x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mushrif Park out of bounds for riding club

Dubai Municipality shuts Mushrif Equestrian Club out of Mushrif Park, saying some riders have broken rules.

The Mushrif Equestrian Club rents its land from the municipality.
The Mushrif Equestrian Club rents its land from the municipality.

DUBAI // A stable near Mushrif Park will be forced to exercise its horses on a strip of land used as a car park after changes were made to its contract.

Dubai Municipality said because some riders at Mushrif Equestrian Club had broken rules, it was forced to shut them out of the main park.

"Recently, a group of horse riders rode their horses through the Mushrif Park, causing damage to the flora and the general landscape - an act that the municipality would not tolerate," said the municipality, which manages all parks in the emirate.

Until the ruling the stables, which has operated next to the park for 11 years, used a section of the park's scrubland. But the municipality said it planned to turn the entire park into a nature reserve.

"Given its natural qualities, the Mushrif forest is also home to a variety of local birds, and it is a favoured place among families who like to spend time in a desert type of atmosphere," it said.

The contract for the club, which has 1,800 riders a year, says the stable must reduce the number of horses from 41 to 30 and add three ponies and five camels, said Martin Kraeter, who rides at the stable.

"We've never had a request for camels from the public before," said Mr Kraeter, who also teaches children to ride.

"Mushrif Park is a huge park where 20 per cent of the area is for barbecues and picnics, while 80 per cent of it is a wild outback. It is completely an unused natural free reserve and is surrounded by fences so no one can get inside."

He said he was unaware of any damage caused by the club's riders. The club was contacted months ago by the municipality's horticulture department and told it was destroying nature, but there was no written statement or date cited for riders' alleged actions, Mr Kraeter said.

"I don't know one single particular complaint that is referring to a particular incident," he said.

But the municipality said: "The activity permitted [under the contract] is limited to renting out horses for riders within designated areas only, a clause that the contracted party did not observe.

"This has led the municipality to take action, favouring public interest over private interests."

Mr Kraeter said there was fine line between public and private interest.

"Is my interest as a rider public or private?" he asked.

Mushrif Equestrian Club rents its land from the municipality which, Mr Kraeter said, ordered the club three years ago to build air-conditioned stables.

The latest contract calls for these stables, which are under construction, to be converted into an administrative building.

"As equestrian experts know, building stables requires expansive plots of land to ensure smooth traffic in addition to technical specifications, which is not feasible in a primarily public park like Mushrif Park," the municipality said.

A report put together by members of the club says the contract, which was signed three months ago, stipulates that building permits would be only granted by the municipality if the new structures were demolished at the end of the rental terms.

And only two staff will be allowed to stay onsite overnight. Trainers and grooms will have to be housed outside the park.

This would prove dangerous to the horses, Mr Kraeter said.

"Usually nine people stay overnight," he said. "In the middle of the night, one or two get called out if one of the horses is ill. If a horse is pregnant the delivery will not be between 9am and 5pm."

The authorities have set aside the strip of land where cars are parked for the riders to use, but Mr Kraeter said it was not appropriate.

"It is crowded with people and we would destroy the nature there," he said.

"They advised us to use a very narrow strip and within one week you'll have an accident of horses running in front of the cars."

eharnan@thenational.ae