Saudi border city hosts horse race amid threat of missiles

Najran was hosting its annual horse race despite constant threats of missile fire from across the Yemen border

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Najran was hosting its annual horse race Saturday despite constant threats of missile fire from across the Yemen border.

Mani Al-Dowhan, secretary of the competition, said the Ninth Equestrianism Club Annual Competition would held on Saturday under the patronage of Prince Sultan Bin Mohammad Bin Saud.

“The people of Najran have closed schools, shut down stores and stopped many sporting activities because of the war in neighboring Yemen. However, they will not let go of their heritage and their identity even in the middle of a war. Najran will hold on to its long-lasting equestrian tradition and will not disappoint the young generation,” said Al-Dowhan.

He said the competition was open to all equestrians of all levels and ages. “The competition is divided into five categories. In each category, the race is 2,000 meters. The categories are decided according to the age of the jockeys and the level of training,” said Al-Dowhan
He said professionally trained horses and jockeys is one category.

“Horses trained for four years, imported horses, Saudi horses are all grouped into separate categories, with a last category for amateurs,” said Al-Dowhan.

He added the main event of the competition is the amateur equestrian competition.

“In the amateur equestrian competition, young equestrians enroll for the first time in their lives in the competition. The crowd is extremely supportive and every one encourages the young boys whether they win or lose,” said Al-Dowhan.

He added the competition is more than just a tradition; it is a sign that no missile and no bomb can erase the Najrani tradition.

“After having their schools canceled several time during the past years and after some of them have lost close family members, this competition has given them purpose and hope,” said Al-Dowhan.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 10, 2015.