Ali Al Ameri is renowned for his uncanny knack for training horses, especially the ones considered problematic. Ali’s not a whisperer though. He doesn’t utter sweet nothings into the equine ear: Ali simply moves and horses follow his lead.
He is a rare breed. So rare, you may never have met anyone quite like him. If you had, you would know once he shakes your hand. The grip belongs to a man who has always been outdoors. Firm, genuine and honest.
Ali’s legendary Al Rahal Ranch is tucked away in the dunes of Al Wathba desert, almost an hour outside of Abu Dhabi, but there it feels like you are aeons from anywhere. It is simply another world – a sanctuary of sorts.
Donning a baseball cap and an easy smile, Ali chats as if it is not the first time you have encountered one another. And first impressions arrive fast: here is a man comfortable in his own skin. Ali knows who he is and what he can do. He has known his life’s purpose since he was a boy.
A charismatic storyteller – as quickly as he removes his cap, he takes you on a whistle-stop tour of his life, which is all the more fantastic considering no-one really knows how it all began.
“Roughly 1964. My uncles argue about the year,” he laughs. “We’re Bedouins. There was no birth certificate. They say, probably the time of the big storm, 1967.
“As kids in Al Ain, it was hard. Sometimes, we’d go days, weeks with no water,” he explains. “We’d survive on camel and goat milk. My mother would say go to sleep. The bird will come with water. But it never came.”
They moved to Abu Dhabi for school. “To Barasti houses, down by the water. We had no power, no electricity. Nothing. We used to run to the port, Mina Zayed, and throw stones in the water and steal from the ships.
“Fanta! It was so hot. And jam, we’d eat it with our hands. English halwa, we called it,” he grins. “The sea was a huge thing for us Bedouin kids.” It was an extraordinary start for a boy who would eventually travel the world on his own terms.
“I was good in school, but I didn’t like it any day. Under a roof. Indoors,” he says, punctuating his thoughts. “But the school was not far from the Royal Stables and I’d go there instead. And they saw I was a natural rider.”
Although he had learnt to ride on camels, Ali was a born jockey, fearless too. Something clicked and he left school behind. “I thought to myself – this is a good life,” he says, recounting the turning point.
Since then, he’s navigated his own path.
Ali’s remarkable skills have brought him into demand by many, from Sheikhs to Hollywood producers. All have marvelled. As he tunes into a horse’s frequency, so begins the physical ritual of understanding – Ali out front, walking and turning, the horse behind, tracking his movements. No problem.