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Teenage horse groom with dreams of becoming professional polo player: ‘I can tame any horse, no matter how wild’

Unguwan Doki is situated between the Sultan Bello Primary School and the Sultan Bello Mosque in Kaduna, on Ali Akilu Road. This area is home…

Unguwan Doki is situated between the Sultan Bello Primary School and the Sultan Bello Mosque in Kaduna, on Ali Akilu Road. This area is home to horse grooms who feed, clean, and transport the beasts to Murtala Square where polo, known as the ‘game of kings’ is played. The grooms are sometimes hired to handle horses in mini durbars within and around Kaduna when a traditional title is being conferred on an individual.
One of the youngest horse grooms in Unguwan Doki is Muhammad Ismail, nicknamed ‘Riba’ (meaning ‘profit’ in Hausa). “I learnt how to ride about four years ago,” he said, adding that over this time he’s mastered the art of taming any horse, no matter how wild. “Even though I am a primary school pupil, controlling a horse is simple to me. I can mount one horse and control four others at the same time, from Unguwan Doki to Murtala Square for exercise, with or without saddle,” he said, adding that the beasts need exercise to keep healthy and ready for polo, racing or any other activity.
Ismail recalled once having an accident while galloping on high speed during a mini durbar held during a fellow horse groom’s wedding. He lost control and rammed straight onto a parked car, leading to some stitches. But that didn’t slow the youngster down and he still nursed strongly the multiple dream of not only becoming a big-time horse handler, but a jockey, professional polo player and a graduate as well.  
Ismail said he still rides Sari, which is the name of the horse with which he had the accident.
Asked how fast a novice can learn how to ride a horse, Ismail said it depends on the individual. “A novice will start with low speed, before graduating to high speed racing,” he said.  For those interested in horse-riding, Ismail and his peers are available at Murtala Square, coaching people of varying ages.
On whether he can handle an Argentine horse, which are notoriously wild, from Unguwan Doki to Murtala Square, he answered in the affirmative. “I can even break newly arrived horse,” he said, casually. “My next goal is to learn to play polo,” the ambitious youngster said, smiling.

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