“And [He created] the horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride and [as] adornment. And He creates that which you do not know.” [Qur’an: Chapter 16, Verse 8]
“By the racers, panting, and the producers of sparks [when] striking, and the chargers at dawn, Stirring up thereby [clouds of] dust, Arriving thereby in the center collectively…” [Qur’an: Chapter 100, Verses 1-5]
In these ayaat, Allah describes the grace and might of the horses charging into the battle field … such loyal warriors in the battles of Islam.
The Wonderful World of Horses
In Surah Al-Imran, Allah describes the deep hearted love that mankind has for certain things of this world, of which ‘fine branded horses’ (Wa’l Khayl) is mentioned.
Yes, we are talking about the majestic, honourable, graceful and mighty horses. Those very creatures that have walked beside man as a loyal companion, from the beginning of time, up until today, and will stand loyal to its master until the end of time.
When the average person thinks about a horse, to some, it is a fluffy four-legged creature that simply eats all day and allows for the occasional pony ride, or maybe just some animal that you see on the fields near the road, on the way to your holiday destination. To others, the thought of a scary large beast, with a loud “Neigh!” may come to mind, but to us horse enthusiasts, the image of love, respect, nobility, relaxation and dreams is what comes to our minds.
For those who are new to horses, we introduce to you a loyal companion, which is not just best friend of man, but one who is subservient to its master. When we hear of the word ‘master’, sometimes the image of a man with a whip comes to mind. However, in the relationship we have with our horses, we, as humans are their leaders, both working as a team to achieve certain goals. To excel, a horse and its rider need to form a bond to become one.
For those who have been on the occasional horse trail or have been riding for a while, you might have seen a different side of things. From having your foot stood on, being thrown over a fence or having had a loving horse slobber all over you in your kind efforts to feed it a carrot. Or perhaps, you have experienced the warmth of a horse hug on a cold winter’s day and sometimes, the smell of horse may just be all the aromatherapy you need.
Understanding the Basics
Nevertheless, for both newcomers and oldies in the horse world, there are a few ground rules when it comes to horses, all of which stem from respect. Respect for the horse, respect for yourself and for the horse to respect you. The last one takes a fair amount of years to achieve.
They say, “Horses lend us the wings we lack” and “The word horse is synonymous with love, freedom and dreams.” Every horse lover would agree. Except the one who eagerly attempted taking a trail ride for the first time in the Drakensberg (South Africa) and half way through, miserably met the ground and had to walk back to the stables with a sore bottom or a broken limb.
To them, we say, you will learn to love it. Being an equestrian and horse lover is all about fun, falls and fails, but the essential ingredient is to pick yourself up because your horse sure is not going to. Learn from your mistakes and have courage; the courage to get back on and ride with the same kind of bravery you had before your unexpected landing.
Horse Riding in Islam
So what makes us, as Muslims, want to venture into this world of horse riding? The Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) said: “Everything with which a man amuses himself is vain except three (things): a man’s training of his horse, his playing with his wife and his shooting with his bow and arrow.” [Abu Dawud]
Horse riding is an almost forgotten sunnah of our Prophet Muhammed(pbuh). Yes, it is agreed that city life makes it difficult to access a little space to keep a horse or ride. However, Alhamdulillah we are fortunate to have riding venues on most outskirts of our cities that can accommodate us and get us learning more about this wacky, wonderful world of horses!
The Benefits of Horse Riding
So let us talk about riding. If you are not the one on the horse, riding may look like ‘just sitting’ and all the rider has to do is give the horse some simple instructions like ‘go’, ‘whoa’ and turn. In carrying the rider, the horse is doing all the work, right …? Wrong! There is far more to horseback riding than the casual observer might expect. The benefits are beyond simple enjoyment. It affects one physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Some of the physical benefits include increased fitness, balance and co ordination. Riding a horse at a walk stimulates the internal organs, just as walking on foot does. This aids in liver function and digestion, making riding a great therapy option for those who cannot walk or are in a wheelchair. You will be burning calories while receiving all the other benefits that horseback riding has to offer. Riding a horse uses a large amount of muscles all over the body.
Riding a horse out in a natural environment relaxes the mind, creating an overall feeling of well-being and peace. Reconnecting with nature on this level is a must for every human being, at some point or the other, in our busy lives. We are so caught up in the rat race of life in our concrete jungles that we do not even realise there is another, more peaceful side to life that we are missing out on. We need to go back to nature and recharge!
As Muslims, we benefit from horses on three levels: physically, by keeping our bodies fit, as they are an amanah (trust) from Allah; emotionally, as horse riding helps us de-stress, unwind and refocus our minds on our real purpose in life i.e. to live a life pleasing to Allah and eventually attain Jannah, In sha Allah; and lastly, we benefit from it spiritually. With horse riding being a sunnah and if it is done with these intentions, then we are receiving reward for even this fun activity. This in turn, is pleasing to our creator Allah and so any act that is pleasing to Allah will bring us closer to Him. Subhan Allah, have you ever thought of it this way? We can actually turn a hobby of horse riding into eternal rewards!
Horse riding has numerous benefits for people of all ages and those with mental and physical disabilities. Even children with abnormalities and those who are visually impaired may benefit.
At the end of the day or a long school term, there is nothing more relaxing than to wind down by taking a long ride or just being with a horse.
We conclude with the following hadith, the Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) had said: “There is goodness in the forelocks of horses till the Day of Resurrection.” [Al-Bukhari]
Let us take advantage of this beautiful gift from Allah, the horse and revive this amazing sunnah of horse riding in our lives, In sha Allah. Each and every one of us can benefit from it in more ways than one.