To be honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve ridden in Egypt. Nine years ago I took part in a donkey riding relay, but I guess that doesn’t count.
When my boss told me to go to Egypt for a business trip, he mentioned that he’d asked to book Concorde El Salam hotel for me. “You will understand why,” he added. And I surely did. The local health club provides horse riding lessons along with other more standard services, like spa and gym. Well that’s the kind of health club I would like to have in each hotel I stay in. Just a hint to hoteliers :-)
To book a 30-minute riding lesson, you have to buy a ticket and go to the arena to wait for you turn. While waiting, I watched group of other people riding, mostly kids on the walking horses led by grooms. Call it a 6th sense, but I knew that this tall skinny ginger mare with the nicely-contrasting bright blue bridal would be my ride today. And I was right. About 15 minutes later, the stable owner gestured me over. We made the stirrups longer and my international ride #20 started. As usual for the start, I rode some circles in walk to see how responsive the horse was. Well, as you could expect, a horse ridden by many can easily win an Oscar by creatively pretending that she doesn’t understand what you want from her. It took us about 5 minutes of circling and a whip in my hand (which I actually didn’t need to use) to improve our mutual understanding.
Reem, meaning ‘gazelle’ in Arabic, had a nice forward going trot; as for a canter… Well, she tried to pull some tricks again. Unfortunately for Reem, her attempts to add a small buck to every stride didn’t prevent me from cantering, but rather added some fun. “Seriously, Reem! I have the perfect no-matter-what-stay-in-the-saddle trainer – my own horse, Dream – so these kind of tricks do not work on me.”
After a while I thought that this bucking might be the sign of her being uncomfortable for whatever reason, so I decided to canter in a two-point position, and it worked just perfectly; she was going easily round and round while I was jockey-style balancing on her back.
Overall, Reem behaved quite weirdly – it’s the first time I’ve seen a horse which was showing contradicting signs of relaxation and anger at the same time. She was snoring while bucking and laying her ears down while going nicely on a bit. Well, she is a mare, so I guess girls are allowed to play the drama queen sometimes.
All in all, it was a great way to celebrate the beginning of the lunar year of the horse by ticking off country number 20 on my list. Hope many more are to come.
P.S. Colleagues promised to organize pyramid riding the next time I visit. Can’t wait.
Concorde El Salam Cairo site: http://cairo.concorde-hotels.com/en/?