WAHO Oman 2009    
Article (and photographs) by Anne Brown for "The Arabian Magazine"


In 2009, the Sultanate of Oman invited WAHO delegates and guests to Muscat and to tour this incredible country

WAHO in Oman in February 2009

A WAHO conference in a Middle Eastern country with a heritage of Arabian horses and an Islamic respect for the breed is always a pleasure. An additional privilege for delegates and guests at the Oman conference was a private invitation to the Royal Stud of the ruler, Sultan Qaboos.

So after the official WAHO business in the capital, Muscat,was over we flew down to the tiny resort of Salalah in the deep south, beside the Indian Ocean.

Spread over lush acres behind high walls in this oasis resort, the stud has
built up slowly over the past 20 years. Run by the Royal Cavalry and breeding mostly race horses, the stables have enjoyed international success and won praise for their stock. Here his young horses graze under the tall palms, benefiting from the shade and the lush grass, supplemented by alfalfa.

But the Sultan's real achievement is to re-establish racing stock in a country that had lost almost all its indigenous Arabian horses. He has brought in Arabian blood from many parts of the world in endeavours to breed top quality horses.

  The afternoon parade of racehorses and breeding stock showed WAHO visitors the wealth of imported horses being bred from mostly French stallions like Manganate, Cheri Bibi and the Sultan's own Saut du Loup, and the Russian Donchak, with one or two rarer lines like the Tunisian mares - Cheikha and 18-year old Douja.

But jaws dropped when, saving the best until last, the elegant and powerful senior stallion Khallab (Kubinec x Dal) appeared. What a look-alike for the AHS Premium stallion Sambist, but hardly surprising as they have the same sire line through Balaton. These imposing Russian horses provide not only height and bone, but an aura of majesty, totally suited to such royal surroundings. I felt honoured to be allowed to have my photo taken with him
as a souvenir to bring back to Gadebrook, home of Sambist.

The afternoon had started with a parade of soldiers in both military and traditional dress, and ended with a repeat performance, with a few additional stunts. My favourite was the trick of making the horse lie flat and still, so that it could be hidden behind a rock out of view of the enemy. Then at a moment's command, the horse would be up and away with the
rider on its back, either fleeing or entrapping the enemy in ambush.

Nakhal fort

Then came a further treat - guests were asked to choose a horse to ride it round the stud. The Aussies were not backward in coming forward - I could name names and photos WERE taken, Kim - as each picked their mount. To ride one of Sultan Qaboos' horses in Oman is a rare opportunity, especially when followed by Eastern hospitality - tea, halwa and sweetmeats.



The Sultan was a keen horseman in his youth and rode extensively. Now he encourages young riders, male and female, through a programme run by the Royal Cavalry. He has also replenished the Cavalry stables with horses and ponies from all over the world and established the Royal Horse Racing Club in the vibrant gardens of Madinat al Adiyat in Seeb, near the capital, Muscat, in the north. But in the intimate setting of the Salalah stud we were able to see the Sultan's own vision for a successful racing stable, and we all appreciated the chance to see the results.


Before we left Salalah the following morning, those WAHO guests who could pull themselves away from the beach and the warm waters of the Gulf were treated to the private stud of Sheikh Ayid bin Ahmad Shanfari. His staff served us breakfast in the shade of the palm trees in beautiful gardens surrounded by paddocks full of inquisitive and extremely healthy-looking

But we still had a country to discover - a country too vast to see in the allotted 6 days. Somehow we managed to pack in a walk on the beach at Ras al Jinz under a full moon to watch giant sea turtles haul themselves out of the sea, dig nests in the sand with their giant flippers and lay hundreds of eggs. Nearby, tiny hatchlings emerged from their two-month incubation and headed for the moonlit sea.

Another highlight was our trip into the Wahiba Sands for a session of dune-bashing in 4 x 4s, with a night at Al Raha camp in the desert, dancing to Arab music under the stars to the crackle of the camp fire. On the return, we caught a glimpse of Bedouin nomads and their racing camels, treasure worth at least as much as an Arabian horse.


Sultan Qaboos stud. Cavalrymen in traditional dishdashas need little excuse to show off their riding skills on the Sultan's horses

Don't try this at home

But the final onslaught - a hair-raising 5-hour off-road mountain assault in the trusty 4 x 4 with the wheels on one side teetering over a 1,000m precipice and the wing mirror on the other scraping vertical rock - took us right into the primeval heart of Oman.


Copyright Anne Brown 2009