For Abrar Almusallam, what began as a teenage pastime sport evolved into what she considers as a defining part of her personality. The locally renowned show jumper truly finds peace in this highly intense and extremely competitive sport, ever since she joined the Kuwait Riding Center when she was only sixteen years old alongside her siblings. The making of a successful equestrian, however, employs two certain realities: an unwavering commitment to training, and passion for the sport. With her relentless dedication, however, Abrar portrays these realities through the progression of her showjumping skills and talent by competing in one tournament after the other.
If maintaining and improving her showjumping skills doesn’t count as enough of a challenge, Abrar also works at a contracting company by day and is also a freelance graphic designer. We were more than amazed that she was able to speak to bazaar about her equine journey, taking the time out of her insanely busy schedule between several tournaments in the Netherlands. Normally, when we ask anyone about how they’ve spent their weekend, we expect a succinct description of how beautiful the beach was at their chalet, or how that Orange Is The New Black marathon was mind-blowing. Instead, Abrar blissfully recounted how she “managed to get top rankings at a local show in the Netherlands.” Achieving top rankings or let alone 2nd place out of a total of 96 riders and 3rd place out of 102 riders is no easy feat. At the time of writing this feature, we also learned that Abrar is additionally training for another 3-day show and an international show in Belgium representing Kuwait. Last May, she competed at yet another two-day international show in the Netherlands, securing a place among the top 6 competitors and in October of 2013 she ranked 4th place twice and 3rd place once with two different horses at a different international show. Training with Rob Ehrens, ranked as one of the top 3 trainers in the world, in the southern part of the Netherlands, Abrar is working with one of the world’s most accomplished equestrians, to say the least. Now that’s a summer well spent!
Abrar describes the experience of competing with much happiness; especially knowing that not only is she representing Kuwait, yet she is able to secure top rankings at these shows. She said, “I am very happy and satisfied and I have much more to prove with all the hard work and training that I undertook in the Netherlands.” Kuwait does have an established riding center, The Kuwait Riding Center or KRC, and Abrar together with many other fellow equestrians engage in weekly competitions and train regularly; there isn’t an established federation for riders. She explains, “The Kuwait Riding Center has supported me throughout all my years of training. The fact that the KRC is a private entity, and not funded by the government as what we would see in an organized federation for riders, they certainly have succeeded in supporting me along with many other talented riders to the best of their efforts. If we had a well-organized federation to rely upon, such as we see in Qatar or the UAE, then perhaps us riders wouldn’t need to seek additional support to further our skills.”
Outside of the support of family, friends and the Kuwait Riding Center, it is the norm that local riders would seek sponsorship from other private entities to further their careers. For instance, Abrar is currently sponsored by Agility, where she is receiving support for her summer training in the Netherlands, as well as competing regularly on an international scale. Abrar stated, “I am so proud that I am representing Kuwait, and Agility, abroad. I feel blessed to have been given this opportunity and am thankful for every moment.” It is indeed a positive sign to see local organizations supporting the youth, and Abrar seconds our sentiments in wishing for more and more companies to do the same in adopting promising athletes, and becoming more involved with the youth in the sports arena. She’s never felt any pressure, being a Kuwaiti female rider, yet she does feel that the general support for the showjumping sport and other equestrian activities is still underwhelming. Abrar understands the importance of an organization that supports and gives back to Kuwait’s equestrians, “I dream of a federation—a single independent body that caters to the riders of Kuwait without favoring a club over another. Each talented and passionate, local riders have sought after private sponsors and achieved goals nobody thought possible. With government support, a unified team, and a proper federation, we can dominate the riding world.” Kuwait does enjoy a promising equestrian culture, where Abrar looks to her colleagues in the field with much admiration and respect. Abrar has always looked up to riders like Noaf Bin Essa and Ali AlKhorafi and is inspired by their journeys.
A typical day for Abrar involves work during the daytime, making time for the gym whenever that is feasible, and then you’d typically find her at the stables from 6 p.m. onwards. Weekends involve competitions at the Kuwait Riding Center, with some shows taking place on both Fridays and Saturdays. This rigorous routine, one that requires the desire to dedicate, leaves very little downtime. In Abrar’s case, making the decision to turn a hobby that gave her a place to unwind into a lifestyle is a choice above everything else. She said, “It became a lifestyle because it requires serious commitment, dedication, and discipline in order to be a better rider. I ride everyday, and train 5 days a week, and compete once or twice a week depending on the show. Instead of traveling in the summer for a summer vacation, I travel to the Netherlands to continue training and competing. I practically don’t have a social life in Kuwait as the riding hours are in the evenings due to the weather, but it is all worth every second of it.” Abrar always knew that she wished to compete regionally. In fact, this came as a natural desire as her training progressed. Riders would train all week to compete at a weekend tournament or show to prove what they’ve learnt week after week. Competing at an intense level, moreover, comes with the commitment to the sport.
Throughout that time, her mare is her companion, amongst other horses, as Abrar does believe in the bond between a horse and its rider. Even though Abrar is trained to be able to ride different horses at any given time, she does enjoy the time spent training with her mare. “I am lucky to have a very smart mare, who always wants to do her best and give her all in competitions. She is a dream come true, I’ve had my ups and downs to getting to where I am with her now, but we both have come a long way proving that a rider and a horse can truly bond, evolve, and progress after a relationship is established between the pair.” If she can squeeze in the time to play with her dogs at the beach during the weekends, as Abrar actually loves all animals for that matter, then she’s beyond content.
What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty and loyalty.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A combination of the sun and beach, my dogs
and winning shows.
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I trust easily.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Fakeness, and judgmental people.
Which living person do you most admire?
My grandmother and mother.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Madri”, or “can’t remember”.
What is it that you most dislike?
Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to sing!
If you could have any job, what would it be?
A yacht interior designer.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
Where I am now right now in terms of my riding ability.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m very positive towards other people’s wants or ambitions.
Where would you most like to live?
What are your favorite words to live by?
Care less, smile more.