Carmen Lauri could pretty much ride horses before she could properly walk. A true expat of the island, the Anglo-Swede talks to Georgie Bradley about life as a jockey at the Rashid Equestrian & Horse Racing Club and other unlikely pursuits.
With a rude awakening at 3am, Carmen Lauri is up for the day. As she drives to the Rashid Equestrian & Horse Racing Club she undoubtedly shares the road with night-time revellers who are ending their day – but she’s just beginning.
Carmen, 20, was born and raised in Bahrain. She first started riding horses at the age of four and got round to competing at the age of 10. By the time she was 16, she became a dressage champion in Bahrain across many competitions in 2009 – “no one has been able to beat my points yet!” she confirms – giving rise to her racing career and her work at the club.
Her love of horses is a family affair: “My mother was a rider. She was asked at 15 if she would be part of Sweden’s Olympic team. Even my brother is a show jumping champion in Bahrain.”
After completing her education at the French School of Bahrain, Carmen went to a horse riding nirvana in Doncaster and did a 12-week course. “When I graduated the college placed me at Sir Mark Prescott’s Yard where I worked for a bit and then came back to Bahrain for the season. I also worked at David Simcock’s yard.”
Carmen shares the same deep-rooted love for the island like most expats: “I always come back to Bahrain. Bahrain is home. I know I probably don’t have the same possibilities but I can’t get enough of Bahrain. Bahrain is so homey: you settle easily.”
You only have to know what time Carmen sets her alarm to know her commitment to being a jockey. “I’m on horseback by 4.15am. I take care of the horses (there are 600 horses at the club and Carmen is assigned to five) and make sure they’re all fed and happy.”
By 9am Carmen’s work at the club is done. As she continues to takes me through her daily routine it’s clear she doesn’t like to sit still. “That’s a problem with a lot of young people. They just want to lie around and watch TV all day but I hate doing nothing. I work at Bahrain Investors Center, an American company, from 10.30-5pm. I juggle all of this with a lot of patience.”
But beyond the saddle, she’s got some unassuming passions and a possible Plan B.
“In my spare time I sketch and draw” – which begs the question: Do you by any chance draw horses? “Yes I do! I mainly draw caricatures. I helped out at art galleries in Bahrain and when Pauline Estelle (a celebrated caricaturist from Poland) came to do a workshop I became friends with her and still keep in touch.”
If that wasn’t a hidden enough hobby, Carmen is also quite the handyman. If you go to her house, chances are the table you prop your things on was made by her. “In the future I might consider becoming an interior designer. I have taken courses in England and always had an interest.” Somehow she finds the time to do all this.