QL Features: Wejdan Majed Al-Malki
When passion is met by support and talent, you find yourself making history. Wejdan Al-Malki proudly wears the crown as the first Arab female to compete in the dressage category at an international five-star Grand Prix competition. Waving away the whispers of women never being the ideal fit for a grand event like this, Wejdan ‘s devotion, persistence, and passion have brought her to the ultimate grand stage today.
What is Dressage?
Dressage is one of the three Olympic equestrian sports, alongside eventing and showjumping. It involves demonstrating a horse's training by performing a set of prescribed movements in front of a panel of judges. As quoted by Al-Malki, dressage is where the rider and horse become one and is best described as a ballet for horses. Handling horses to sway with you requires compassion, self-control, and passion – and Wejdan knew that this was something she would have to learn over the years.
From a young age, Al-Malki found love and support from her father, who shared the same passion for horses and believed that his daughter would be the one to break barriers. Wejdan dreamt of ponies and always believed that she had the determination to break into the field one day – and her father made sure that she did. She found support at a time when horseriding was taboo for women and her father became her first teacher in her journey.
Early training sessions
It is believed that the fitness level required to even attempt at this sport is believed to be at another level. No other sport requires you to be as fit like this one and to even be up to the par, one has to ride at least three to four horses a day, just so you can come up to the level of strength that is required to come to a competition like the Grand Prix.
Finding her way to dressage
As passionate as she was about horses, Al-Malki always found herself equally fascinated by the sea as well. Studying marine biology, she later worked at Qatar Foundation member Al Shaqab as the equestrian center’s riding academy manager and then its deputy director. Before that placement and after, Al-Malki worked in the oil and gas industry at Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Shell respectively.
Early on, an accident that injured her knee was the one that nudged her on towards pursuing dressage. Even though she was advised by the doctors to stop riding, she couldn’t even imagine staying away!
Crossing paths with the professionals
During her sabbatical in 2018, Al-Malki met with two women who she credits as the main inspiration for her to even pursue a competitive career in the field. Noticing her raw talent and passion for horse-riding, Sam Francis and Judy Reynolds took on Wejdan and pushed her until she qualified and competed in the recent five-star CHI Al SHAQAB Presented by Longines 2022 competition.
Sam Francis saw the connection between Al-Malki and her horse, Mango Jacaro, and believed that this was the pair that had the potential to make it to the big event. She donated the stallion to Wejdan, who she believed would be able to go to the Olympics as well.
Judy Reynold, on the other hand, is an Irish Equestrian Olympian who helped Al-Malki train beyond the sports. From making sure she was always calm around her horse and knowing the connection that horses tend to have, Judy made sure that her compassion for the elite sports and Wejdan’s control over herself to achieve the best results was always present. It is believed that horses are super-sensitive and respond to the slightest tension from the rider’s body and breathing, so having control over your nerves contributes towards a more successful performance, and achieving better results.
Empowering Wejdan Al-Malki
With the support of her idols, Wejdan gained the confidence from these women who made her believe that the sky was the limit. They trained her, provided her with a much-needed leg-up into the international GP dressage scene, and helped achieve history for Qatar with this unprecedented entry at this prestigious five-star event.
The future for Wejdan
With the support of the Qatar Equestrian Federation and the Qatar Olympic Committee, Al-Malki now aims to compete in the 2022 ECCO FEI World Equestrian Games in August, which will be held in Denmark, the Asian Games which will be held in China in September and is also aiming for the 2024 Olympic Games in France.
Al-Malki celebrates International Women’s Day this year with pride and sends out words of encouragement for the masses out there.
“If you are a woman and have a dream of becoming a swimmer, or a tennis champion, or even an astronaut, your dream is sound. You will face many challenges; you will be on your own most of the time; you may even have to sacrifice many relationships that are trying to hold you back. But be more excited about your chances of success than your fear of failure.
All you need is persistence and strength, and you may be lucky enough to find another Sam or Judy, who gave their heart and soul to make another woman reach for the stars and help her dream come true.” – Wejdan Al-Malki
Make sure to check out our social media to keep track of the latest content.
Instagram - @qatarliving
Twitter - @qatarliving
Facebook - Qatar Living
YouTube - qatarlivingofficial