Witnessing the sight of beautiful gray Barb horses galloping forward at a full charge, while hearing nothing but the thundering of their hooves and a “single” gunshot is a scene that seems only imaginable in movies. Ridden by horsemen in traditional white attire, clouds of red dust form in their wake. The movements of horse and rider is so precise if you closed your eyes you wouldn’t be able to tell that the single gunshot occurs as a result of all riders firing their arms at the end of their thunderous charge.
Known for their stamina, Barb horses are the perfect breed for such a routine. In order for the charge to be successful, riders need to be confident and trust their horses. Arabians have great endurance, balance, and can gallop forward quickly within a short distance, a key component of Fantasia.
Dating back to the eighth century and the Islamic golden age began the Moroccan tradition of Fantasia, also known as “lab al baroud,” which is Arabic for “gunpowder game.” Historically, this was a cavalry tactic. This method intended to exhibit power to intimidate enemies. A line of horsemen in traditional white garments would gallop at full speed across the desert. Traditionally, horses were bred from the Arabian or the Barb. As clouds of red dust formed from the strong beats of the gallop, riders fired rifles into the sky at the end of their charge.
The goal was to synchronize the movement of the horses while charging forward, and to fire the gun shots at the same exact moment so it appeared as if only a single shot was fired. If performed correctly, Fantasia symbolizes a strong relationship of the bond between a horse and its rider. While once a war tactic, Fantasia is now performed around the world as an exhibition of horsemanship and the reenactment of wartime cavalry.
The performances celebrate the history of the region and the bond between horse and rider. The stylized show is now performed at weddings and festivals, including a national competition in Rabat where the very best Fantasia teams are in attendance. The beauty and rhythm of the beat of the horses’’ flowing gallop mesmerize the viewer, making it easy to forget that this performance stemmed from violence. Between the simultaneous gunshots, rifles held in unison, and rhythm of the horses’ hooves, experiencing Fantasia is a riveting, historically rich experience.
" You can experience the power of the Barb horse's gallop by booking a beach ride with our Host Ranch de Diabat in Essaouira, Morocco." For photo credits: http://www.ma-roc.com