The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known for many unique sports, but horse racing is perhaps one of its most popular with more and more Saudi women leaving their mark in the field. Enter Sarah Al-Qahtani, the first Saudi woman to become a horse trainer and a showjumper in an otherwise traditionally male-dominated sport.
Al-Qahtani has always loved pet animals such as cats and dogs, but her love for horses began when she was just 5 years old. A daughter to a speed racing coach, she often followed her father to watch him train, a morning routine that ran from 2 AM to 8 AM. In fact, it was her father who persuaded her to pursue a career in the field and, with determination, she passed her training test and would go on to become the first female horse trainer in the Kingdom.
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Currently, Al-Qahtani is a horse trainer and showjumper. She personally trains her horses 5 to 6 days per week, with each training session usually taking up to 30 minutes. Prior to major tournaments, however, the sessions can take up to an hour each. What inspired her to become a showjumper were just how fun and, yet, challenging the sport can be, often requiring focus and discipline.
Since her debut, she brings her rich expertise in horse training but, as a woman in a male-dominated arena, she also had to anticipate criticisms that came with her position. As she told Harper's Bazaar Arabia, however, she was able to successfully show off her skills, also adding "Today, horse racing is open to female horse jockeys as well as women horse owners. I see there is a demand for racehorse training too, and this is what I aspire to achieve as a woman in this field."
Indeed, more women have been blazing trails in the equestrian world with Al-Qahtani taking center stage as both trainer and showjumper.