MAKKAH: Ten-year-old Jude Al-Ofi has become the talk of the town after a video of her riding her horse to school went viral on social media.
The young Saudi equestrian lives in Al-Hanakiah governorate in Madinah, and the other day she rode her horse Qamara to her school, which is 2 km from her house.
She told Arab News that she has developed a special relationship with horses and visits a nearby horse stable five times a week to practice. She said she believes it is important to learn to ride, especially for children.
Her father Raed Al-Ofi, a pharmaceutical technician and professional photographer, said his daughter started learning to ride three years ago. The first year of training covered “the characteristics of horses and the varied ways of riding and caring for them,” while the next two years included intensive field training.
He added that Jude had become a skilled horse rider, which has boosted her self-confidence and strengthened her relationship with horses. She has become very attached to Qamara, he added.
Jude’s interest in horses was sparked by a visit to a close friend’s stable, Raed explained, adding that his family purchased their first horse six years ago.
The recent video of Jude and Qamara on social media has been viewed by many people across the country. Saudis from around the Kingdom have sent her words of encouragement and have dubbed her a “horsewoman,” Raed noted, despite her young age.
“The story of the video started a while ago, when she was constantly asking to (be allowed to ride her) horse to school,” he said. “Two days ago, I surprised her in the morning by bringing the horse to the house door … she was very happy and rode to school.
“I accompanied her by car and filmed her journey. When she arrived, students, teachers and parents (were all there to welcome) her, encouraging her and applauding her courage and determination to achieve her wish to go to school by horse.”
He added that in order for his daughter to become a professional rider, the family would have to move to Riyadh, which he said was not currently an option, as it would involve a job transfer and various other arrangements.
Qamara has become a “member of the family,” he added. According to Raed, the relationship between horses and their owners embodies “pride, glory and represents the authentic Arab culture inherited and praised by generations.”
Raed said he thinks that all children should learn to ride horses as it “plays an important role in refining the personality, connects them to their heritage, and can lead to opportunities.”