It is so hard to choose horses to feature, but here are a few of our favourite horses and the true stars of the show. This week we are going right to the north of the continent to meet the horses in Egypt!
Hot blooded, flashy, with boatloads of charisma… these beauties will make you yearn back to lightning-fast gallops through ancient landscapes. Visit the site of the ancient Thebes and the Royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings, while enjoying some great hours in the saddle. Enjoy some epic gallops through the desert, with the wind in your hair and sand getting stuck in your teeth as you can’t help but grin! Then have a magical horseback swim in the Red Sea – we’re never sure if the humans or horses have more fun?!
There are around 15 horses at the main stables in Luxor and another 20 – 40 at each of the stables in Cairo and at the Red Sea. The numbers vary as owner Emma tends to buy any horse she falls in love with, and she admits that she falls in love easily! We asked Emma where her horses are from and she responded “Gosh, I get them from everywhere. I can be out to get milk and come back with a horse!”
Meet them all on our Horse Riding Holiday in Egypt
BELAL – The King of the desert (and Emma’s heart!)
Emma told us the story of how she met Belal and how this king of the desert changed her entire life.
Seven years ago, after being dumped by her boyfriend, Emma did what any heartbroken person does – leave London for somewhere warm and remote. On impulse she found a cheap all-inclusive package holiday to Egypt and booked it. Friends, concerned about her sanity, asked what she was planning to do while she was there, but she hadn’t even thought that far… He suggested horse riding, even though it had been 12 years since she had stepped foot in a stable.
She booked 2 full days of riding (which in hindsight wasn’t smart after 12 years out of the saddle!) but she was sold by the sound of riding through the desert and along the beach. During the booking process, she admits she was a bit overconfident about her riding ability as being a happy hacker in her youth was not the same as taking a feisty Arab stallion out into the desert. She had to start off on a lead rope for the first hour, which was a very humbling experience. But out there in the desert, far away from the distraction of modern life, her and Belal “just clicked” and life was never the same.
A year later, she was back in Egypt. At the time, the guides had the horses standing on the beach all day waiting for tourists. And although she knew nothing of the horse industry, she thought there must be a better way, so she took out her only dress, printed some cheap business cards and went to every hotel she could find. The hotels got on board with direct bookings and from then on, the horses no longer spent all day out on the beach.
Two years later, her journey took her back to the first stable she ever rode at. And with her own business up and running, she was able to buy Belal; her King and the horse that changed her life!
🐴 Name: Belal (also known as Mr Fancy Pants due to his showy movement and incredible presence)
🐴 Name Meaning: “Refreshing” in Arabic
🐴 Height: 15hh
🐴 Breed: Arab
🐴 Gender: Stallion
🐴 Colour: Black
🐴 Personality: He’s the King of the stable. He’s beautiful, showy and proud but super light in hand.
🐴 Suitable for: Very confident rider with a light hand. He will test you at the beginning of the ride and if you’re scared or not the “boss” he knows it. But, for the right rider, he will go to the ends of the earth.
🐴 Best trait: He’s so majestic and he’s also a great dancer! The grooms love putting on music and dancing with him, it’s quirky yet elegant at the same time!
🐴 Worst Trait: He’s a brain to rein horse – you have to stay focused but relaxed with riding him as he is a mind reader.
APOLLO – A reminder to always keep your poker face!
Beautiful Apollo had a rough life before he came into Emma’s care. He was an ex-dance horse in a neighbouring village. His legs were in poor condition and his tongue had been split in half from the old harsh bits that were used on him before. Fast forward two years with Emma and Apollo is now in glowing condition; his legs are sound, he is very well muscled and has a naughty glint in his eye. The damage to his mouth means that he can be difficult to slow down at a gallop and needs to be ridden with the seat and legs rather than the hands. Emma describes Apollo as a “man’s horse”. He is a favourite with the guides and is a magnificent ride for sensitive riders that take the time to figure him out.
The story of Apollo and a reminder to never lose your poker face when viewing a horse for sale.
When buying a horse in Egypt it’s a game of nerves and balls – it’s all a game! You can never ever show you like a horse (even if you do). You must have the ability to get up and walk away no matter how much you want a horse. And you must NEVER call back after viewing the horse! You get the owner/dealer to chase you for up to a week before you agree a price (normally at least half of the original asking price)
On this particular day, Emma and her groom were out viewing horses and were starting to get bored. Someone announced a “wow” grey horse had arrived from Cairo the day before – although this is a word with very little meaning in the markets in Egypt! Sitting on the L shaped arena, with the team on one side, and the owners and dealers on the other, they did their best to look unimpressed sitting in the hot sun with a lot of people who couldn’t speak English.
Apollo came out from behind a wall close to where they were sitting and her jaw literally hit the floor! Sayed, the groom slapped his forehead! All eyes were looking at her to see her reaction to the horse and she had blown it. She tried to recover saying he was short, she didn’t like his colour, his face and his legs and a million other excuses, but the damage was done!
They offered the owner half the asking price and got up to leave. This was normally the point where the sellers run after you and offer you a better price – but no one moved! Then they all got in the car and started the engine….. again no one moved… They weren’t going to chase her, they had seen her expression. After a lot of bargaining, they paid the asking price and learnt a valuable lesson – Never lose your poker face!
🐴 Name: Apollo
🐴 Height: 16hh
🐴 Breed: Arab/Lusitano Cross
🐴 Gender: Stallion
🐴 Colour: Dapple Grey
🐴 Personality: A showman and a gentleman, he rides well with both stallions and mares
🐴 Suitable for: He’s a man’s horse or for a stronger rider that takes time getting to know him. He’s often used as a guide horse and loves posing for pictures.
🐴 Best trait: He’s absolutely stunning to look at, super dependable as a guide horse and a great ride once you know how to handle him.
🐴 Worst Trait: He’s very strong and not easy to pull up.
GHAZAL – the poster boy for Cairo
Ghazal is a sensitive and considerate stallion, with a great sense of humour! Emma chose to ride her trustworthy stallion when she was recovering from knee surgery a few years ago. She remembers how she was initially not very balanced in the saddle, and Ghazal would feel that and slow down to allow her to centre herself before increasing his pace again. But, don’t be fooled, he is certainly forward going and loves a good gallop across the desert. This dependable horse can be a real clown when it comes to posing for pictures at the pyramids! He will often stick out his tongue just as the picture is taken and is often the reason for multiple photoshoots. He is still the poster boy for Cairo and is currently on holiday in Luxor.
🐴 Name: Ghazal
🐴 Height: 16-17hh
🐴 Breed: Pure Arab
🐴 Gender: Stallion
🐴 Colour: Bay
🐴 Personality: Dependable, but with a load of spunk and a dash of humour!
🐴 Suitable for: Intermediate and above. He can be forward going so you need to find a balance between being the boss and allowing him to have his head.
🐴 Best trait: He’s just amazingly trustworthy and fun to ride.
🐴 Worst Trait: He sticks his tongue out for photos! It’s his way of getting us back for yet ANOTHER pyramid photo. He is also is a nightmare to lunge as he doesn’t like it so runs AT you – It’s a game of chicken!
AL MSTACHAR – the teacher
Emma bought Al Mstachar two years ago from a farmer in a neighbouring village. The farmer had a 7-year-old son who refused to go to school because he wanted to stay with the horse all day. The farmer was getting exasperated and the only way for the son to get an education seemed to be that they needed to sell the horse! The family had many offers for Al Mstachar, but choose to sell him to Emma because he knew the horse would have the best life with her. The farmer and his son still visit Al Mstachar now and again, and the boy goes to school now!
🐴 Name: Al Mstachar
🐴 Name Meaning: “Counsellor” in Arabic as a direct translation, by personality translation Big Boss
🐴 Height: 16 hh
🐴 Breed: Arab
🐴 Gender: Gelding
🐴 Age: 6
🐴 Colour: Chestnut
🐴 Personality: Forward going and very cheeky!
🐴 Suitable for: Very confident rider with a light hand that loves going forward
🐴 Best trait: He’s got great movement and loves affection
🐴 Worst Trait: Haven’t found one yet!
LAYLA – the milk trip horse
One of Emma’s milk trip horses you’ve heard so much about …. this is where she go out to buy milk in Luxor and comes back with a horse! She met Layla 3 years ago and she was in appalling condition, tied to a tree and all her hair was missing from her chest and face; she was basically living in a mosquito pit! She didn’t even try to barter; she couldn’t leave her there! Turns out Layla has the heart of a lion and the speed of a cheetah! The only sign you can see of her old life is under her eyes where her hair never grew back. Emma calls it her war make up. Last year she fell in the desert fracturing her leg. Everyone was devastated but saw her amazing fighting spirit. After just over a year of slowly building up her strength, she is able to spend all day out in the desert. She is a very sociable and loved horse, ideal for lightweight confident riders with a love for personality and speed.
🐴 Name: Layla
🐴 Height: 15 hh
🐴 Breed: Arab Cross
🐴 Gender: Mare
🐴 Age: 14
🐴 Colour: Chestnut
🐴 Personality: Very sociable and much loved, with the heart of a lion!
🐴 Suitable for: She is ideal for lightweight confident riders with a love for personality and speed.
🐴 Best trait: She’s one of the best horses and a great all-rounder. For those who are less confident, she is calm and well-behaved. For those who are great riders, she will fly!
🐴 Worst Trait: Haven’t found one yet!
A few more of our favourites
Our horseback adventures are hand-picked for their quality and care of their horses. Here’s how the horses in Egypt are kept in tip-top shape for your safaris. The horses are on top of the hierarchy and receive very special care:
Nature of the horses:
The horses are happy horses who love their “work”. Many of them have troubled pasts but are now loved and well cared for. They are all forward going with great manners, good breaks and steering. Emma her team immediately sees the abilities of the riders and they use that to decide which horse fits who and set the pace of the ride. The rides are the most fun for experienced riders, however, they can cater to all confidence levels and riding ability. Not everyone has to gallop and they never make anyone feel pressured to do so. There are normally 2-3 riding guides with a group depending on numbers, so those that enjoy fast canters can go up ahead.
Based in Luxor, they are able to grow most of their own horse food, being quinoa, barley and corn. Quinoa gives is a pure protein so works the same way as when body-builders have a high protein diet whilst training, great for power and muscle. Corn, known as “fatty power” meaning it’s good for maintaining a healthy weight. Barley locally called Sheerie” is a great all-rounder. All of these local grains are grown and dried on the farm. The Quinoa is boiled before feeding and then mixed with the corn and barley for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Additionally, the horses are fed fresh greens in the form of “barseen” (similar to clover) which is freshly cut at 5AM every morning. They also get “dresse” or hay which comes all the way from Assuit, a 5 hours truck drive. All the horses get fed 5 times a day to keep them happy and content
The stables were purposely built with the horses in mind. They have low walls between each of the horses so they can socialise with each other and large sandy paddocks for grazing and frolicking. It was designed to embrace old cultures of Egypt like a bamboo roof, old photos of ancient Egypt alongside modern-day equestrian equipment, and a chandelier hanging in the tack room! It’s a green lush haven for horses, donkeys, cats and puppies, many of them are rescued from difficult circumstances. It’s an animal lover’s paradise set back from the main village streets with views of The Valley of the Kings.
All tack is cleaned and checked daily. Most of the horses are ridden in English saddles, although there are a few Western and Trail saddles available. Depending on the ride, the horses might have some colourful local embellishments in the true Arab fashion which adds charm and flair to your experience and makes for amazing photos. Emma also travels back to the UK once or twice a year to buy equipment for the horses.
Due to the warmer climate, the routine is similar to the Mediterranean with early mornings and long siesta breaks over the hottest time of the day. This means an early morning breakfast and turn out into the large sandy paddocks while their stables are cleaned. The mares are geldings all go out together, then the stallions take their turns to stretch their legs.
Every horse that is not out on a ride, is lunged before 9am to keep them fit and healthy, followed by a snack and groom. After lunch and the heat of the day has passed, the horses get worked in hand or ridden.
Morning rides depart early to make the most of the cooler weather, with a long break over the hottest time of day. You’ll be met by a friendly driver and groom carrying food, water and headcollars for the horses, plus food and odds and ends for the guests. All the tack is removed and the horses are rubbed down to ease their muscles while they rest.