How did a Palestinian/Greek fashion designer end up becoming the face of horse rescue in the UAE? Now with 16 rescue horses she plans to head to Germany for better weather and lower costs. We meet the inexhaustible Yasmin Sayyed to find out more…
If you’ve been involved with horses for any length of time here in the UAE, you’ve probably met or heard of Yasmin Saeed. Her project helping the UAE’s ex competition horses in need of new homes Ride to Rescue has been operating from several locations over the past few years and been collecting both horses and admirers along the way.
Yasmin says she always loved animals and horses in particular. Born and raised in Stuttgart, Germany, she says, “I always saw them as people, just with a different purpose on earth.”
After studying art and then fashion, she moved around Europe finally settling in the UAE to work for an interior design company.
As she says, “city life wasn’t really for me,” and she looked for work with horses. She managed to finally secure what she calls, ‘her dream job’ in the stables of no other than Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “I worked there for almost nine-years and learned so much from the vets, farriers, feeders I worked with, however, I learned even more from the endurance and flat race horses themselves.”
Over the years she suffered several catastrophic horse related accidents and after several serious surgeries she decided it best to leave the horse industry behind her and pursue a slightly safer career in the fashion industry.
“I decided to dedicate my time to my haute couture fashion tailoring, the UAE is a designers paradise thanks to the incredible offers on tailoring supply here,” she says. “I was, and indeed am, a workaholic,” she says. “I mostly work 16 to 18 hours per day, and at the time the fashion business really satisfied me.”
Fashion did manage to keep her busy, at least for around six-months, then she admits she missed horses just too much. “I began missing them crazily and crying often because of this emptiness in my heart without them.”
This time, she wisely decided to step away from competition yards and enter the pleasure riding industry instead. For the next few years she worked her way around various riding schools from Ras Al Khaimah to Dubai and became as a passionate advocate for gentle horse-handling and the woman to impart gentle natural-horsemanship concepts.
“I started to train and care for horses all over UAE, I was supervising and caring for quite a few horses all over the Emirates, and more and more people loved the way I treated horses and begun to trust me with theirs. Yet I was sure I would never be able to afford to keep a horse myself, so never wanted to or even considered owning my own.”
But of course, even the best laid plans, don’t always turn out as we intend. “Everything was fine until I met Salambo, a 16-year-old old ex-showjumping German Warmblood with advanced motor neuron disease, who couldn’t even stand… Salambo changed everything. He changed my life and many other horse lives too.”
“Salambo was, and is, the biggest and hardest project horse I’ve ever worked with,” she says.
Underweight and weak, Salambo couldn't even stand for a full minute when he met Yasmin. But she persevered with his rehabilitation. “People ask why I spend all my money on a terminally ill horse rather than a young, healthy one which I can also ride. But you know what? I’ve never even thought about it!”
Ride to Rescue
Finding homes for horses to retire to in the UAE has been historically difficult as it is in many countries. But it Is particularly hard in the Emirates due to the high summer heat, and a lack of acreage, as well as financial constraints. However, Yasmin does her absolute best to give the horses what they need to thrive.
My project [Ride to Rescue] is about a lot of things, but it’s mainly about unconditional love and the care of horses,” she says. “Horses deserve better than being used and just given away to riding schools or euthanasia after they are ‘done.’
My horses get the best feeds, ad-lib hay, supplements, a life in the herd (well, for most of them, a few are unfortunately too dangerous for herd living) and of course they also get a lot of love, paddock time and a training according to their capabilities.”
Yasmin christened her project ‘Ride to Rescue’ in November 2017 and moved to what she calls “the extremely supportive environment” of Mandara Equestrian Centre in Abu Dhabi.
Not wanting to rely on charity she had hatched a plan to support the horses. This involved people paying to join her on gentle hacks on both the rescues and other donated horses.
Using the fittest of the rescues and a selection of horses from livery clients who exchanged these rides for Yasmin’s training sessions she set her plan in motion and began generating some much-needed cash to fund the horses.
“My plan was to invite people to come to ride our horses… with the money generated, I could almost afford the livery and extras for the three rescues I had at that time.”
The plan did work for a while and publicity grew for the project, however, paying for numerous horses in a premium stable in one of the most expensive countries on earth to keep horses, realistically the costs where always going to outweigh the income generated.
And of course, the horse offers kept coming. The more interest Yasmin generated the more people contacted her to ask if she would take more horses. “If I had accepted all the old, retired unwanted and broken horses I was offered at that time, I would probably have around 200 horses by now, but who pays?”, she says.
Yasmin has gone to extra-special lengths to give the horses in her care the best possible lives
Her herd is looking to move out of the sand and heat...
and on to something more green and temperate in the German countryside.
Yasmin now finds herself with 16 rescue horses and mounting fees. Keeping so many horses, with no fixed income is getting tougher and with summer around the corner she has decided the best course of action is to leave the country - with the horses of course! “Our project is simply not sustainable. Some of the horses are very old and cannot work anymore while the few who can, cannot cover the costs for all.
“I still have outstanding fees from the former stable, hay to pay for the past few months plus shoeing and other monthly costs,” she says. “The upcoming summer alone will cost us at least another estimated 200k plus and in the heat there’s almost no income at all! Germany is certainly not my dream home, but the cold weather, green paddocks and much lower living costs for the horses is.”
"I hope to raise enough money to move the project to Germany in the spring of 2020 because of the hot climate and lack of really big and green paddocks. I would love to cooperate with racing stables and hope to establish a Paradise retirement for horses from the UAE in Germany."
Right-now Yasmin is crowd funding her planned move and reaching out to businesses who might be interested in helping.“Although I love my life in the Emirates, I want to it for the horses; to give them more freedom, more grass and ultimately more life.
If you would like more information on Ride to Rescue visit here https://www.facebook.com/uaehorseresque/
For more information on Yasmin’s crowd funding and to donate click the button below.
The Ride to Rescue Horses who Hope to Travel this Summer…
Salambo the 22-year-old Warmblood who’s been with Yasmin since 2014 and suffers from Motor Neuron Disease.
Mr Nounou the miniature horse with a HUGE personality! He’s Salambo's best friend and they’ve been inseparable for almost five-years now.
Moneda is between 15 and 17 years old and together with Salambo and Nounou is the core of everything.
Beautiful snow-white ex-endurance Arabian Victory has been with Yasmin since 2016, she says, “he is my guide horse.”
Starlight is a beautiful chestnut Anglo Arab ex-endurance horse who is wonderful for riding and lessons. She says he likes to play like a puppy.
Montgomery is a 26-year-old snow white warmblood and used to be a Grand Prix show jumper. He now has debilitating Arthritis, yet remains bright and content and apparently eats like 10 horses!
Pebbles the eldest of the gang is a 35-year-old Appalosa pony. She used to be a show jumping pony in her youth but now also has arthritis yet continues to eat well and remain content.
Makfoul is the son of the famous French Arabian racing sire Tijani. He’s also ex-endurance and apparently quite a trouble-maker. He previously had a fractured leg and is not fit for riding.
Mandarino is a 19-year-old pure Arabian from Australia. He broke his leg and now has 13 screws holding the old injury together. He’s had a difficult history and finds it hard to trust people, but once he likes you, Yasmin says he’s a cuddle monster par excellence!
Oceane is a beautiful Arabian ex-endurance mare. She has also had a fractured leg, yet remains one of the softest and kindest horses who brings harmony into the Arabian herd.
Hazecha is a very loving chestnut Arabian. He retired due to a throat injury and has been rehabilitating with Yasmin. He has just recently begun riding again and is a lovely kind horse for a lighter rider.
There’s also 15-year-old Dahab, a beautiful and very large flea-bitten Arabian mix. He’s also ex Endurance and is fantastic with beginners but suffers from arthritis. He’s ideal for a gentle walking ride and he’s a perfect companion.
Dynamic is the stunning half-brother to Makfoul. Also a fire chestnut, he’s calm and funny. His best friend is Dahab and he’s a lovely riding horse for gentle rides.