ABU Ubaidah Muhammad Hamzah is a showman on a horse. The 24-year-old specialises in trick riding, a special equestrian field that combines athletics, acrobatics and horse riding. He entertains audiences at his father’s equestrian centre, Island Horses, in Langkawi.

But while he can now do somersaults and even handstands on top of running horses, his equestrian journey didn’t start off on the right foot at all; in fact, it started with a foot to the face. A horse’s foot, that is.

“When I was eight, the pony I was sitting on bucked me off. I fell backwards, and that’s when it lifted its hind leg and kicked me in the face!” said the professional equestrian and trick rider, who has a scar on his chin to remember that day by.

However, losing his seat on the pony didn’t cause him to lose his passion for horses. Abu has since gone on to compete internationally in countries like Australia. He even performed in the opening ceremony of the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

Abu credited his father for his unflagging determination to succeed.

“Every time I got injured, my father would put me back on a horse as soon as I got better,” he said reminiscently.

“Horses look cute, but they can be naughty,” said Abu, who has been training with horses since he was 8.

While it might sound a little harsh to non-equestrians, he said it made a huge difference in his career, which involves performing difficult and dangerous stunts as part of his trick riding repertoire.

Fear, he said, is not an option when you’re riding for gold.

“My father’s insistence that I start riding again as soon as possible built my endurance,” he said, adding that any horse rider needs endurance.

“My team and I get minor injuries on a regular basis,” he shared with a laugh. “It’s times like this that test your determination, but we never let injuries get us down.”

Every Saturday (during the “Langkawi Horse Show”), Abu and his team of trick riders perform numerous hair-raising stunts such as riding backwards while sitting on the neck of a horse, and jumping down and back up on a horse in swift motion.

One of Abu’s favourite stunts to perform is lying down horizontally across the horse’s body while his legs hang in the air.

As exciting as it is being a trick rider, Abu revealed that handling horses can be dangerous, and we’re not even talking about trick riding; horse training is the most dangerous part of the job.

Abu has had to deal with rebellious horses that refuse to follow orders. They kick and attempt to trample those around them.

Once, a horse Abu was riding decided to run at full speed towards its enclosure’s fence, screeching to a halt right at the barrier.

Unfortunately, the laws of physics dictated that Abu would then fly through the air.

Fly he did, landing face down some metres away. He was lucky he didn’t fly into a tree, he said. Despite the often dangerous job, he wouldn’t change it for the world.

“The horses I train and care for daily are part of my life and soul,” he said simply.

This is not a job for the faint-hearted, he emphasised. The people who work at Island Horses all share a passion for horses, and that’s why they’re constantly motivated to do what they do.

The job also requires an innate understanding of these majestic beasts. For one, they aren’t “cute”.

“Many people view horses as cute creatures but in reality, they are often very naughty, and enjoy bullying those who surround them,” said Abu with a smile.

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