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horse & child
Introducing Shamsa Al Muheri
Sunshine Rider UAE
It all began back when Shamsa was just three-years-old. She started at Dubai City Stables, “it was the only place that would accept her at three,” says mum Sandra, “and for that I will always be eternally grateful to owner Jamal.”
“I was three-years-old and watching my trainer,” says Shamsa, “she was doing beautiful things with her horse and I asked her what it was, she told me it’s ‘Dressage… do you want to try?’”
As she fell in love with the sport, things quickly began falling into place. Sandra’s British parents own a house near Malaga in Spain, where the family spends the summer. “Five years ago, we found a PRE Andalusian stallion called Domino,” says Sandra, “he was a quick-sale and cheap as chips, so we bought him as our family pony.”
Classically trained Domino and Shamsa now work towards her dream, and in the last few years she has affiliated and even successfully competed in Spain. “I’ve done my first prelim test on him,” she says proudly.
Back in Dubai, Shamsa rides most days but Friday and trains with Tracy Wyngard-Gill at EEC two or three times a week. Trainer Tracy has been in the UAE for over 17 years and her career has spanned numerous disciplines from racing and jumping to dressage. Last year Sandra and Tracy decided the time was right and set about finding the perfect pony-partner for Shamsa. She found her in Holland, a 14hh, five-year-old sports pony called Electra.
She arrived in the UAE at the end of last summer, and the team have been working hard ever since.“I set out to get the best pony I could find for Shamsa,” says Tracey, “I found Electra through some of my close contacts over there… I tried quite a few ponies, and although she was younger than planned she was by far the best and with such a sweet temperament and great attitude to work, I thought this could be a great match.”
“As we purchased her in April, she initially stayed in Holland for the first summer, training with a friend before we could ship her to UAE. It’s often a compromise buying horses, you have to balance what you can afford with what you want and what your goal is,” says Tracy.
“We said if we got a younger pony, then we understood from the beginning that there would have to be a certain amount of training that I myself will have to do to bring her on.” “But you know what? She’s already exceeded my expectations, she’s a really smart and talented little pony with a super attitude. I adore her.”
While Shamsa might be all about dressage, she does go on to say that when she grows up she also plans to be an eventer, who “sticks mainly with dressage, but can do everything; from a bit of trick-riding to some show jumping.”
Like most pony-mad kids, Shamsa loves the excitement of jumping and even has regular trick-riding lessons with locally-based Lauren Allport.
You might not have heard her name before, but we think it’s only a matter of time before eight-year-old up and coming Emirati dressage rider, Shamsa Al Mheiri hits the equestrian headlines…
The trainer's perspective
Tracy is an accomplished horsewoman and experienced trainer; yet taking on a very determined little girl and her green pony can’t be easy. “Training Electra is the simple part,” she laughs. “Training such a young rider, as opposed to the mature riders I usually teach, means approaching the training with a whole different mentality, I’m also learning a lot! Shamsa is mature for her age, but of course it’s hard for an eight-year-old to focus on a dressage lesson, but, because that’s what Shamsa really wants to do, she has really no problems with focusing. I don’t think you can push a child to do anything, unless they want to do it,” says mum Sandra. Of course, she loves jumping and she’s already jumped 1.10cm, but she loves dressage, I think she finds it more challenging.”
With so much work for the pair to do, it must be tough at times for Tracy to know just where to focus. She says of the coming season’s plans, “we have a choice; do we focus on getting the pony out and gaining competition experience or do we focus on Shamsa?” “The season just passed, we had no expectations, the plan was only ever for Shamsa to get to know her and to see how the relationship developed, with absolutely no pressure. Yet, Shamsa ended up competing in the intro classes and she did really well.
“We then took a step back to focus on the training to go to the next step with cantering tests we really want to focus on getting the basics established before proceeding.” Both women are adamant they want Shamsa to learn and develop through the process of bringing Elektra on, in fact, they feel so strongly about this, one of Shamsa’s favourite Instagram hashtags is #notsatonreadymade. Sandra says, “so many kids get ponies ready-made, they just jump on, do all the high classes, but really, what have you achieved from that?”
“Of course, it must be frustrating for Shamsa,” says Tracy, “she wants to do the fancy things, but with a six-year-old pony, even if Electra is learning it, in many ways we’re still waiting for Shamsa’s legs to come past the saddle flaps.” For Shamsa though, it’s all in a day’s work. She says she manages her dressage schedule in conjunction with additional trick riding lessons, rounders and gymnastics lessons, with “lots of naps.” As the summer starts Shamsa’s now preparing for Spain where she will join her regular pony camp, plus additional lessons with Domino. “It’s camp in the morning, which covers various disciplines plus management and mucking out, real world horsey stuff” laughs Sandra, then in the evenings she has her classical dressage lessons.”
It seems like a punishing schedule for anyone, never mind an eight-year-old, but it’s clear Shamsa has set her heart on what she wants to do and will let nothing get in her way of achieving it. In many ways, Shamsa’s already an Emirati pioneer simply by choosing an equestrian discipline that very few here participate or are even interested in. Yet people are already beginning to take notice. Currently, she’s brand ambassador for both Aztec Diamond equestrian wear and has a sizable Instagram fan-base of over 5,000. Here at Show Hub, we’re just waiting for the new season to start to see this pint-sized team in action!
However, the similarities with most eight-year-old riders stops there, as little Shamsa devotes hours per week to the art of dressage. While most young children run for the hills at the mere mention of schooling and 20 metre circles Shamsa clearly loves it.
She currently spends six-days per week at EEC and her entire summer holidays in Spain working on her classical riding and at pony camp. “I don’t really know where it comes from,” says mum Sandra, “we’re not very horsey at all, I’m a happy hacker at best, and her Emirati dad didn’t even know what dressage was when she started!” “I had to explain to him that is was that it was that, ‘dancing with horses,’ before he understood it at all,” she laughs.
H.E Ahmed Bin Bishr
The Equestrian Influencer
Although he has over 1.2 Million Instagram followers, at home H.E Ahmed Bin Bishr is a man passionate about his horses, the power of great communication and life on his Al-Khawaneej farm. The Show Hub went along to find out more...
Here on home turf, His Excellency Ahmed Bin Bishr, is best known as the son of His Excellency Butti Humaid bin Bishr, personal secretary to Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, however, to a staggering 1.2 million Instagram fans around the globe he is simply shb7.
His mega-account incorporates his passion for technology and his skill in the art of falconry, it also profiles local humanitarian initiatives and showcases the UAE’s biggest events. His Instagram is not only highlighting the very best the UAE has to offer, but also gives fans around the world a glimpse into Emirati culture through the eyes of a truly global citizen.
What many fans don’t know however, is Ahmed’s love for the Arabian horse, which he says signifies grace, freedom, nobility, and strength.
He currently has three mares stabled at his farm, in the Al-Khawaneej, area of Dubai; two beautifully-bred show Arabians (by Gazal Al Shigab/Marajj out of Marwan) and his riding horse- a bay ex flat race mare, who he says can be tricky, “she threw me recently, she’s not so easy a horse to ride,” he laughs. There’s a further five show Arabians waiting out the summer heat at Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club, which he says will come home when his new stable block is completed. He then plans live cover breeding with his black stallion who is out of Mansour/ son of Shadow of Ashir.
“My horses always come in the top ten, in any line-up,” he says.
The Arabian horse, which signifies grace, freedom, nobility, and strength.
Ahmed’s love of traditional Arabian animals doesn’t stop with horses, the farm is also home to an extensive falconry house, with Peregrine, Sakar and Hybrid falcons. Although there are no camels at the farm, he says his father was a keen breeder and owner in the past, however, Ahmed himself chose not to continue this particular family tradition, he says he felt the competition was to ‘regional’ for his tastes and instead prefers the truly international nature of Arabian showing.
“Horses,” he says, “consume people, it’s not a hobby, anyone who enters the horse world finds it difficult to escape. Falcons, you could walk away from, if you had to, but there’s a relationship between the horse and rider, its beyond loyalty, it’s like royalty.”
Keeping and breeding top show horses in a desert environment is tough. Previously the family had arable farms across the UAE growing green fodder. “We soil tested the areas and discovered where the minerals were best for what we needed,” he says. Today, much of the Khawaneej farm is dedicated to feed crops, with both Alfalfa and a robust Sri Lankan grass under cultivation. “We’ve found this to be best,” Ahmed says of the tropical tall foliage, “and it requires significantly less water.”
The farm has an oasis feel, set just off the main Khawaneej road, behind a vast wall, it’s the setting for mango and sweet almond lined driveways, a large grass arena, vast tracts of crops and numerous greenhouses for year-round fresh vegetables. Ahmed’s dogs also live here, a Great Dane and two Slovakian Wolves. “When the weather is cooler, I take them down to Jumeirah and walk them,” he says.
Ahmed has taken a somewhat unconventional career route to where he is today. He initially entered the police force, before studying mechatronic engineering at Dubai Men’s College. He then moved into IT for a short time before completing his bachelors in PR at the Canadian University of Dubai. Today he is also Chairman of the family’s Bin Bishr General Trading, and preparing to start his Masters in PR.
Ahmed says his natural ability and passion for PR comes directly from watching his father at work. “The way he dealt with people, he was an entrepreneur, he spent his time influencing people, using just words, he created things.” He is clearly excited by the application of PR and can see its benefits in everything he does, from his work, through his passions and interests to his social media presence. “Instagram is simply PR,” he says, before cautioning, “just remember to serve it well.” He explains, “there can be a stone, sitting in clear view for centuries, passed by and overlooked by generations, but it just takes one man to see it differently, see it as a masterpiece, shaped by wind, and climate and nature, and if he is good with words- he can elevate it to a masterpiece in everyone’s mind and eye.”
His knack with social media and specifically Instagram. He started in mid-2012 (only two years after Instagram launched), yet until 2014 the account was garnering little interest outside of friends and family. However, by 2014 he had attracted around 20k followers and by late 2015 this had risen to over half a million. Today, over 1.2 million people follow his high-profile life and thoughts on everything from the UAE to poetry. What began as a typical youthful account peppered with selfies and four-wheel drives, has evolved into something offering its followers so much more. “For me, it’s much more than projecting an aspirational lifestyle,” says Ahmed, “my account is about informing and educating followers.” “Just remember, it’s really important to consider HOW you influence,” he says.