. “Some days we’ll just walk and, of course, the horses get their time off as well.”
Arabian horse breeds are better equipped to cope with the heat, but for others, the stable has a fully air-conditioned barn to keep them more comfortable. Horses require exercise and stimulation just like any other animal, so DXB Horseriding has a dedicated horse walker, and sometimes the animals are let out into the paddock to socialise so they’re not just cooped up in the stable all day.
Swimming with the horses
One must-try activity, from personal experience, is the beach ride and swim session. Horses are naturally brilliant swimmers and there’s nothing quite like that moment when you’re on horseback in the ocean, and the animal, upon finding itself out of its depth, begins to swim, perfectly happy to take a rider along.
Ali says many of the horses love their time in the water and because it’s such a different experience, it creates a special bond with the rider.
Many people who started out as novices have caught the riding bug and gone on to own their own horse, which is DXB Horseriding’s aim – to find loving, caring homes for their rescues so they can carry on helping other animals in need. At present, the income that comes from the rides and lessons enables Ali’s team to take care of the horses they have rescued.
If you live in the heart of the city, a change of scene from the hustle and bustle is as good as a holiday. Riding through a car-free patch of desert at sunrise or sunset is punctuated by fresh air, and you’ll often spot groups of camels, some a gazelle, or even a shy desert fox or two.
“A lot of tourists visit the UAE in the winter because the weather is better and a lot of people think of Dubai as the city of lights,” says Ali. “But there is this other side, which takes many by surprise – the beautiful desert.”
DXB Horseriding can be found on Instagram @dxbhorseriding and charges Dh150 for desert hacks and Dh275 for beach rides