Welcome to a new series on NF Style called “Letters from Abroad” that highlights, in first person, the sights and sounds of foreign places visited for the purpose of equestrian pursuits. The first story is from Noelle Floyd photo journalist Meghan Bacso, who is currently in El Jadida, Morocco to report on the upcoming CSI3* show jumping competition.

The Salon du Cheval D’El Jadida will play host to a weekend of CSI3* Show Jumping Competition from October 13th to 16th. I visited the grounds on Wednesday, October 12th to get a feel of the venue, before the show jumping begins. Little did I know that I’d spend the day watching the thrilling art of Tbourida.

Tbourida is a traditional and popular equestrian art inspired by the historical wartime attacks of the once feared cavalrymen of Morocco. Tbourida is practiced Morocco to celebrate national and religious holidays, and plays a big part in Morocco’s national culture.

The name Tbourida comes from the Baroud word for “gunpowder,” a fitting name for a performance that is centred around gunfire.

Here are the basics: a group of horse riders, all in traditional dress, charge along a straight path. At the end of the charge, they fire into the sky (or the ground) with muskets.

tbourida-9There’s a line at the end of the ring where their horses all come to a halt afterwards. They even have ring crew that redraw the line every once in awhile, as it quickly gets erased as horse after horse slides to the finish.

The performance is judged on synchronization, both of the movement of the horse’s charge and, most importantly, the firing of the guns.

I quickly picked up the importance of the gun synchronization from the crowd—the more synchronized the gunshot, the louder the cheers coming from the audience. I’ve never heard a crowd cheer so loud at an equestrian event! It was impossible not to get in on their excitement as I watched each team fiercely gallop past the stands.

As for the horses, the breed most traditionally used is the Barb horse, a Northern African breed with great hardiness and stamina. They are an extremely ancient breed, believed to have originated in northern Africa during the 8th century.

Horsemen and horses were all equipped with colourful and beautifully detailed harnesses that reflect the craftsmanship of the regions of Morocco. Each team, called a “Sorba,” has its own colours. At this week’s competition, 17 Sorbas represented 12 different regions of Morocco.

I’d later find out that what I was watching specifically was phase two of the first edition of the Sa Majesté Le Roi Mohammed VI Tbourida Grand Prix. I can’t tell you who won, or even which teams were competing, but I’m glad I got to experience this colourful spectacle that is so unique to this part of the world.

For Meghan Bacso’s show jumping coverage of the Morocco Royal Tour, please visit NoelleFloyd.com.