Last week, Ibrahim Barazi made history as the the first rider from Jordan to win in the FEI division at the Winter Equestrian Festival, when he claimed the $8,000 Rose Hill Farm 1.40m CSI 2*. Oh, and he only began his FEI competition career last year, and he won on a horse that he largely brought along himself.
Not too shabby.
But this rider isn’t just impressive on a horse. There’s so much more to the 29-year-old professional rider, who is based in Wellington, Fla., in the winter, and New Jersey in the summer. Let’s get to know this new face in FEI show jumping:
1. Ibrahim started riding at age 6 in his birthplace of Jordan, because his father was a horse lover. “My father never rode but he always wanted me and my two younger brothers to be associated with horses, so he took us to the riding club about once a month,” says Ibrahim. “My brothers didn’t enjoy it – I was the only one that was really into it.”
2. In fact, he became so fixated on riding that he would ditch his high school classes and head to the riding club. “I would get dropped off at school in the morning, go to the first class, and then I’d sneak off to ride at the riding club. I had to be honest with myself and realize I wasn’t going to pass school and I didn’t want to do my senior year again. My parents said, ‘What do you think we should do?’ and I said, ‘I think you need to send me away where I don’t know anybody and I don’t get distracted.”
3. On November 15, 2005, the 17-year-old moved to the United States to finish high school and go to college. He attended George Mason University in Virginia and would go on to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Business Management.
4. If he hadn’t become a show jumper, he would have been in finance. His mother, in fact, was certain he was destined for a financial career. “I like numbers, and I find it interesting to solve something with numbers. When I was in school, me and a couple friends would trade currency and stocks for the fun of it. We lost a lot of money doing it, so maybe that was a sign not to go into finance!”
5. While he was attending university, he was anxious to get back around horses. So, he took to the internet. “I went online and Googled ‘horse farms’ and wrote down the names of about ten farms on an index card. Then I bought myself a GPS, and I just started driving to every single one of them. I basically just walked in and started asking if I could ride any horses, and every single one said ‘no’.”
6. Eventually, someone encouraged him to reach out to Olympic show jumper Joe Fargis, whose barn was nearby in northern Virginia. “I really didn’t know how to handle horses when I showed up at Joe’s. At the riding club, you just get on and off the horse in the ring, so I didn’t even know how to put a halter on a horse.”
“I went online and Googled ‘horse farms’ and wrote down the names of about ten farms on an index card. Then I bought myself a GPS…”
7. His first job at a barn was raking the grass. “Joe said, ‘I have expensive horses, and I can’t let you ride any! But if you would like to come and hang out, you’re welcome to.’ He put me to work right away – they gave me a rake and asked me to rake the grass. But I didn’t know what to do with the rake when they gave it to me. I didn’t even know what that thing was. So an employee had to show me how to rake the grass, and when they came back, they were really impressed with the raking job, I guess, because they kept me around. I guess that rake made my career!”
8. He never wanted to compete, and tried to avoid it early on. (So much for that plan, Ibrahim!) “I was really terrified to show. I just wanted to be on a horse farm and graze the horses, wash them, ride them, just be with them.” Joe Fargis even offered for Ibrahim to compete one of his best horses, and Ibrahim politely declined.
9. He purchased his top horse, a 10-year-old Bavarian Warmblood mare named Omnia Incipit, as an 8-year-old, but didn’t get to ride her until a few months ago. She suffered a summer sore that lasted several months, and he broke his foot on another horse, preventing them from doing any training until the summer of 2017.
10. He originally saw Omnia when she was 6 in Europe on a shopping trip, but had to pass on her because he’d already found too many horses. When she came for sale again two years later, he immediately flew to Europe in a whirlwind 24-hour trip to see her again, and the deal was done.
11. These days, Ibrahim mostly trains on his own, but still looks to Joe as a mentor and Nikko Ritter as a second set of eyes when walking courses.
12. He struggled with nerves at the start of his competition career, but forced himself to get past them. “My personality was never to quit, and I was lucky to have Joe who just kept giving me horses to ride and show. The more times I went in the ring, the more I got over it.”
Photos by Sportfot. Childhood photo courtesy of Ibrahim