by Yousef Linjawi
Yousef Linjawi lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he manages Linjawi Arabians. He studied cinematography at The American Film Institute, as he holds an M.F.A. degree in Film Production from Chapman University and was named the U.S. Ambassador for The Budapest Cinematography Master Class in 2011.
You asked me to characterize the nature of my experience with Arabian horses, one that is colored by my culture, and also by my own particular circumstances, lifestyle, interests, mentality, and artistic sensibility. First I process your question in my heart and mind, then I realize that the answer is love. Why do I say this?
Well, when you’re in love, you’re a better person than yourself. You tend to not do bad things. You’re almost like an angel. If you truly love Arabian horses, you arrive at a sort of Zen place in your heart by being around them or even thinking about them. You’re not wheeling and dealing like they’re some stock exchange. You don’t try to flip them like real estate or breed them with the intent of a sale in mind. Those actions strip the element of love out of this precious relationship that we’re blessed to have, and render the horse a mere animal, like cattle.
I’ll give you a beautiful example. Our farm is an hour north of Jeddah. The air is fresh, and the environment is very peaceful and quiet. The nights are dark and full of stars decorating the sky. At night, I come to the farm. This is the best time for me to connect with those souls. I am awake all night. I’ll be out, walking around the paddocks. All the sweet mares are outside sleeping on the soft sand. It is so beautiful. So romantic. They come to me, these huge black eyes just staring at you. They want some attention. They want you to stroke their face, rub their neck, or blow softly into their nostrils. It’s a very emotional experience, as you connect with God’s creation on a universal level, the real language of love. Somehow the beauty affects you, and you are changed by it.
Sometimes there are 100 horses in the barn, and you can’t hear a single horse’s voice. There’s a graceful peace in this place. There is calm and serene love in the air. All day I’m talking on the phone, doing my business, and working around the logistical process to build and run the farm, but I’m still experiencing love.
The showring is not really my cup of tea. I don’t feel the need to show my horses to arrive at a new satisfaction about having them in my life. Of course, if I have a superstar, yes, I will do what it takes to promote him or her, but as a general rule I’m not breeding with the thought to see them in the showring. The show horse is not my end product; but rather I want to treasure these horses in my life, and give them the opportunity to create a dynasty of their own.
I sometimes reflect on the differences in my life pre-Arabians and today. I consider myself to be a very sociable creature, but it’s gone crazy now with Arabians. I have friends all over the world. Regardless of any and all social, political, religious, intellectual, and technological ideologies, I can literally land on any spot in the world and find acquaintances and friends with whom I share the love that I have for Arabian horses. That’s why I consider the Arabian horse to be the global citizen.
In my life before horses, I was so focused on cinematography and cameras and technology, that I forgot the basic elements of life. Now maybe I am so focused and invested in the creation of life that I am forgetting about technicalities. At some point I will find the happy medium and combine filmmaking and Arabian horses, as I believe it’s our duty as artists to portray our passion for the beautiful creature to the rest of the world!
There are a lot of similarities between being an artist and being an Arabian horse enthusiast and breeder. Both require an eye and gut instincts. For instance, at a show I might like the horse that didn’t win; maybe she is seventh in her class, but there is something about her … maybe it’s her presence speaking to my own particular artistic sensibility. As a breeder, there are guts involved in choosing the horses you would like to own. I am developing that eye, and the courage required for what I call the “bold and beautiful” breeding. I am not claiming that I have reached it, no, no, no … but every day I am learning something new. I am playing a chess game, planning my moves far into the future.
These are some of the things the Arabian horse has offered me: opportunities for personal growth, artistic growth, emotional growth, and not to mention, logistics — not my strong suit! I’ve learned responsibility too, and how to be graceful in the way I conduct my business.
In Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Goodness is tied to the forelocks of horses.”
I would add, love. Just focus on your love.