x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Teenager needs no spur to follow father

On the outskirts of Abu Dhabi in the Al Wathba area a talented young Emirati horse trainer is walking in the giant footsteps of his father.

Sultan Ali Al Ameri spends most of his day training horses. Any spare time goes on playing lead guitar in his alt-rock band Daisy Grim, which has appeared at the Melody House in Dubai and on the radio station Dubai Eye. Ameri Ravindranath K / The National
Sultan Ali Al Ameri spends most of his day training horses. Any spare time goes on playing lead guitar in his alt-rock band Daisy Grim, which has appeared at the Melody House in Dubai and on the radio station Dubai Eye. Ameri Ravindranath K / The National

On the outskirts of Abu Dhabi a talented young Emirati horse trainer is following in the giant footsteps of his father.

Sultan Ali Al Ameri, 18, has established himself as a trainer in the mould of his internationally renowned father Ali Al Ameri, who is known in equestrian circles simply as "The Horsemaster".

"Horses are our life," the younger Mr Al Ameri says at Raha Ranch, the family farm in Al Wathba, about 45 minutes' drive from the capital.

"We work on horse-breaking, getting race horses in and out of gates, loading them on to trailers," he explains as Tayeb, a 9-year-old Arabian stallion, listens to his every command. These include orders to follow, remain in one place, trot in a circle, and rear up on hind legs.

"You either have it or you don't," says Mr Al Ameri of the talent he has inherited from his father.

He and his father have tried to teach others their skills, but their talent remains unique.

"My dad is self-taught and is a natural, and I have learnt everything from him," he says.

His father had worked with camels in Al Ain, where he showed an uncanny knack for calming and controlling restless bulls.

"When he joined the Army royal guard, he found he could do the same with horses and began training them full-time when he retired," Sultan adds.

He, his father and his older brother, Suhail, a trick-riding specialist, have demonstrated their skills in shows opening events such as the Dubai World Cup, Asian Games, and the National Day musical Zayed and the Dream.

"We even had a horse walk up to the royal box and bow to them without us being in the picture," he says.

The family business includes working with TV stars, human as well as horse. "We have worked on the set of The Young Black Stallion, shot a commercial for Mountain Dew where I ride a horse backwards, and helped Martin Clunes [the English actor/comedian] on his TV series Horsepower."

Sultan left school in Grade 9 to concentrate on horse training full time. "I am much happier now I am focused on this, I always knew this is what I wanted to do."

He spends most of his day training horses. Any spare time goes on playing lead guitar in his alt-rock band Daisy Grim, which has appeared at the Melody House in Dubai and on the radio station Dubai Eye.

Asked if he would consider fusing the two talents, Sultan says: "Why not, it would be interesting to bring the two together."

His mother Tracey Perkins, is English and moved to the UAE 23 years ago and met his father through the horse business. She fully supports Sultan's passion.

"Sultan is extremely talented and if he decides to stay on the path he's on now he will go very far," she says.

She noted that her son began riding at the age of 6 months. "As soon as he could sit we had him riding a horse. "

While Sultan has been riding for most of his life, he took a two-year break as a child. "When he was seven he had a bad spill off one of the ponies he was riding," his mother recalls. "We never forced him to ride, and a couple of years later he asked for his pony back and has never looked back since."

Sultan believes it is important for Emiratis to keep a close connection to this aspect of their heritage. "It was essential for Bedouins to have a trained camel or horse as you wouldn't want your mode of transport taking off and leaving you in the middle of the desert without food and water."

Like his father, Sultan's talents are not limited to horses - he has even trained George Bush, the Raha Ranch goat.

"I taught him to charge me and at the last second I jump over him before our heads crash into each other."

tsubaihi@thenational.ae