Abdullah Alguaiee is a man on a mission. A Saudi showjumper and trainer turned entrepreneur, he’s dedicated himself to educating riders of all abilities by introducing them to quality equestrian brands
Abdullah’s quest began when he came to the UK to further his training and learn more about the equestrian industry, including undertaking some British Horse Society (BHS) training courses. He spent time on a number of yards, in places such as Essex, Sussex and Yorkshire.
What struck him during this time was the fact that, unlike in Saudi Arabia, it doesn’t cost a lot to ride in the UK. Regardless of their ability or budget, amateur riders were able to enjoy spending time with their horses, aided by easy access to equipment that didn’t break the bank. Not only that, but the rigorous safety standards put in place by organisations such as the British Equestrian Trade Association and enforced by competition governing bodies meant that they could be assured that what they purchased was a quality product that could offer the best protection and performance possible.
From the UK, he travelled to France and spent time on yards there, where he found a situation that was much the same. It was in a Parisian cafe that the idea for his boutique was born.
The focus of Le Monde du Cheval, as it would come to be known, would be to offer a variety of quality products that were affordable for amateurs all the way up to professional riders. Abdullah wanted to bring what he’d experienced in Europe back to Saudi Arabia.
“I noticed that there were no Saudi establishments that focused on supplying riders and their horses with high-quality products and accessories,” he explains. “It became my goal to provide my friends and fellow horsemen with the supplies they needed.
“We started with one French brand in 2008 to test the waters and see whether there was a market in Saudi Arabia. Now we have almost 40 suppliers from across Europe, with others coming to us and asking us to stock their products, and our customer base is growing.
“I don’t come from a wealthy family and I’ve had to work hard to achieve what I have, in life and business. I’m not doing this for the money. If I wanted to be rich, I’d be selling perfume, fashionable clothes or lingerie. But the equestrian industry is my passion and this is a labour of love.”
A growing business
In 2013, Abdullah moved his boutique to a new, larger premises in Riyadh, making it the biggest tack shop in the area. Stocking everything from saddles to stirrups and riding hats to grooming kits, it’s becoming much closer to what Abdullah was imagining when he sat in that cafe 10 years ago.
That doesn’t mean the journey to get to this stage has been easy, though. Abdullah has had to work hard to change the mindset of his customers, educating them about the European standards of safety that inspired him to start his business in the first place.
“The equestrian industry in Saudi Arabia is totally different to in Europe and I think it needs to change. The BHS’s concept of continual improvement and making progress within the industry makes sense to me – I want to bring that to riders in Saudi Arabia, working to change things from the inside.
“At first, nobody who came into the store wanted to buy a body protector – they aren’t commonplace for Saudi riders so customers weren’t interested. We’d have to sell them at a discount or even give them away for free. But now they’re becoming more popular and we’re able to provide customers with the full outfit they need to help keep them safe in the saddle – gloves, riding boots, an up-to-standard riding hat and a body protector. Step by step we’re starting to change things.”
A passion for horses
But why is Abdullah so determined to revolutionise things? Horses are a huge part of Saudi culture and Abdullah credits his involvement with equestrianism for making him the man he is today. He wants to give something back to the animals he loves and allow other people to benefit from them in the same way he has.
“Horse riding is more than just a sport. It’s a partnership that teaches you a number of essential skills that govern your entire life, including confidence, self-belief and the ability to be quiet, without the need to assert yourself by shouting. One of the reasons I’m so driven to change the equestrian industry in Saudi Arabia is because I’ve seen the benefits that being around horses can have for children. When you teach a boy to ride, you’re teaching him how to be a man. But if you want him to truly enjoy the experience, you need to make it a safe one.”
Abdullah is going international – with a new website that’s been designed in the USA, he’s bringing Le Monde du Cheval to customers outside of Saudi Arabia, including the UK.
“Riders need to be able to find quality equipment to protect themselves and their horses, and I want to help them,” he says. “It’s my time – I have a dream, a passion and a drive to succeed.”
For more information, visit mondecheval.com