At the early age of six, Mahmoud Olwan discovered his passion for riding horses back at his homeland in Gaza, Palestine. During his teenage years, he was recognized as the top-horse jumper in Palestine. However, his dream to become one of the best equestrians in the world became blurry as Gaza continued to suffer political instability, which caused and continues to create conflicts in the region.
Determined to be a professional equestrian, he made a bold decision in 2015 to leave his war-stricken home for the United States. His purpose was not only to flee from political persecution but also to welcome more challenges in his beloved passion for horse riding and to create opportunities that could help him give back to his community.
On the other side of the world and seven thousand miles away from Gaza, Echo Glen Equestrian Center, located in North Plains Oregon, stood as one of the best equestrian centers that catered to horse owners in the area. At that time, horse owner Bonnie Rider-Martin was searching for the right person to take on her approved Oldenburg stallion, Corteo. After a series of coincidences, Bonnie took notice and interest in Mahmoud’s remarkable skills in horse riding.
From then on, the aspiring Palestinian horseback rider would visit the Echo Glen Equestrian Center at least five times a week to train with Corteo under the tutelage of Eric Noel of The Chase, a seasoned instructor, and horse-show judge. After three years of being in the United States, he finally found the horse that would help him transform his dreams into reality.
In pursuing Mahmoud’s Olympic dream, constant practice happens behind the scenes at Echo Glen. His skills and passion for horse riding are now even more refined through the correction and guidance provided by his instructor. His mind is set and focused on his main goal, which is to qualify and compete in the Olympics immediately. His passion for horse riding naturally shines through, and this has brought him and Corteo much attention from the public eye. They have dominated the showjumping arena as they continue winning awards and gaining many supporters.
With his eyes set on the Olympics, Mahmound’s heart has always been set on a bigger goal, which is to establish clinics catering aspiring equestrians coming from different parts of the world, even those coming as far as from his own homeland. He is hopeful that one day, he will be able to return to Gaza and share the best equestrian practices to aspirants like him. He knows that in many places, high-quality horses, training, and competitive challenges are not available for horse riders with great passion and potential. In pointing this out, Mahmoud expresses that “exposing young athletes to facilities such as Echo Glen and training with excellent horses and coaches would be life-changing and hope-inspiring.” He continues to hope for greater opportunities for the youth in attaining whatever dreams they may have for themselves.
See Mahmoud in action and enjoy more of his amazing story here.