GAZA: The 14-year-old Palestinian girl from the Gaza Strip, Mai al-Alami, has impressed the public as she glamorously jumped over successive barriers with her horse.
The audience applauded several times for the young female rider, who was one of the participants in a horseback riding tournament organized by the Palestinian Equestrian Federation in the Gaza Strip.
“I’m thrilled to participate in a new championship in Gaza in light of the increasing popularity of horseback riding,” al-Alami told Xinhua after successfully jumping all barriers.
“I hope for further spread and support for horseback riding in Gaza so we can have more riders,” the young girl said.
Such tournaments attract many young people and their families as the sport can also be a kind of entertainment in the territory that has been placed under an Israeli blockade since 2007.
The Palestinian Equestrian Federation in Gaza organized on Thursday night a local competition for jumping barriers under the title “Will and Hope,” marking the upcoming International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which falls on Dec. 3 each year.
A total of 35 participants and their families joined a public gathering of disabled people at an equestrian club in northern Gaza City to show support for people with disabilities.
“The championship comes in solidarity and support for people with disabilities,” Ahmed Abdel-Al, horseback riding trainer, told Xinhua.
The man, who works for the Palestinian Knight Equestrian Club, said horseback riding has been growing notably among young people and children.
“Our club receives learners from both genders from eight years old and above,” he added.
He pointed out that the club and the knights send a message to all people with special needs to invest their abilities and enhance them in equestrian sport.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of adults with special needs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip reached 27, 000 with 17,000 of them suffering from a motor disability.
In the end of the day, 18-year-old Ahmed al-Azazi won the championship after he jumped all barriers in the shortest period of time.
“I participated in the championship to deliver a message of support to people with disabilities…I also used this tournament to prepare for upcoming contests in Gaza,” al-Azazi told Xinhua, rubbing the neck of the exhausted horse.
Al-Azazi, who started horseback riding four years ago, expressed his great passion for continuing to develop his abilities in the sport.
“I want to represent Palestine in international competitions,” the young man said proudly.
Although the sport is growing rapidly among Gaza population, it also faces a number of problems.
The main problem is to get good breeds of horses from abroad as Israel makes it difficult for them to import horses.
In the past few years, Gazans managed to bring some horses from neighboring countries through smuggling tunnels with Egypt. But it is impossible now after Egypt destroyed most of the tunnels and cracked down on smugglers.
The Israeli blockade has also pushed Gaza’s two million population deeper into poverty, making it difficult for ordinary people to buy a horse whose price may reach several thousands U.S. dollars.
Despite the hardships of getting new horses from abroad, the clubs are still able to function and even hold national competitions for their members, relying on homebred horses.