The reason I wrote my book was because I like stories; I love a good story, and I enjoy sharing them. Although there is nothing wrong with make-believe ones, mine were real experiences that I loved to share with others.
The second reason was because I wanted to record my experiences. Horses have always been an essential part of my life, and growing up around them has shaped the way I am today, which inspired me to write and share those valuable experiences with other people. People around me would always recall the little moments that they remember with my horses and it made me realize how sad it made me feel to lose those memories for myself, so I decided to write them down.
Horses were my teachers, and I believe they have shaped me to be a better human. Children who grow up with pets learn simple things that may not be taught to them without experience. First and foremost, they learn to listen; animals can’t speak our language, but we may learn to read their body language and facial expressions to better understand them. They also learn to think of others before themselves: children who are responsible for their pet’s well-being learn how to care for their pet’s basic needs and learn patience along the way. My horses were and still are my teachers, and I can’t imagine how I would have grown up without those few hours a week I spent at the stables.
Being outside in nature and around animals was a positive influence throughout my childhood, and I’m very blessed to have grown up in a household that appreciates nature and wildlife. One of my favorite memories during my childhood was having breakfast before school with my family, while watching wildlife documentaries before we went to school. Later on, during the day we sat down and talked about different types of birds, mammals or fish that live in the Arabian region or around the world.
I learnt about the wildlife in our region from the few moments every day I spent with my family, whether indoors or at the farm, and that helped me understand my heritage as well: I learnt about the different type of gazelles, birds and fish in our region, and how they are named both in Arabic and English and even why they are named that way.
As a grown-up, I now realize that this information was a big part of my education at home. It helped me appreciate the wonders of nature, and enjoy family time because it was always educational. I never thought that animals would end up being endangered, or our Earth would go through climate changes like global warming. It does make me sad that some other child might not experience what was a big part of my growing up. That’s why I feel so strongly about animals and saving their homes.
One of my favorite books that I loved reading throughout my childhood was Matilda by Roald Dahl. I loved Roald Dahl’s style of telling stories and enjoyed the little bits of humor he added to his stories. Matilda was one of my favorite characters in a children’s story: she was in many ways relatable and I admired her intelligence as well as her determination.
Another series I thoroughly enjoyed when I was much younger were the Little Princess books by Tony Ross. A very different character from Matilda; so much so that you might argue that the Little Princess and Matilda stand on different sides of the character spectrum, with one being much more mature and self-disciplined while the other was loud, childlike and demanding. Now I see why I loved both of them so much: they were strong characters who weren’t shy of showing who they were, no matter how little everyone thought they looked, and that in my opinion is a good role model to any young girl or child who reads these books.
Another good influence I can proudly recall happened in our local community. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact date, but the reaction of our community is something I would not forget. There was a parade of some sort a few years back, I believe people were celebrating the UAE’s National Day; with all the celebrations and crowds of people and cars, the streets were unfortunately littered with confetti, empty bottles of water and lots of trash. Local youth clubs and groups went on social media and asked people to come and help clean the streets of Dubai, and that resulted in a lot of people going out and helping the cleaners. That was a favorite memory of mine where I saw a positive impact on our local community, and I hope to see more people take action in helping to keep our environment clean.
Selfless good deeds are motivating to see, and so are stories: creating a character from our region in a story helps people from our community relate to the character, and the problems he or she faces. A relatable character encourages others to read more about them, step inside their shoes and understand how they would overcome their problems. Who better to represent our local community than the locals from our region? This is how we can overcome misconceptions and assumptions that only hinder our growth as a society.
Voice of HH Sheikha Hissa bint Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Sheikha Hissa, a passionate horsewoman and writer, is the author of Tajaarub: From a Horsewoman’s Journey, which explores the powerful connection between humans and horses. She has led her teams of horses in practices and trainings in both England and Dubai. In her position as Goodwill Ambassador for the Middle East Region she is committed to making a real difference in the lives of young people.