Riding his horse, Hazem Abu Zayed, a 42-year-old Palestinian, is aspiring to participate in equestrian competitions outside the blockaded Gaza Strip.
His cherished dream, however, has been dashed by the decade-long Israeli blockade on the seaside Palestinian territory.
“The siege and closure of crossings deprive us from taking part in many races,” Abu Zayed told Anadolu Agency.
Abu Zayed is one of the few Gazans who breed horses in Gaza, which is ruled by Palestinian resistance group Hamas.
He said he has been riding horses since he was a child.
“I took the love of breeding and riding horses from my father, who loved it from my grandfather,” Abu Zayed said.
Every day, the Palestinian man goes to ride his seven-year old horse, whose name is Ashqar, or blonde.
He says food and care for his horse costs him around $100 monthly. “This is a very high cost in light of the blockade and the tough living conditions in Gaza,” he said.
Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli blockade that has deprived its roughly 2 million inhabitants of basic commodities, including food, fuel, medicines and building supplies.
‘Blockade strangles us’
Mohammed Abu Maaliq, in his 20s, first owned a horse when he was 12.
“I love horses,” he said. “I feed my horse three times a day.”
The Palestinian youth laments that there are no high-quality horses in the Gaza Strip due to Israeli restrictions.
“In the past, we used to smuggle horses from Egypt via underground tunnels,” he said.
He said he wishes to participate with his 9-year old horse in Arab and international races in the future.
His friend Mohamed Labad, 21, expresses a similar wish.
“The blockade has strangled us,” he said. “There are no big spaces [to practice horse riding] and the potentials are limited,” he said.