While horses have been central to life in Saudi Arabia for centuries, women like horse trainer Dana al-Gosaibi, have found it difficult to pursue their passion for horses in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s recent efforts to advance women’s rights, particularly toward women’s involvement in sports, gives Gosaibi hope that one day soon she will be able to realize her dream of opening her own stables.
Change is underway in the kingdom, Gosaibi noted. She returned to Saudi Arabia four years ago after living abroad for over a decade. She came back to find women working as cashiers, in sales and in offices.
In the last year, plans for social and economic reform have prompted even more opportunities for women. These plans include expanding sports opportunities for women and young people. Last year, the kingdom appointed Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud to oversee women’s sports and the Vision 2030 plan lays out increased opportunities for women to be involved in the economy.
Princess Reema said authorities would soon begin granting license for female-only gyms. Changes such as these create favorable condition for Gosaibi to start her own business.
Gosaibi’s stables would focus on more gentle methods for horse training than the standard approach in the male-dominated horse industry in the kingdom. However, she has faced resistance for her approach to working with the animals.
The traditional method for training horses in Saudi Arabia requires significant force, and utilizes spurs and whips. Gosaibi prefers to take time to observe and understand the horse, so 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 said.
Gosaibi keeps two horses at a stable in Jeddha, where she is able to shed her traditional abayah in favor of a baseball cap, trousers and riding boots. Both men and other women use the stables. Gosaibi added that progress is happening in Saudi Arabia: “Women are becoming stronger and they have a voice,” she said.
Read more at World Bulletin.